As the Lord prepared to return to Heaven after His years on Earth, His last command was for His followers to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
Eric Geiger says, “A church can excel at anything and everything else, but if the church fails to make disciples, she has wandered from her fundamental reason for existence.”
How do we do this with children? It doesn’t come through teaching only; it comes through engaging them in ministry.
We must be cautious in embracing the idea of a secular education model to disciple children. Simply flooding a child’s mind with knowledge of Scripture doesn’t bring transformation.
Nicki Stranza warns, “School is designed to cram information in our kids’ heads. Experience is more effective in creating an opportunity for thinking and evaluation.”
The church isn’t a school; it is the body of Christ on mission.
Here are five essentials for discipling and seeing the lives of children transformed:
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Hindsight is 20/20”? As I reflect back over the past 28 years of ministry, I always struggled as a minister to find help and volunteers in the church. I remember hearing Jim Wideman years ago talk about the “Moses syndrome.” He said, as a minister, he would walk down the hallway on a Sunday morning looking for volunteers. The adults who saw him would part the hallway on both sides like the Red Sea. They were trying their best to avoid eye contact or being near him because he might ask them to serve. This has been much of my journey. As I began to ponder this problem, I realized it isn’t a problem that can’t be fixed. We just have to change the way we are developing our leaders. The reason that it is difficult to get adult volunteers, even parents, to serve is because they have never served in the church all of their lives. Let me explain. Somewhere along the way in the church’s great history, someone embraced the idea that the way to disciple and equip children is through indoctrination—having them sit and listen while someone teaches. We sit them in a classroom and use different teaching styles to explain to them how to live for Jesus. The problem here is that faith is caught, not taught. You can lecture all day long and never move a child’s heart, but teaching with action changes lives. Recently, I have been looking at trends that might cause a minister to rethink the way to do ministry.
When I told my pastor that I was going to take our 5th and 6th graders on a mission trip and that they would be sharing the Gospel, he thought I was crazy! About thirteen years ago, I felt led by the Lord to take our preteens on a mission trip and release them to lead evangelistic Bible studies in Corpus Christi, Texas. When I shared my idea with my pastor, he thought I had lost my mind! “Wow! Did I hear the Lord?” That thought haunted me on the six and a half hour drive to Corpus Christi. That fear was quickly replaced the first day on the trip when a 5th-grade boy named Mark taught at a local apartment complex. After he shared the Bible study that day, Mark gave an invitation to respond to the message, and seven people accepted Christ—three of them were teenagers!
Guys, the Lord is moving in the lives of children today. Did you know that 71 percent of those who accept Christ as Savior do so between the ages of 4 and 14? It is believed that children are the most effective agents for reaching their friends with the Gospel message. For me in the last fifteen years, the Lord has taught me so much about His plan. When children are properly trained how to share the Good News of Christ, they are unstoppable. They become fearless with His message. Here are a few tips to get started:
If you are like me, you have struggled with finding leadership in your church weekly, monthly, and anytime there is a large event. While doing my doctoral studies, it hit me one day: When a child is only allowed to sit and listen in a classroom for eighteen years, the results are the same every time. They become adults and parents who do not want to serve, not because they are lazy, but because they were not taught as children that they had value in the body of Christ and gifts to use for His glory. There is an old saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” From Ezekiel 47:1-9, we see five phases of spirituality that I call The Ezekiel Principle: on the bank, ankle deep, knee deep, waist deep, and swimming. In order to take a person into the spiritual depths with God, we must move them from the bank of the river into the deep end and fully submitting to God. This is what we taught our leadership, and we saw a new passion and excitement in the lives of our children, preteens, and students.