When someone talks about spiritual warfare, I sometimes raise an eyebrow. The truth is…it is very real. It’s often obvious to see in our world that seems to be falling apart and going crazy. In the past 28 years of doing ministry, I have seen it become more and more prevalent. I have begun to notice that there is an intensity of attacks against our kids. About 17 years ago, I was Camp Director at Fort Lone Tree in Capitan, New Mexico. It was a camp for 8- to 12-year-olds. Every year, we seemed to be having a lot of problems with kids with emotional issues. One evening during our camp fire worship time, I taught them about spiritual warfare and taking thoughts captive to Christ. I asked the kids, “How many of you are having thoughts that you are worthless or have no value here on Earth?” More than half of them raised their hands. This past summer during one of our mission trips, I asked the same question. One hundred percent of the kids (preteens and students) raised their hands! How do we help kids break through the attacks on their minds and thought-lives?
Here are some suggestions I have used to train children about spiritual warfare and the battle for their minds:
Have you ever noticed that it is difficult at times to get adults to serve in church? You can plead and make your case to no avail. While I was doing research for my doctorate one day, it finally hit me…and it wasn’t rocket science! When you ask a child for eighteen years to just sit still and listen while you minister to them, the results are always the same. They grow into adults who see church as a spectator event. They want to come and be fed. This is church to many adults today, including parents. So, we should not be surprised when we ask them to serve and they give us a shocked look or avoid us all together. This isn’t what they were taught that church is. There’s an old saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” So, we can no longer point at the adults in our church and be upset that they don’t want to serve. There are four fingers pointing back at us. We have a broken system.
As the Lord prepared to return to Heaven after His years on Earth, His last command was for His followers to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
Eric Geiger says, “A church can excel at anything and everything else, but if the church fails to make disciples, she has wandered from her fundamental reason for existence.”
How do we do this with children? It doesn’t come through teaching only; it comes through engaging them in ministry.
We must be cautious in embracing the idea of a secular education model to disciple children. Simply flooding a child’s mind with knowledge of Scripture doesn’t bring transformation.
Nicki Stranza warns, “School is designed to cram information in our kids’ heads. Experience is more effective in creating an opportunity for thinking and evaluation.”
The church isn’t a school; it is the body of Christ on mission.
Here are five essentials for discipling and seeing the lives of children transformed:
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20”? As I reflect back over the past 28 years of ministry, I always struggled as a minister to find help and volunteers in the church. I remember hearing Jim Wideman years ago talk about the “Moses syndrome.” He said, as a minister, he would walk down the hallway on a Sunday morning looking for volunteers. The adults who saw him would part the hallway on both sides like the Red Sea. They were trying their best to avoid eye contact or being near him because he might ask them to serve. This has been much of my journey. As I began to ponder this problem, I realized it isn’t a problem that can’t be fixed. We just have to change the way we are developing our leaders. The reason that it is difficult to get adult volunteers, even parents, to serve is because they have never served in the church all of their lives. Let me explain. Somewhere along the way in the church’s great history, someone embraced the idea that the way to disciple and equip children is through indoctrination—having them sit and listen while someone teaches. We sit them in a classroom and use different teaching styles to explain to them how to live for Jesus. The problem here is that faith is caught, not taught. You can lecture all day long and never move a child’s heart, but teaching with action changes lives. Recently, I have been looking at trends that might cause a minister to rethink the way to do ministry.