by Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International
Looking back on the years God placed me in children’s ministry leadership, I remember scenarios that were both humorous and sad. As they say, “Hind sight is 20/20.” In both churches, little attention was given to what I now consider foundational to a biblical view of ministry. It is out of this experience that I’d like to share the following:
For a three-legged stool to bear our weight it must have the three legs equal in length and strength. Permit me to suggest three ”legs” upon which ministry – to any age group including children – can rest with confidence. These are…
- the sufficiency of Scripture for making ministry decisions,
- knowing how secure we are in Christ, our true identity, and
- exchanging the world’s strategies for a plan that honors the triune God.
1. We take Scripture seriously.
God gives us all we need in Scripture to sculpt our ministry. (1) All other directives for children’s ministry stand in line after this truth. How do we make this work? One way is to keep our plans, our efforts in sync with what the Bible clearly teaches. The Bible’s guidelines for what is not right and what is right serve as a framework that we fill in with actions that are appropriate, Christ-honoring and God-glorifying. As we willingly obey God’s commands, we enjoy the enormous possibilities and freedom we’re given, in the obedience of faith, (Rom. 1:5) to reflect the Father’s creativity and bless our charges.
Here’s one example. Throughout the Bible we see evidence of a triune God. He is Father (all-powerful Creator), Son (self-sacrificing Savior), and omniscient Holy Spirit (indwelling guide and teacher). We are clearly expected (II Tim 2:2 & 16) to explore and incorporate this into our own lives and find age appropriate ways to invite and guide children into this truth as well. For instance, a major theme in Scripture asserts that God loves us. Motivated by love, the One who is, Himself, love, (I Jn 4:8b) created mankind for the purpose of intimate relationships. By virtue of our birth, He assigns great value to us.
2. Identity issues matter.
Sometimes we don’t feel very valuable. Very often our children don’t feel valued and being supplied with every conceivable advantage doesn’t seem to fix this. We speak of self-worth and self-identity, but our value and our identity are not found within us or our circumstances or human relationships. We can best understand and accept this, as we acknowledge our identity ‘in Christ’ (Eph.2:4-6) and grow in Him, exhibiting the ‘fruits of the Spirit.’(Gal.5:22,23) These are some truths that are central to all we teach.
We learn to translate the truth, ‘being in Christ,’ to staff and kids, in age and culturally appropriate ways.(2) We remember that Jesus Himself left a clear, two part directive: let them come to Me and refuse what hinders their coming to Me. Our work is both to invite children to come and to protect them from elements that hinder them from knowing Jesus. In either case, our goal is the same…that children would understand their security ‘in Christ.’ At whatever level of maturity the child brings, we help him understand the work of Christ – His life, ministry, death and resurrection. These are vital to activating saving faith and an intimate relationship with Jesus. Thus, we do not permit anyone to belittle a child, seeking instead to see each one as beloved, growing into his true identity. (2 Cor.5:17
3. Culture and context are crucial.
We trust God’s Spirit of Truth to work unhampered as He points to Jesus, not Himself and not to Satan, our Enemy (John 14:16) Today, the children who come to us are very often overstimulated, indulged, with high energy and strong will…just like their elders! We are tempted to meet these challenges by copying secular strategies. Thus, kids must always have fun. Behave and I’ll reward you. Do what I say, not what I do. Believe in yourself. We deserve …whatever our little hearts desire. You can probably think of more.
It takes courage to break free from these falsehoods. Perhaps it would help to begin by taking a little corner of the web of lies we’re embroiled in by ‘the world, the flesh and the Devil,’ (I John 2:16,17) and deal with them, one item at a time while resting securely on the three legs presented above. Otherwise we may become overwhelmed by change that is too much and too soon. Remember, God is more than able to supply our needs as we seek His guidance and help. (James 1:5) Others are doing it. So can we!
What reflections can you share on these matters…anecdotes, resources?
References: 1. Limited Church – Unlimited Kingdom by Dr. Rob Rienow.
2. Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee