A day came in the life of Jesus when He got very angry with his own disciples. (Mark 10:13-16) They were busy managing His ministry. When parents approached asking that Jesus (not the disciples!) take some time out to bless their children, these friends of Jesus tried to stop the parents in their tracks.
Jesus used this to teach His disciples a lesson: Children are important in my Father’s Kingdom. You must invite them like important guests into My presence. Roadblocks must not be set in their way. You must recognize that a child’s faith is the standard of faith everyone needs to enter God’s kingdom.
Then Jesus stopped teaching, took these little ones up on his lap, placed his hands on their heads, and blessed them.
Today, if we take this passage of scripture seriously, we will invite children without hesitation into our midst, knowing full well that their faith capacity is great. We will learn much from them even as we protect them from distractions and danger. We will take children up on our laps, figuratively and literally, and allow the scarred hands of Jesus to minister grace to them through us.
We will enable children to experience Jesus!
Simple as this statement sounds, it is not easy. Ministry to children in our North American churches is a highly administrative task. We expect professionals and volunteers, money and space. In a culture unfriendly to biblical values, it requires mature thinking and prayerful action. Some may well avoid children, if they can, because ministry to children requires so much. Others of us seek to mimic the world’s tactics, pressed into strategies that place high value on entertainment.
What might be some basic principles to weave into our existing ministry to children…with children?
1. Our role is to welcome, guide and protect children on their way to Jesus. Jesus is the One who blesses. Jesus is the ultimate focus of our ministry to children.
2. We have as much to learn from children as we have to teach them.
3. Parents brought their children to Jesus that day on the hillside. Jesus blesses, but He does not replace the consistent nurturing He expects adults to provide for children.
4. Children’s spiritual understanding is crucial, but simple: Love God and seek His Kingdom first. Hear Jesus’ voice and respond with faith and obedience. Let Jesus’ death and resurrection be the center of your hope and service. Reach out to others and offer to share what Jesus has blessed you with.
Whatever else we do with children may be important, but it is not critical. Let us avoid being so busy with the peripheral that we miss the crucial. Let us pray for deliverance from the tyranny of the urgent and keep our own focus on Jesus Himself.
As always, your comments are welcome. How would you answer the question at the top?
Nancy Tichy, KidZ At Heart International author