If you are like most children’s ministers, child safety is your top priority. In my 28+ years of serving in children’s ministry, I have sadly had to report some individuals from my church and the camp I directed who were accused of possible abuse with a child. This is serious business when serving on staff in a Christian organization. We required applications and background checks on every leader who served in children’s ministry. We also mandated online training on sexual abuse prevention. What you don’t realize is that the majority of those who are sex offenders have never been caught. Because of this, it is proven that background checks and applications don’t always work. I did a great job at training leaders, but I failed to train the children in my ministry to know what was and was not acceptable behavior for children, students, and adults.
I attended a preteen bridge conference several years ago. George Barna was speaking and shared something that really caught my attention. He said, “The spiritual battle for our children is won or lost in the children’s ministry.” This struck a nerve with me. If you are a children’s pastor, children’s director, preschool minister, or anyone involved in children’s ministry as a whole, you are in a battle. Barna, like many other leaders, is realizing how serious the battle for our children is today. During his 20+ years of research, he targeted adult behavior in the church. Then one day, reality struck. He shared, “Somehow, God managed to lift the veil from my eyes long enough for me to gain wisdom…It became painfully clear to me that I had been operating on the basis of some very faulty assumptions.” What Barna found was the most successful ministries can be traced back to those who were wholeheartedly had an effective plan for children’s ministry.
This means that what you do is the most significant thing in your church. It’s not student ministry; it’s not adult ministry. It’s in the children’s ministry where the battle lines are forming. Knowing this, what should you do as a children’s pastor, children’s director, or ministry leader?
I remember years ago when I first started out in children’s ministry. I would go to conferences and look at all different curriculums. A lot of times, I bought books or curriculum because of the awesome cover of the book, often in haste. But when I opened them up and began reading the content, I realized the only thing unique about the curriculum was the cover. I hate to admit it, but a lot of us do that. As I write this blog, a question comes to mind. How do we define discipleship with children? I remember years ago when someone asked that about discipleship, a red flag would go up in my mind. For some reason, the church quit using that terminology and began calling it Christian education instead.
In most churches today, what we would call discipleship is the impartation of wisdom or knowledge about the Bible. There is nothing wrong with this; however, are we truly discipling children like Jesus did by His example? What I want us to do is look at Jesus’ model. I want to share with you five points or models that Jesus used to teach His disciples: