While talking with pastor Joel Hayworth today, I asked him, “What has sustained you most in life and ministry?” He shared, “I learned spiritual disciplines while I was in the fourth grade. These disciplines carried me through junior high, high school, and college, through good times and difficult times. I learned how to have a daily quiet time, Scripture memory, and service at a young age.”
If you are a children’s pastor/leader, you, like me, want children to walk through life with a solid, faithful foundation that will sustain them through the storms of life. Children today face challenges that many of us never faced at their age. Our culture is bent on their destruction. Without a solid faith, it will be difficult for them to withstand the tests they face. However, they have a Savior who will maintain them and give them a solid footing—Jesus Christ. He is our source of strength and power. He is the center of our target and the goal of our salvation (Hebrews 12:1-5).
Teaching children how to spend time at the feet of the Master daily is so important. Through these times, they learn not to depend on their own strength, but His. They learn to tap into the power of the One living in and through them. When children learn the habit of daily Bible study, Scripture memory, prayer, and service, they learn the keys to enduring faith.
One day I had a fourth-grade girl approach me and ask if she could help out in the children's ministry. I immediately put her in charge of our resource room. Right away, I knew that her gift was administration/organization. I could give her something, and she would get it done. Later when she was in sixth grade, she became our Bus Ministry Director. She made phone calls to about 30 children each week. She also served in several afterschool clubs and grew even more as a leader. She continued to serve throughout high school and college. She now has more than 11 years of ministry experience, and I would choose her among most adults because she is a confident, capable, and fruitful leader. It all started during her preteen years.
I don’t know about you, but this quarantine thing is really tough for me. To be told to stay home is like punishment. I want to be around people. When the governor of our state gave the order to stay at home, we knew it was getting serious. I went to bed hoping that I would wake up the next day and discover it was just a bad dream. All of my plans for the spring went right out the window. It was like a fog came over my life and the ministry, and it would not go away. Then I realized maybe this is not so bad after all.
Several years ago, I had surgery on my shoulder. I woke up from the surgery in a sling tied around my waist. The doctor told me that I had to wear it for five weeks. I could only take it off long enough to shower and change my clothes. All I could do for those five weeks was sit in a lounge chair and ice my shoulder. As many would do, I continued to plan and look toward the future. It seemed that everything I planned just didn’t work. Then I received a sweet little postcard from a senior adult lady in my church. She wrote, “Clint, maybe the Lord just wants you to sit still and wait on Him.” That is not what I wanted to do, but in time, that was the best thing I ever did. You see, I have to learn over and over again. As a friend told me, “It’s okay to stop and not do anything; sometimes, that is the most pleasing thing we can do before the Lord.”
You might ask what a preteen can do in your church. The answer is pretty much everything! You see, we underestimate at times the gifts of preteens in our church. Years ago I started a program in my church called Leaders In Training. It is a common name used in many organizations. I wasn’t trying to be original; I was trying to give a title that fit what we were doing with this age group. Little did I know when I started the journey that I would see the amazing God-given gifts and abilities of these kids. My number one priority was that I wanted them to know how to walk with the Lord. So, we taught them how to have a daily quiet time, and to my surprise, the majority of them got into it and were faithful to spend time in the Word of God daily. Then we began to train them to lead…and they did. What amazed me as I gave them opportunities to serve was that their gifts began to manifest before my eyes. Not a few, but all of them: teaching, administration, helps, mercy, exhortation, service, giving, leadership, and the list goes on and on. When I gave them a chance to minister, ministry became a joy to me. I saw these younger saints glorify Christ with their lives and at the same time grow very rapidly in their faith.