What’s Our Kids’ Ministry Looking At?

Every painting, pencil sketch, and sculpture is a representation of something else. Even the most abstract painting composed of crazy shapes is still bound by the definitions of colors and the reality of lines, angles, and weight. Art always represents some aspect of the tangible world. And the meaning of that art work is derived through the artists from the object. The subject of the paintingpainting has a great bearing on the final result.

In much the same way, the subject of our kids’ ministry will determine what our kids’ ministry will look like. If we begin with kids, our ministry will be kid focused. We will have amazing games, crazy worship times, and adventurous summer camps. We will do anything and everything to get more kids into our church. You can almost hear the chant now, “Kids, kids, kids!”

And while I desperately want families to be returned to their place of biblical prominence within the church, I think focusing on kids will actually harm the church. If we focus on kids, we most likely will win many of them to our church. But will we win many of them to our Lord Jesus Christ?

In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says that, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” Later on, Paul says that unregenerate people see the gospel as a ‘stumbling block’ and ‘foolishness'(v.23). Unredeemed kids are not going to like church. They are going to find it boring. They are going to think that the gospel is an imposition to their T.V. schedule, to their social media life, and to their sports’ career.  I have had kids tell me that, “I don’t like church” and complain that church is “lame.” And I do not think these little guys and gals are the worst sinners ever. I too preferred football and toy soldiers over Sunday school and congregational hymns.

To create a ministry that is focused on these kids, we have to reflecting their attitudes in our ministry. We have to agree that the gospel is boring and begin implementing games and music that lessen the pressures of the gospel conviction. We have to make the ministry about acceptance. We must offer grace without repentance and entertainment without conviction. If we want our kids’ ministry to represent our kids, we will have to embrace a sinners worldview.  

And if we do, we will win over our kids. We will discover that kids prefer a worship service featuring pool noodles over the one where they have sit in the pews with their parents. But we have not won these kids to Jesus. If anything, we have connected with them by saying that, “Jesus is not everything; your self-centered happiness is.”

Instead of focusing on kids, I think kids’ ministries should be focus on Christ. We need to seek to replicate the gospel in our ministries. We do this by simply proclaiming the gospel. We declare with Paul that we want our kids to only know, “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We teach children the gospel.

Now, I am not saying that best kids’ ministry is a boring kids’ ministry.  Nor do I think we should have our children’s choir members wear robes. (Yes some churches still do that.) We can use newer songs, employ great illustrations, and lead fun crafts. Anything and everything that makes the gospel clearer should be employed. We should become all things to all people, especially our kids. But our ultimate goal is not to make our kids like church. Our ultimate goal is present the gospel, “in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (I Cor. 4b-5).

At the end of the day, we cannot save anyone. I do not care how creative or gifted you or your team is, none of us can open a child’s eyes. Only God can grant repentance that “lead to life” (Acts 11:18). And if we want God to work if we want to see children redeemed while in our kids’ ministries, we must avoid the temptation to employ worldly strategies that appeals to our kids’ sinful desires. We must preach the gospel, trusting God to penetrate the hearts of our kids with the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6).

As with the great painters, our kids’ ministry must have a subject. What is the subject of your kids’ ministry?  

  

5 Great Quotes on Evangelism From: “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”

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When discussing evangelism within the doors of evangelical church, there two people always present. The first is passion, who has a desire to see the world transformed by saving grace. The second is fear, who sees that passion’s efforts are failing miserably. Together they hunt about the pews trying to find someone or something to affix the blame. And after a few hours of coffee and conversation, these two friends decide to blame the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

It is at this moment that J.I. Packer enters into the conversation with his great little book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, showing that evangelism is first and foremost a work of God. It’s a wonderful essay that is worthy of the read. Take a look at the quotes below and then make plans to grab your copy!

Quotes:

“If you are a Christian, you pray; and the recognition of God’s sovereignty is the basis of your prayers. In prayer, you ask for things and give thanks for things. Why? Because you recognize that God is the author and the source of all the good that you have had already, and all the good that you hope for in the future.” –p.15

“And if we forget that only God can give faith, we shall start to think that the making of converts depends, in the last analysis not on God, but on us, and that the decisive factor is the way in which we evangelize. And this line of thought, consistently followed through will lead us far astray.” – p. 32

“In the Bible, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not enemies. They are not uneasy neighbors; they are not in an endless state of cold war with each other. They are friends, and they work together.” – p.40.

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“The things that God is pleased to keep to himself (the number and identity of the elect, for instance, and when and how he purposes to convert whom) have no bearing on any man’s duty. They are not relevant in any way for interpreting any part of God’s law.” – p.95

“It [evangelism] is a work in which quick results are not promised; it is a work, therefore, in which the non-appearance of quick results is no sign of failure; but it is a work in which we cannot hope for success unless we are prepared to persevere with people.” – p.117

 

Why The Numbers Don’t Add Up

numbers-blogNumbers, numbers, numbers. Much of the kids’ ministry conversation is framed within the context of numbers. To get idea of how to understand someone’s ministry, we ask, “How many kids come on Sunday morning?” And we keep going. We talk about the number of baptisms, how many kids attend VBS, and how many new babies are being born. Everything from staffing ratios to the number of sippy cups in our building has a numerical value that can be discussed.

I am very thankful for numbers. Statistics offer all kinds of insights into kids’ ministry. They reveal strengths and weakness; they help us predict trends; and they help us plan for the future. I for one have spent a good deal of time expanding the amount of data that FBCE’s children’s ministry collects for these reasons and more. Numbers are great.

But numbers can also be deadly. They can shift our focus from eternity to our own immediacy. Anytime we get a group of kids’ ministry staffer and volunteers together, we will almost always get into a conversation about evangelism. Someone will start talking about how 50 kids got saved at their VBS. And as they praise God, we begin to wonder why only one kid got saved at our church this past summer. We question our methods and skills, wondering if more music or if better crafts would lead to more conversions. We begin to make evangelism about on numbers instead of the gospel.

At the end of the day, this is a huge problem. Focusing on numbers will not lead to more conversions, because we cannot save anyone. We do not lead people to Christ with just the right blend of music, crafts, and timely themed gospel messages. As the great preacher J.I. Packer said,

Can you or I by our earnest talking break the power of Satan over a man’s life? No. Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we hope to convince sinners of the truth of the gospel by patient explanation? No. Can we hope to move men to obey the gospel by any words of entreaty that we may utter? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic till we have faced this shattering face and let it make its proper impact on us. – p106.

Evangelism cannot succeed apart from God. As the Scriptures say, ‘“Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). Salvation is work of God. We must never forget this central and fundemental truth.

Our job is not to save. Our job is to faithfully introduce kids to the wonders of the Scriptures. To do this well, we will have to teach hard truths starting with Genesis and ending with revelation. And, we will have to love our kids for more than a week here or there. We will have to spend time with them. We will have to play on the playground with them; we will have to listen to their concerns, and we will have to pray with them.

“The right to talk to another person about the Lord Jesus Christ has to be earned, and you earn it by convincing him that you are his friend, and that you really care about him” – p81.

We will have to invest time and energy into our kids ministry if we want to see kids saved.

Are their shortcuts? Yes. For example, we can have everyone bow their heads and then have those ‘interested in the gospel’ raise their hands. After telling them that Jesus will ‘save you from their sins’ we can then pray a prayer of repentance for the kids and pronounce them saved. Our numbers will look great. \

But, they will not add up. Because these kids have not understood the gravity of their sin and the beauty of Jesus, they have not embraced Jesus. If anything they have simply been brainwashed and can be easily convinced to leave the faith by the next well-spoken person they meet.

At the end of the day, we cannot hop over the wall of graces and save others with our human efforts. Though we all long for numbers, we must not let the success of one church lead us into a panic. That church has not excelled not at our expense.

Rather, we should praise God for working, realizing that that work did not happen over night. And then, we must redouble our commitment to the gospel. After all, evangelism “is a work in which quick results are not promised; it is a work, therefore, in which the non-appearance of quick results is no sign of failure; but it is a work in which we cannot hope for success unless we are prepared to persevere with people.”