When Kids Don’t Like Kids’ Ministry

kidsWords can be painful. The words that solidify the rejection of your ministry can be particularly piercing. I do not enjoying hearing kids, parents, and grandparents condemning my ministry as irrelevant, dull or worst of all…. boring. My heart does not rejoice when a kid walks in our church doors and then spins around to walk out a moment later declaring that, “I don’t like your church”

But as painful as those words and sentiments can be, they are necessary consequence of the gospel. When children walk into our churches, most of them have a worship problem. I am do not mean that the like the wrong type of worship music. I am not against baby rappers or baby washboard players. They do not have a Sunday morning worship problem or a Wednesday not issue. They have a heart worship problem. The little souls that come to our churches arrive fully in love with themselves and the world. They come wanting us, our programs, and our whole church structure to make much of them.

I John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

This is the condition of our kids. They are unregenerate little people who worship things other than God.

Consequently, they do not want to be reminded of their sin, of their need for a savior, and of their insignificance. They want fun children’s church programs that continue on until they are finished with college. They want to be entertained with great music and pool noodles. They want to leave having been made much of. If we give them a program centered around their desires, they will thank us and praise us.

But we will have not done our kids a favor. We will have harmed them. Instead of using Sunday to help our kids grasp the majesty and wonder of God and their insignificance, we have used Sunday to feed their fleshly desires. We have used Sunday to hide them from the truth that life is all about obeying and following God.

The point of worship on Sunday is not to make much of us. We gather together to make much of God. We should not pick songs and compose messages that reflect our kids. We need to pick songs that reflect who God is and what God has said. As one theologian said,

Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves against the majesty of God.”

Our goal should be to get kids to God through talking about who Jesus is. When we do so, we will not always be loved. Once a child rated our Sunday school program with the following remark, “I hate it here.” His one star review is not alone. We lost another child because a ministry across town had better snacks. And, another child will not even darken our doors because we encourage kids to attend boring big church.

At the end of the day, these kids do not have problem with our church. They have a worship problem. When they realize that the church will not funnel kindling onto their fire of their self-centered alter, they stay away. Those who worship themselves and the world cannot worship God at the same time.

How Should We Respond?

We keep preaching the gospel. We keep pointing kids to Christ. If Christ changes their hearts, those little souls will love those who make of God. They will love the things of God. And the best and only way to facilitate heart change in little sinners is to preach the gospel.

Second, we need to listen. We need to hear their story. In the story above, the little man hated Sunday school because he did not like listening to Bible stories. He disliked the very gospel that we are commanded to preach. His rejection was confirmation that his teacher was preaching truth.

Others may dislike our programs because another kid is picking on them when no one is looking. They may find our church boring because our teachers our unprepared. If these things are happening, we need to address them. We need to be certain that we have not offended them.

But if the gospel offends them, there is little we can do. Our allegiance is not to the kids that come to our church nor to their families. Our allegiance is to Christ. Our savior is a stumbling block and an unlikable conundrum to those who are perishing. Unregenerate kids our no different than unregenerate adults. They do not like the gospel.

While we should not welcome such opposition, we must realize it will come. And we must be willing to offend the sensibilities of these little souls for their eternity hangs in the balance. We must preach Jesus both in season and out of season. Are you ready?

Why Do Families Skip Church?

church-empty

Why do families skip church on Sunday? Why is our Sunday school attendance going down? Why do kids stop coming to our Wednesday night programs? There are all kinds of answers to these questions. We can blame our kids’ sports league, Netflix, social media, the low price of gas, and a the weather.

But what about us? What about our churches, our programs, and our kids’ activities? Is it possible that the problem is not out there but in here?  Is it possible that people no longer view church as a priority because we, the church, are longer offering anything compelling? It’s possible.

People Centered?

Now before I go further, I want to hedge off one concern.  I am not advocating for Christian consumerism. I am not advocating for hanging lights, creating crazy worship sets, and installing bouncy houses so that our churches will begin to resemble Disney World. We do not need to appeal to sinners via their sinful flesh. As James McDonald said in his book, Vertical Church:

If you build your church on celebrity guests and circus chicanery of all sorts, you will attract the kind of people who want shallow service and grow them into snotty-nosed, high-demand, never-satisfied “disciples.”

What About The Glory?

We need to offer something much, much greater. We need to point people to God. Specifically, we need to call people to worship the one true God. What is true worship?   “Worship is the magnification of God and the minimization of self.” Christ came so that he might be glorified through us. As John 1:14 reports:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The church exists to glorify the savior of the world. We exist to help people (even kids) to escape their selfish hearts by making much of God. As Paul David Tripp writes,

Children’s Ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God.

And when adults, youth, and kids interact with the glory of God, hearts change, lives become altered, and the kingdom grows. Our goal as leaders, teachers, and ambassadors in the church should be to introduce our families to the majesty and the glory of God. We exist to promote the awe of God through worship.

What About Us?

Is this happening in our church? Do people regularly walk into our buildings and experience the glory and the majesty of God? Or is the height of their church experience a few cool crafts, a warm handshake, and a casual conversation about the latest football game?  If our church is nothing more than a religious, social event, our people can easily skip it. But if our church is a venue through which people corporately experience the wonder of the one true God, our people will come. God’s glory and majesty is infinitely more compelling than any program we can think of. Every ministry in our church should be exist to connect people to God through worship. Are we doing this? Are we connecting people to God?

What Can The Alcohol Debate Teach Us About Parenting?

alchohol-blogThe Alcohol debate has once again been stirred about by the news of Pastor Perry Noble’s firing. The arguments of many modern day teetotaler are once again floating to the top of our newsfeeds. The alcohol antagonists have always feared that their Christian drinking friends lacked the wisdom to properly exercise their liberty. These traditional Southern Baptists types knew that playing with fire would end badly. And now in Pastor Noble’s case, it has.

Today, I do not want to add another page to the alcohol discussion. Rather, I want to pivot and look at some of the parenting implications that spill over from of the latest discussions on drinking.

More Than Walls

Many in the Bible believing world think that Pastor Noble’s main problem was with alcohol. If he had just emptied his cabinets, he would still be employed. Those who disapprove of alcohol are boldly advocating that all wine, beer, and hard liquor should be avoided. If we would simply create enough walls, then we will be protected from sin and disaster. 

And while I agree that we should encourage men and women who struggle to flee temptation, we must recognize that a drunkard’s problem is ultimately not Jim Bean or Budweiser. Jesus said,

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matt. 15:11).

Nothing we eat or drink makes us a sinner. Nothing we eat or drink causes us to lose our job. Pastor Noble sinned, and we sin because we have a worship problem. We desire something more than God and that desire leads us to sin and destruction (James 1:14-15). In Pastor Noble’s case, he used alcohol to find satisfaction outside of Jesus. And sadly he found out like many before him, that sin only leads to “death.”

The antidote for drunkenness is not a house filled with Sprite. The antidote is satisfaction in Christ. Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 4:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” If we want to stop being an alcoholic, we must replace our drunkenness with the Holy Spirit. We must find relief and happiness in God instead of a bottle of scotch.   

The Heart of the Matter

So what do this mean for us as parents? We must realize that our kids greatest struggle is not outside of them but inside of them. Our kids sin because they desire things more than God. We can and should protect them from drunkenness, pornography, and a whole host of other sins. We should put up walls to keep our children away from temptation. But, we must not boast in our walls. Our moral, sexually pure daughter can still be controlled by a love of softball. Our nicely behaved son can still love his video games more than Jesus. Our nice kids can still easily worship things other than God. They can still be on the road to destruction. Denying our kids access to certain things does not prevent sin. We simply force our kids’ hearts to rumble along to the next device, person, or thing it can access for worship. Our job goes beyond creating behavioral standards.

Instead of boasting in walls and legalistically calling all parents to follow our standards, we must strive to reach our children’s hearts. We must recognize that our job does not come to an end when we can trot out pleasant children that society happily accepts. Our job does not end until our children are perfected in Christ (I.e. it doesn’t ever end). As parents, we are called to tackle our children’s hearts. We are called to tackle our daughter’s love for candy with the same concern that we address our son’s sexual sin. We must daily tell our kids that Christ satisfies. We must call our unrepentant children to place their hope in Christ and remind our believing children that God is good. We must not boast in our walls because standards and limitations on Christian liberty do not save. Christ does. Are we ready to proclaim him?