Some years ago, when I served as a pastor, a girl in our church said something that profoundly affected the Sunday School teachers and their ministry. What could a child say that would deeply influence what was said and done in the Sunday School? According to the girl’s mother, she asked her daughter, “Did you have a good time in Sunday School today?” To which she replied, “I didn’t hear Jesus today!”
When the mother told the teachers, it pierced their hearts. They were doing the best they could do. They were preparing their lessons, teaching the Word, facilitating experiential learning, and making it fun. Yet despite the good things they were doing, they’d come up short.
In many local churches, the emphasis in children’s ministry is usually on teaching Bible stories, developing values, forming relationships, responding to the needs of children, encouraging children to be part of the church, supporting parents, and generally sharing God’s love.
Local churches also emphasize making children’s ministry appealing through good organization and communications, supporting teachers and helpers, nurturing a positive culture, providing resources, creating safe environments, making it fun, and doing an effective follow-up.
But when all is said and done, if children don’t hear Jesus, we can do all these things and miss the mark.
Children’s ministry should first and foremost be about Jesus. When children’s ministry in the church is Jesus focused, that’s when, and only when, it’s on track. Children’s ministry can be Bible-based, child-friendly, or program rich, but if it’s not Jesus focused, it falls short of God’s intent.
So what does Jesus focused children’s ministry in the church look like? Here are ten primers:
- Jesus is the all or nothing, irresistible, compelling, and obsessive reason for children’s ministry. Jesus is never an appendix to what’s taught or done in children’s ministry – He’s the reason for every theme and activity.
- Children’s ministry involves Christians of all ages, from all walks of life, joining up with Jesus to connect children with Him.
- The dynamic, earth-shaking, transforming Gospel of the King and His kingdom is taught and lived out.
- Children are invited to follow Jesus and live for Him with a devotion that’s determined, entire and unreserved. As a seven-year-old boy said, “Faith in Jesus is counting on Him 100% … no matter what!”
- Program planning and curriculum development are geared to helping children taste and see the mind-boggling, heart-stopping, life-giving love of Jesus.
- Children come to properly know, enjoy, love and be captivated by Jesus before they’re taught to obey and serve Him.
- Jesus’ Story supremely inspires and informs every facet of children’s ministry. That is, Jesus directs the principles, practices, and paradigms of children’s ministry through His Word.
- Jesus is the provision, enjoyment, and security of children’s ministry.
- Children are rejecting the ways of the world to grab hold of their inheritance in Jesus and transform the world through His power.
- Successful children’s ministry has only occurred when children have radically embraced Jesus, bear His image, willingly submit to His rule, and are His sole possession.
I hope this helps to trigger your thinking. What does God want you to do so that the children in your church get to hear (or maybe see) Jesus?
© Scripture Union, 2019