Here comes the difficult part for some educated folks. We took a group of preteens on a mission trip several years ago.
I trained the children to do everything including leading songs, teaching a Bible story, teaching crafts, and counseling lost children. I taught my adult leaders on the trip that this was our preteens’ mission trip and that we were going to release them to lead and teach.
Each day, I would drive to each site to check up on our preteens and leaders. The first apartment I went to had a lot of children attending.
As I walked in the room, one of the adult lady leaders was teaching and had taken over the Bible study. I pulled her aside and said,
“Remember, we are letting the kids do everything.” She said, “I know, but it is so hard.”
Recent research indicates that of all students who regularly served in the local church, 60-70% stayed because they were allowed to serve and be a part in ministry.
The problem today is that most churches don’t have enough places where children can be engaged in ministry.
That is why what you do as a Disciple Group (small group) leader or Sunday school teacher is critical now.
The norm is that they just sit and listen as they grow up in the church, but does this really work? The answer is no.
If this is your model, I would say the majority of the kids in your group are checking out during your small group time.
So, how do we get past this? Like I shared in my last blog post, we must model for them what the Christian faith is by our actions and our lives.
They can recognize a fake a mile away. Once you have that down, you are ready to take the next steps in moving them deeper in their walk with Christ.
About 16 years ago, I began to change my approach after looking at two commands from the New Testament.
First, the number one command of the Lord is the Great Commission in Matthew 18:19-20. It tells us to go and make disciple of all nations.
Most recently, I have looked more clearly at the writing of Paul where he tells church leaders that their gifts are for the purpose of building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). So, we have two commands that are especially important mandates: “Make disciple” and “Equip the saints.”
This year I have taken on a new role as Disciple (small) Group leader at my church. From September until now, I have watched as the lightbulb goes on in these young sixth-grade boys’ hearts.
What I love seeing the most is watching their spiritual gifts manifest before my eyes.
I have a young man in my group who is borderline ADD, as I am; however, when it comes to spiritual matters, I am amazed—he is a gifted teacher. He can articulate Scripture in crazy effective ways.
We were practicing how to share the Gospel several weeks ago. When he sat down with another young man in our group and shared, I was blessed to see his God-given gift manifest right then. He is only 12 years old.
It has really come to my attention more recently that many times the spiritual lives of children are being underminded in our churches today.
We often look at their age and convince ourselves that they are not developmentally ready for the “bigger things” of the church.
However, throughout Scripture, it is apparent that God never looked at what a person could do for Him.
He made it pretty clear that He would work through people to accomplish His will. It was more about a person having an open heart before God.
He worked through a person’s weakness. That way, the glory was always given to Him. The Lord made it clear to Jeremiah:
The other day I was talking with a children’s pastor in my area. She was very frustrated because she had moved a group of preteens that she felt were ill prepared into the student ministry of her church. She talked with the student pastor shortly after the transition, and he told her that it was too late, that they were set in their ways and there was little hope of their lives changing at this point.
The fingers point in many directions in the church trying to cast blame; however, the answer to the problem is to stop doing what we are doing and move to a model of intentional discipleship and empowering of children and preteens for ministry.
Allen Nelson shares,