If we want to reach the children in our homes or at our church, we have to be with them. We have to spend time driving toy cars on the furniture, hosting tea-parties, and celebrating the good grades on their report cards. In short, we have to do life with these precious little souls.
There are no professional parents or professional kids’ ministry leaders. True and effective parenting and ministry happens via life on life. Organizing programs and showing up for Sunday morning services will not produce life change by themselves. Our Wednesday night programs are only worth the time and effort it takes to get them going each week when the Bible is being taught and relationships are being formed. Our programs should be laying a groundwork that is needed to facilitate communication, care, encouragement and reproof. Our activities are not the sum total of the Christian life.
This is the crux of New Testament ministry.
Think of the apostle Paul. He repeatedly encouraged believers, to “imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1, 4:6; Phil. 3:17; Phi. 4:9; 2 Thess. 3:9). The pastoral letters clearly indicate that Paul diligently taught people the word of God. He was a great preacher. But Paul did not just preach once a week and consider his job done. No. He lived with the people he taught. He invested in them. He heard about their messy and complicated lives and showed them how the Scriptures could answer all of their problems. Paul knew the people he ministered to.
To be effective parents and kids’ ministry teachers, we must do the same thing. We must know what make our kids tick. We need to listen to their concerns, celebrate their triumphs, and note their weaknesses. We need to learn their hearts.
Moreover, we need to model the Christian faith for our children. We need to depend on God, make much of our savior, and be quick to repent of our sins. If we hope to reach the next generation with the gospel, we must be able to legitimately call our kids to follow us as we follow Christ.
If our parenting and ministry never extends beyond a prefabbed lesson, if we protect ourselves from getting to close to others, and if we turn our faith on and off each Sunday, we will be able to do many things. We may have great programs, we may have huge budgets, and we may have grand feelings of accomplishment. But we will not have reached and discipled anyone. We will not have cultivated the very relationships that facilitate gospel growth.
You and me are by definition needy. Unfortunately, the same is true of our kids. We are all needy. Such is life until Christ returns! If we get to know our kids and invest in us needy people, we know what will happen. Those sweet kids and their families will begin to consume our time, our energy and our money. (And yes, we should install boundaries to protect our families and our own spiritual lives.) We must be willing to sacrifice our lunch hour, to answer a midnight phone calls, and to redirect our movie budget to the local mission center. How else will people see the gospel in action? How else can we call people to follow us as we follow Christ?