This is a common question asked of me by many leaders as they begin a path toward discipling children in their churches. They are very concerned that certain kids in their groups are just not where everyone else is. The main temptation here is to target or focus on those who are behind or not ready. In other situations, we might focus on getting kids saved as our top priority. Which is best? I admit I have struggled with the same questions. Several years ago, I came to peace with the idea that I am called to make disciples, not converts only. Let me explain. If I focus all my attention on reaching lost children in my church, when will I have time to disciple those who know Christ? Getting a child to accept Christ is one the greatest joys of my life. For years I would lead them to Christ and I would go after the next kids who did not know the Lord. The problem was that I was sending preteens into the student ministry who were still “baby” Christians. They prayed the prayer, but that was it. As we look at Scripture, we have a mandate to make disciples (Matt. 28:190-20). So, the church is a place where we make it our top priority to disciple children. Lost children will continue to be saved, but the children in our ministries will grow in their faith and have a solid foundation in their lives before they hit the student ministry.
So here is how we turned the corner:
- We focused our attention on those children who were ready to walk with the Lord and hungered for His Word. When we did this, other children were drawn into the fold. As they grew, the other kids in their groups grew and desired to have what they had. The opposite happened when I focused on those who were not ready. Those who were ready became frustrated because they were being stifled.
- Jesus had twelve disciples, but He spent the majority of His time with Peter, James, and John. This may be the case in our church when we have children who are maturing above the rest. This is when you as the children’s pastor can take them under your wing and give them even greater responsibilities and take them to a new level of leadership training.
- How did church leaders respond? They were upset with me at first and could not believe we were not focusing on leading children to Christ in the church and that we had a heavy focus on discipleship. Well, the kids I discipled in my church ministered to more than 1,000 children in our community, leading hundreds to Christ. The questions quickly stopped as church leaders saw the results.
You see, the Lord has great plans for every child in your church. For you to get them where they need to be spiritually, you have to set aside time to disciple them. Discipleship is not a new Christian class in your church after VBS or camp that lasts a few weeks. It is an ongoing process that teaches children how to walk with the Lord on a daily basis and shows them how to live a Great Commission life.
If you are new to children’s ministry or this is your twentieth year, thank you for serving the Lord and the children of your church. As a gift to you, we are offering our Leadership Handbook and our Online Training at NO COST to your church or organization. Click here to find out more.
To learn more about L.I.T. and our process of discipling and empowering children and preteens for ministry, click here.