I recently shared during a seminary childhood education class about how God is working powerfully in the lives of children. I shared about how the Holy Spirit gifts them and uses them in powerful ways. I even showed them videos of children ministering and teaching.
A student walked up after the class and said, “I just cannot believe this. I have three education degrees, and I don’t believe that kids can do these kinds of things.” I told her, “I am sorry to hear that, but remember God can do what He wants in the life of a child.”
First of all, I am not attacking the seminary. I have four seminary degrees, and I have been very blessed by what I have learned. What I am talking about here is what I did not learn or was not taught. For some of you who have been through seminary, you find really quickly that hands-on ministry trumps book learning.
You can read it in a book or hear a lecture, but when you get your hands and feet dirty in ministry, your comprehension of ministry grows exponentially. The two go hand in hand. I loved hearing from professors who had many years of experience and passed their wisdom on to the class.
Here is what I did not learn in seminary. God and the Holy Spirit are not concerned about age or age limits. They can do what they want in and through the lives of children. We cannot look at the age of a child and determine spiritual maturity or their comprehension of biblical truth. The Holy Spirit can quickly trump this idea.
Age grading can become a hindrance to their spiritual walk with Christ if we are not careful. To determine their spiritual ability and decide their spiritual worth according to age can be harmful to their faith as a whole. I also have learned that spiritual maturity is not determined by age. I have talked with five-year-olds who had a deeper understanding of the Gospel than many fifth graders I worked with.
I have witnessed it firsthand in teaching older children to disciple younger children. One of my leaders shared with me that the children in his fourth-grade group who were being discipled by sixth graders were more spiritually mature than the sixth graders. Their knowledge of Scripture and their spiritual maturity were more evident in their lives than in the older children. The fourth graders could have been discipling the sixth graders because they were much more mature in their faith.
You see, a child receives the same Holy Spirit at new birth as you and I receive as adults. I always knew that…or so I thought. Then my eyes were opened to something that I had never seen or witnessed before. The Holy Spirit speaks through kids in powerful ways—in ways that would blow your mind.
I have been on 31 mission trips with more than 3,000 preteens and leaders. At least 30 churches have joined me on these trips. I encourage adult leaders to release their kids to minister—kids that have been trained before they arrive on the trip and are ready.
To our astonishment, the kids take charge when the adults get out of the way. We are talking about 9-, 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds here—not teenagers. One leader shared with me this summer, “You were right. It is unbelievable. We told them that this was their mission trip. They took ownership and ran with it.”
What many leaders do not realize is that children have spiritual gifts. Once they are released on the mission trip, their spiritual gifts manifest before their eyes. All of the gifts are there—gifts of teaching, helps, administration, leadership, prophecy, service, evangelism, and more. They are all there. To the kids, it is natural, but to the adults who witnesses it for the first time—astonishment.
Children have a passion and fire in their hearts for the Gospel and share it with the lost. Remember, Jesus said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” That includes the kids in our churches. He is calling everyone—kids included—to fulfill His Great Commission so that every tribe, nation, and tongue will one day stand before their rightful King.
My grasp of discipleship in my early years of ministry was to look at children according to age and ability. The model I taught and used was for them to just sit and listen while I ministered to them. I was wrong.
Discipleship happens in the lives of children when we call them to come alongside us and we teach and release them to minister. Discipleship is not just sitting and listening and letting someone minister to you. Discipleship happens when the mentee becomes the mentor. The player becomes the coach. Yes, kids can do it!
Food for Thought
- Be open to the Holy Spirit’s leadership. You may have been taught a certain way, but is it His way?
- Trust God’s Word. Man says a lot of things, but what does God say?
- Step out of the box. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your steps and vision.
- Stop making kids sit on the bench at your church. Invite them to play in the game. Have them start serving now.
- Get ready for a blessing as the Lord opens your eyes to their full potential.
If you feel like you are in a ministry box and need help shifting your vision, we are here to help. Check out our training events as well as our online training.