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,
As children’s ministers, we have to ask the question, are my teachers teaching or discipling children in my church? Are we more concerned about the developmental learning styles of children, whether they are concrete or abstract learners, than about whether they are being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives? I believe we should be fascinated with the idea that every child that is saved (or born again) has received the Holy Spirit into their lives. Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, including children. He is not a “baby” Holy Spirit; He is THE Holy Spirit. This changes everything! In the body of Christ, we don’t look at what a child can learn. We look at what the Holy Spirit can do through them. We don’t worry about concrete and abstract thinking because the Holy Spirit is not restrained by learning styles. He works in and through open and receptive hearts. If the majority of children are saved between the ages of four and fourteen, you better believe that in their innocence, He can do a powerful work in and through them. What does that look like?