“Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’.” Luke 18:16-17.
The above verse may be one of the best-known verses concerning children. Yet remarkably, it’s just one of about 1,700 references in the Bible that mention God’s love for children, His concern for uncared or mistreated children, the roles or responsibilities of parents, and the particular ways in which children are essential partners in God’s kingdom plan.
So what does the Bible say about children’s ministry? Here are 15 key texts from the Bible that capture the essence of what children’s ministry is about:
It’s seeing children as a gift from God. “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” Psalm 127:3.
It’s welcoming children. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” Matthew 18:10.
It’s pointing children in the right direction. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” Proverbs 22:6.
It’s engaging children with God’s Word. “Impress them (the Scriptures) on your children” Deuteronomy 6:7.
It’s drawing children to Jesus. “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'” Matthew 19:14.
It’s encouraging children to praise and worship God. “From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise?” Matthew 21:16b.
It’s training children to follow Jesus. “Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4.
It’s teaching children to honour their parents. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth'” Ephesians 6:1-3.
It’s exercising God patterned discipline to correct foolishness. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away” Proverbs 22:15.
It’s protecting children. “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” Hebrews 11:23.
It’s considering children as examples of humility. “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” Mark 10:15.
It’s helping children develop an informed and active faith. “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old – things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” Psalm 78:1-4.
It’s including children as dynamic participants in God’s mission. “Assemble the people – men, women and children … so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law” Deuteronomy 31:12.
It’s appreciating the insight and understanding children have about the things of God. “Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children'” Matthew 11:25.
It’s valuing how God uses children for special ministry tasks. “Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'” 1 Samuel 3:8-9.
And three children’s ministry concerns:
It’s recognizing that children are frequently exploited. “The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt” Job 24:9.
It’s knowing that children can be victims of hunger and nakedness. “Lacking clothes, they go about naked; they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry” Job 24:10.
It’s decrying the fact that children are sometimes abused. “They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink” Joel 3:3.
Concerning these three concerns; there are many passages of Scripture that indicate how God acts in defense of children. God says, “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children” Isaiah 49:25 (ESV).
And even though we live in the now but not yet, we find comfort in God’s promise of the future kingdom where children will be safe. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” Isaiah 11:6.
© Scripture Union, 2019