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! WhenBored 92 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.

Somewhere in the church’s history, we got off track. We embraced the idea of Christian education. We set up the church in the same pattern as the secular education system. We age-grade children and determine that they can only do certain things at their age levels. We focus on concrete and abstract thinking. We believe this is what a child can comprehend at these age levels. The problem is that we leave out the work of the Holy Spirit in a child’s life. I can say this because I have two seminary Christian education degrees—I am speaking from experience. What I have found in the last fifteen years is that children catch their faith by action not instruction or lecturing. Let me give you an example: We set up our church one Wednesday evening to do “A Journey of Prayer.” We set up prayer stations throughout the second floor of our church, and then we had about eighty children from first thru sixth grades go to each station. Different rooms had different themes: praying for the lost, praying for missionaries, praying for the 10-40 Window, etc. After the prayer time, one of our leaders came to me and said, “Clint, I thought you were crazy thinking that second graders could pray for more than an hour. They prayed non-stop. I am a believer now.” When it comes to the Holy Spirit, He doesn’t look at age levels. He looks to the heart and changes them according to His plan.

I want to invite you to step out of the box. Children today desire to be challenged, they desire to have purpose, and they hunger to serve. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  1. Encourage your leaders to engage kids in ministry in their classes or small groups. Encourage them as Jesus did to bring the children alongside them and give them Sign Up Barresponsibilities in the class. Have them lead the prayer time, do records, set up the class, teach part or all of the lesson, or take on leadership responsibilities.
  2. Encourage leaders to model. One year, I was walking down the hallway of the church and noticed one of our male leaders laying on the floor prostrate in prayer. Laying next to him in the room were all of his second-grade boys doing the same—praying. Remember, Jesus didn’t lecture His disciples how to pray; He showed them.
  3. Provide ministry training for kids. Many churches have games and activities that draw kids to their church. Why not use this time to train them how to do puppets or learn praise songs that they could lead in children’s church? Take the time to teach children how to run your sound system. I had a young man named Richard who would come in on Sunday mornings and set up our sound system and then get songs ready to play all by himself. It freed me up tremendously because it became his ministry. Now, he runs sound and tech on our mission trips. Click here for more creative ideas for ministry training.
  4. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. I was very intrigued hearing Keri Meek from Hillcrest Church share that they would teach the leaders how to pick a song for ministry training. They would take it to their group of children and then say, “Let’s stop and you pray for the Lord to give you the ideas for the skit or songs.” The wonderful thing was that they would come up with amazing ideas for their own skits or presentations. Click here for ideas.
  5. Teach children how to pray and watch. Every year on our mission trips, we teach children how to prayer walk and wait on the Lord. They learn that they have authority to pray and seek the Lord so that He will move during their Bible study times. This summer, we heard story after story of kids praying and the Lord moving. What they learned was that as they approached the throne of grace, the Lord heard them and answered their prayers in amazing ways. Click here to hear some of their stories.
  6. Don’t be afraid to push children out of their comfort zones. I have found that the more I push kids out of their comfort zones, the more they depend on the Lord to pull them through. Do not become a helicopter leader. Instead, give children greater and greater challenges that stretch their faith and cause them to depend on the Lord. Most likely, the greatest times of your own spiritual growth were when God called you to do the impossible. It caused you to pray a lot and watch Him carry you through. Give kids the impossible, and watch the God of the impossible bring them through. They will be grateful to you in the end.

In each of us as Christian leaders, there is a hunger for kids to get it—to find Jesus and experience all that we have experienced in our personal relationship with Christ. We want them to have the abundant life that we have found (John 10:10). They are not going to find it by just sitting in a classroom. They will find it when you say, “Come here and let me show you how to do ministry”…and then you release them to do so. The wonderful thing is that the answer is right there. The more you engage children in ministry, the more they will grow in their faith.  Research has found that those who are involved in church at a young age tend to stick around and be involved in church as adults.

For more information on L.I.T. and developing young leaders in your church, click here.