When Teaching Children, What Key Factor Supersedes Developmental Learning Style?

When you purchase resources for children in your church, I would say that the majority of them are written on the basis of the developmental learning styles of children. They move from concrete to abstract thinking as they grow AdobeStock 84417037older and older. Every ministry leader desires for kids to come to know the Lord and to see them grow in their faith in Christ. Could it be, however, that we may be doing it all wrong? Are we educating children, or we discipling them? If we are not careful, we may be educating children about the Christian faith but never discipling children to have a life-sustaining personal relationship with Christ. Our calling is not to impart wisdom but to make disciples. It is great to have a knowledge of Scripture, but knowledge without action is nothing. Just like James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 1:21). You see, the faith of children is caught not taught. If you want to disciple a child, move them from being listeners to doers. For a season in your class, you model for them the Christian faith. After you get to know where they are spiritually, you move them into action. The next step is to put them to work in your class. Here is how you do this: First, you walk them through a spiritual gift test. Second, you identify the highest score for each child. Third, you involve them in your class according to their gifts. If I have a child that has a high score of administration, I have them take records each week and organize the classroom. If I have a child with a high score for the gift of teaching, I have them help me teach the lesson. It is easy to make a copy of what you want them to teach and give them clear direction on what you need them to do. Kids with the gift of helps can help set up the class and reset it when you are done. See what I mean?

The problem with most of our kids in church today is that they will sit from early childhood to 18 years of age and listen to someone teach them. The two results you will get from this teaching style are as follows:

  1. When they move into college and then adulthood, they will not have any desire to serve because they were taught all of their lives to just sit and listen.
  2. Half of them will walk away from their faith, never to return when they enter college.

This may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be if you change how you do ministry. There is an old saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” If a child is told to sit, be still, and listen for 18 years of their lives, the results are the same—about 40 percent of those who stay in the church after college will be lethargic Christians who do not want to do anything but attend. However, if you switch to an action model, you will begin to modify your focus to discipleship and mentoring instead of “kids being still and listening to what I have to say.” It goes something like this…you say, “Come up here, and I am going to show you how to do this. Then, you get to do it.” They will be excited! When they just sit and listen, they can easily check out and their minds can drift off somewhere else. But when they are serving alongside you, their minds are in the game. They become excited and take ownership of their roles, and they move into being active members as children, even in small tasks.  This is the fun part. I have worked as a children’s minister for more than 28 years now. My greatest joy has been teaching children to allow the Holy Spirit to take over while they minister to others. In order for them to teach, you help them understand that this is God’s message, and you admonish them to ask Him to teach the message through them. If a child has the gift of helps, they can ask the Holy Spirit to take over as they serve and minister to others through them. The results are quite amazing! They begin to hear the voice of God and see Him working through their lives.

One of the churches that we work with has ministry teams where the adult leaders are advised to sit back and allow the children to develop what they do as a ministry. The kids are taught by Sign Up Barthe leaders that this ministry is theirs and they need to pray and ask the Lord what He desires them to do. The director says, “They pray and watch as the Lord speaks to the children’s hearts. I have seen so many different things the children do through dance, puppets, drama, and more. They are all very powerful, and the amazing thing is the Lord spoke to the children and gave them direction. It was amazing how anointed the performances were.”

You see, the joy of becoming a disciple maker and equipper is to show them how and then release them to minister. Jim Wideman says, “If you leave your ministry and it falls apart, you were a lousy minister. But if you leave your ministry and it continues to move forward with success, you fulfilled your calling.”

Are you ready to take a new path in children’s and preteen ministry? Let us help you. Hi, my name is Clint May, President of L.I.T. Ministries. I have served as a children’s pastor for more than 25 years at five different churches. About 15 years ago, I took this path with preteens in my church. To my amazement, I saw them change before my eyes. Our resources have been developed and tested for throughout that 15 years, and we have seen incredible results. Let me tell you, discipleship is more than a resource book; it is a process. We have developed an effective process to move children from passively sitting and listening to fully engaging them in ministry in the church.

We would love to send you a free copy of our Leadership Handbook and sign you up for our free Online Training Course. It will help transform your ministry to be focused on discipling and empowering children and preteens in your church. Sign up today!

If you would like to know more information about L.I.T. (Leaders in Training) and our resources click here