Kids’ Ministry Changes Everything!

free kidMost every church says it values kids. And, we should want our churches to have this perspective! Jesus loves children and our heavenly father says children are a blessing direct from him. Kids are also the group most receptive to the gospel. Most Christians embrace Christ by age 13. As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon observed,

He who receives things simply, as a child, will often have ideas which the man who is prone to use deductive reasoning could never discover.

Christians, who want to have greatest possible influence upon the world, must “consider employing those resources in ministry to young people (Barna 2003, 19).”

The Great Disconnect

Sadly, many churches don’t actually invest money into their kids’ zones. On average, most churches spend somewhere around 3% of their budget on caring for kids. As one pastor concluded,

Many Christians today assume they value children, but in practice often treat their kids like the disciples did (Reju 2014, 13). 

Because they grew up in impoverished and understaffed kids programs, today’s adults are often content to let their kids use free babythose great flannel graphs located in the back room. Then, the adults run  over to Walmart to get a new coffee pot for the fellowship hall.  Not surprisingly, kids and young families feel unwelcomed in many churches who say the opposite.

Thankfully, this has not been my direct experience. I have been blessed to be a part of churches that recognize the biblical value of kids and invest heavily in reaching the next generation. Currently, I serve at a church with by far one of the best children’s facilities around. But as important as financial gifts and facilities are, they are not the sum total of what it means to biblically welcome kids.

Getting Reconnected 

We actually have to be present with our kids. When Jesus welcomed the little children, he was physically with them, caring for them. He was their savior.

To welcome kids, we too have to be with them. After we create a welcoming space for our kids, we need to fill the space. We have to be ready to hold crying babies, to chase wiggly toddlers and to teach bubbly grader schoolers. And I get that this is not always easy. At times, babies are stinky, preschoolers are messy, and grade schoolers are easily distracted. But our efforts are absolutely necessary.

Kids have to hear the word of God to be saved. And when we take the time to lead a Sunday school class, God uses our lessons and wacky crafts to save the lost! I truly believe God uses Sunday school teachers and nursery volunteers to save and disciple numerous future pastors and missionaries. Though we may have to wait 20 or even 30 years before we see all that God is doing, we now he is moving; our labor is not in vain! Today, I invite all my readers to join with Jesus and invest in the next generation. Get involved in kids ministry and start changing the world!

May God send to his people a more firm belief that little buds of grace are worthy of all of our care. – Charles Spurgeon

Works Cited

Barna, George. Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority . Ventura : Regal , 2003.

Reju, Deepak. On Guard: Preventing ad Responding to Child Abuse at Church. Greensboro: New Growth Press , 2014.

Successful Failures

Successful Failures blog post

When we see kids getting drunk every weekend, fleeing church like the plague, and rocking out to obscenities, we naturally start to look for someone or something to blame. Was it the wrong crowd at school, or the tattooed kid next door, or all that secular media? Unfortunately, the answer actually might be in our house and church. It might be you and me.

The Church’s Failure

According to a recent study, those of us who attend church are almost indistinguishable from those who do not. During the typical week, Christians are almost as likely as non-Christians to gamble, gossip, hold a grudge, and sleep with someone other than their spouse. Sadly, Christians are slightly actually more likely than the unchurched, to lie and steal. Now admittedly, there is some good news. Christians are less likely to use profanity, get drunk (though almost 25% of Christians still do on a weekly basis) and seek out pornography (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 131). These stats indicate that our church people remarkably mirror the world. As David Platt laments,

We can’t fathom a Christian on the other side of the world believing that a wooden god can save them, but we have no problem believing that religion, money, possessions, food, fame, sex, sports, status, and success can satisfy (p. 23).

Our Successful Failure

follow meSo what does this have to with our kids? Parents have the greatest opportunity to influence their children. Whatever they
teach their kids, they will pick up. But as the stats above point out, many Christian parents are modeling the wrong message. They are successfully teaching their kids that living for Christ and true joy is synonymous with living for self. By living worldly lives, Christians may actually be the ones encouraging their kids to walk away from Christ.

But, troubled kids do typically reject one aspect of their parents’ lives. They skip church. No longer seeing the need for their parents’ Pharisaical attitudes or guilt complexes, many kids will often happily exchange the closed minded church pew for the open tolerance of the coffee shop. After all if you can be a good person without obeying Jesus, why get up early every Sunday and pretend the white robed dude is a big deal?

Overcoming the World

How do we fix our worldliness and in turn, help our kids understand the true Jesus of the Bible? We embrace as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Costly Grace.” On Sunday morning, we teach that there is no salvation apart from repentance. We affirm that the grace of Christ calls us all to die to sins and to live obediently for Christ. We proclaim that salvation leads to transformation. The old things such as sexual immorality and lying will pass away. The new has come.

And during the week, we live the word. We sacrifice our selfish desires and wants, to care for the sick, to happily wash dishes, to selflessly love our families. We become doers of the word who love Christ more than life itself.

I fear that the many church people are worldly because they have never left the world. As David Platt writes,

People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians (p. 18).

If we want to encourage our kids to faith in Christ, some of us will need to embrace Christ for the first time. We can only faithfully model what we know and experienced.

Understanding Our Limits

Now with all this being said, we don’t need to develop a guilt complex every time our kids sin or walk away from God. According to God, no parent is ultimately responsible for their child’s salvation or theirs sins. The prophet Ezekiel writes,

The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor shall the father suffer for the iniquity of the son (18:20).

Godly parents raise kids who become drug addicts and drug addicts produce kids who become pastors. Thankfully, God saves kids from all kinds of homes irrespective of ones parents.

Yet, God has still specifically designed us parents to reach the next generation for Christ. (Read Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78.) And if our lifestyle is so worldly that our kids miss the beauty of the gospel, we will be held accountable. And even more frightening, we (like the trouble kids around us) may be speeding down the broad road to destruction.

Living For Jesus

Thankfully, the antidote for our sin problem is simple. We start guarding against worldliness. As we interact with the scriptures, we compare our lives against the life of Christ and repent when our lives fail to match up to Jesus’ life. (2 Cor. 13:5). And if we follow Jesus, we will be successful parents.

Works Cited

Barna, G., & Kinnaman, D. (2014). Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. Austin: Tyndale House.

Platt, D. (2013). Follow Me . Carol Stream: Tyndale House .

Sunday School is Broken?

Sunday School is brokenReally? Who broke it? The simple but hard answer is, “We did!” Whenever we present a Bible story apart from the gospel, we break, undermine, and destroy the positive features of Sunday school. Now hopefully, you and I are not guilty of hiding God’s grace on a regular basis. But all across America the awesome message of repentance and forgiveness is being regularly missed by our church kids. If we hope to reach the next generation for Christ, we need to grapple with this stark reality by becoming even greater champions of the gospel. And here is why:

Earning F’s

A recent study of churchless Americans revealed that 60% of them have not progressed beyond their childhood faith (Barna & Kinnaman, pp. 61-62). In other words, most people who currently don’t go to church shaped their ideas about Jesus, society and the world (in part) while munching on crackers and looking at pictures of Jesus during Sunday school. And if most who avoid church like the plague thought that salvation was through Christ alone by faith alone, we would have done well. Unfortunately, this is not reality.

Learning the Wrong Things

Most unchurched people think salvation is a matter of works (p. 72). Do this and this, and avoid that movie, and you are ready for heaven. In short, bunches of kids are coming into our churches, flying around our children’s center, and then going out the door with the wrong gospel. Perhaps phenomenon explains why 90% of all 13-yr-old kids claim Christ but only 3% of our youth actually subscribe to a biblical worldview (Barna, pp. 39, 41). And when these kids grow up and want to get more serious about their faith, the largest group of them (31%) will try to obey the Ten Commandments more faithfully (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 134). They double down on their efforts to work themselves to heaven. There are no two ways about it; many of our church kids are getting the gospel.

Why Don’t Kids Learn?

Gospel-Gods-Plan-for-Me-poster-thumbnailThere are three big reasons kids aren’t getting the message:

  1. Some simply don’t listen. I had many excellent Sunday school teachers as a child (some of whom still pray for me). But as an unsaved kid, I found daydreaming about baseball and toy soldiers to be more interesting that children’s Bibles. Kids who tune out now will naturally struggle to recall the gospel when they are grown.
  2. Every kid is born a sinner. Apart from the grace of God, no kid can understand the gospel or embrace any truth. All will either think the cross is foolish or objectionable (I Cor. 1:23). And to cope with their sin before salvation, kids often either consciously or unconsciously alter the glorious truths of the gospel to make their own sin more manageable. I.e. surely I can work my way to heaven and please God without transforming faith. Now to find an old lady to help across the street to make up for stealing that pack of gum.
  3. Teachers are misrepresenting Christ. We could actually be teaching that the gospel consists of self-motivated obedience. Remember David? You need to be brave. Remember Paul? You need to be bold and sacrificial. We forget to mention that obedience can only be achieved through the power of Christ. And perhaps, we promote a works salvation because that’s what we actually believe.

Over 50% of church people self-identified more with the Pharisees than with Christ.

So, over 50% of us good church folk live as if God made us extra special holy people; we think ourselves inherently better than the unchurched (p. 179). As a result, some of us have undoubtedly stopped teaching that we are all (or were) wretched sinners daily opposing God and in need of unearned grace. And we forget that God alone saves and equips us to do good works. It’s quite possible many of our kids aren’t getting the gospel because we have taught salvation by works alone. As one lifelong Sunday school teacher recently said,

If kids are leaving the church, it’s because we’ve failed to give them a view of Jesus and his cross that’s compelling enough to satisfy their spiritual hunger and give them the zeal they crave” (Klumpenhower, p. 52)

Keep the Gospel in Church

Admittedly, we cannot keep every child from wandering off from classroom into the sea of churchlessness. Only those kids who have encountered the risen savior will embrace local congregations when grown. We are not responsible for what people hear and believe. God’s got that under control.

But God will hold us accountable for what we say.  We can and should faithfully teach the gospel. The preached word (and not our gimmicks or bands) is the hope of the next generation and of today’s churchless. Even around 23% of the unchurched get this truth and long for better Bible teaching (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 99). The gospel of God is the complete and only good news we have to offer. If we want to fix our Sunday schools or keep them humming well, we must faithful teach the gospel yesterday, today, and always.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. – I Timothy 4:16

Works Cited

  • Barna, G. (2003). Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority . Ventura : Regal .
  • Barna, G., & Kinnaman, D. (2014). Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. Austin: Tyndale House.
  • Klumpenhower, J. (2014). Show Them Jesus: Teaching The Gospel to Kids. Greensboro: New Growth Press.