When I told my pastor that I was going to take our 5th and 6th graders on a mission trip and that they would be sharing the Gospel, he thought I was crazy! About thirteen years ago, I felt led by the Lord to take our preteens on a mission trip and release them to lead evangelistic Bible studies in Corpus Christi, Texas. When I shared my idea with my pastor, he thought I had lost my mind! “Wow! Did I hear the Lord?” That thought haunted me on the six and a half hour drive to Corpus Christi. That fear was quickly replaced the first day on the trip when a 5th-grade boy named Mark taught at a local apartment complex. After he shared the Bible study that day, Mark gave an invitation to respond to the message, and seven people accepted Christ—three of them were teenagers!
For many years in children’s ministry, I sent children into student ministry hoping that I had done everything right. My model was to have well-trained teachers and the best resources out there to make sure that children had a full understanding of the Word of God.
About fifteen years ago, I discovered that discipleship is not a curriculum but a process. As I began teaching children spiritual disciplines, I saw rapid spiritual growth and transformation in their lives. We also introduced this process to parents, and many times, it resulted in changing the spiritual lives of entire families as they got involved.
We began to engage children and preteens in ministry and discovered that children have spiritual gifts that have value in the church today. I learned that they don’t have a “baby” Holy Spirit—they have THE Holy Spirit living in them. As I helped children discover their spiritual gifts, it became my passion to equip them to use their gifts and then to release them in ministry in my church.
I was thinking the other day about the frustrations I have at times with my computer. I have certain software on my computer that updates on a regular basis, whether I like it or not. Some of the updates have slowed my computer down or even caused it to crash.
The wonderful thing about software is that if problems like this occur, there is a tool called “backdating.” So, I can go back to a past date before the problem occurred and have my computer reset to that point. Then, the computer begins to function normally again once the corruption is gone.
Could it be that we need to backdate in children’s ministry? Do we need a complete system reboot?
In the process of trying to educate our children, we have moved away from discipleship. We have focused more on giving them knowledge about the Bible rather than teaching them how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In most churches today for their first 18 years, children just sit and listen while adult leaders minister to them, and they never experience all God has planned for them. So many children hear all the stories and hear about God’s great glory; however, they never understand or see their value and importance in the body of Christ. Many times, they are asked to wait until they are adults before they can serve.