Vision Casting for Children’s Ministry – 7 Golden Principles

Before my transition to coach-consulting in 2001, I led several different ministry areas at Clear Creek Community Church. An unexpected season of leading the children’s area engaged my love for vision around the importance of serving children. What I learned through this season has changed my life forever. I believe that children’s ministry is THE golden opportunity for these seven reasons:

#1 The Golden Heart: Children model the ideal kingdom participant. Each of the gospel writers record that stunning moment when Jesus rebukes the disciples and tenderly engages some young children (Luke 18:17). In the face of self-importance, Jesus shockingly points to a child as the model for how to enter the kingdom. Maybe serving children holds unexpected benefit for Christian maturity?

#2 The Golden Years: Childhood is the most effective window for responding to the gospel. Eighty percent of people receive Christ between the ages of 4 and 14. Enough said.

#3 The Golden Glow: Children have a longer life to serve Christ and accomplish more for God’s glory. If you had a candle to burn for a nice romantic evening, would you choose the one that’s three-quarters used up, or would you choose a brand new candle? (It makes you wonder why generally speaking,  our children get so little attention in ministry leadership!)

#4 The Golden Baton: Serving children plants the gospel into the next generation. Yes, the gospel is always one generation from extinction. You choose if the race is all about your short window to live or the enduring story of global redemption.

#5 The Golden Gate: Winning a child is a gateway to winning the whole family. I can’t tell you how many redeemed families I have seen on the beachhead of a child’s testimony. And yes, the more our culture idolizes their children, the more we can leverage this negative tendency for the gospel.

#6 The Golden Moment: Children’s lives are moldable and full of teachable moments. There is nothing like the moment of awe and insight, when  child learns or asks a genuine question. Play and plant in the rich soil!

#7 The Golden Crown: Serving children has a unique significance which leads to special blessing. In Matthew 25-31-46, Jesus shares the parable about serving, “the least of these.” It’s apparent that “the least” include people of some status or need where they cannot repay if they are served (hungry, sick, imprisoned, estranged, poor) Children, though not listed explicitly, certainly fit this list by virtue of their inability. I believe that serving children brings an unexpected treasure of blessing.

This post is dedicated to my beautiful wife, Romina Andreotti Mancini, who spent a year serving 12, 2-year old children at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Those kids are the most fortunate kids on the planet and I am grateful for her model of love and service that nourishes my own spirit.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Are Your Children Hearing the One Story, Not Just a Bunch of Stories?

Children have a faith that is ready to go. Let’s not waste that opportunity by delivering a humanistic Gospel.

We talk a lot about contextualization Gospel communication. How do we share the eternal truth of God in specific locations for specific people who have a specific shared experience?

The Gospel does not change. So the message should remain the same, even as the methods are adjusted for effectiveness.

But how well do we proclaim the Gospel to children? I’m not asking how well we teach children Bible stories, or how well we have taught the moral truths of Scripture.

Are we contextualizing our Gospel communication for children as well as we are for the hipsters in Brooklyn or the tribes in Tanzania?

The Bible as a Collection of Good Stories

Too often we teach the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, like Aesop’s Fables. We want our children to learn how to live well, so we draw from the Bible stories of people who did the right thing and those who did the wrong thing.

We hope they are getting the idea that good is of God, leading to success, and bad is of Satan, leading to failure. If the kiddos can then live out and retell the story with the right names and main points, we feel like they have a grasp on the Gospel.

Churches have told children tons of good stories, but have we told them the Story?

It is easy to tell the stories within the story, but there is a big picture here. We miss some important points when we offer a slice of the Gospel as if it is the whole pie.

I think about it this way.

There’s this huge story with basically four major acts. Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. I teach these at my church. You might as well. But how do you teach this to children?

I’m a father of three daughters. The reality is I just don’t want them to know one part of God’s big story. He’s given us His Word that tells the story of His grand and awesome plan, from the first verse to the last. I want them to know the Truth, not just a truth or two.

The Gospel is About What God is Doing

We miss the flow of God if we just take the Bible in isolated parts. And the flow is important to understanding that the Gospel is not just a group of ideas, but rather a plan that has been designed and implemented by a loving God for the saving of humans.

Ideas aren’t as personal as a plan. The plan runs the length of Scripture. So for example, we hear Jesus say in 1 Corinthians 11, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.”

But we don’t remember that Moses said, “This blood is a symbol of the covenant” in the Old Testament. We don’t understand why Abraham would be called to sacrifice Isaac if we don’t understand what would happen as God the Son is sent by God the Father to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This interconnectedness happens all through Scripture.

When we take the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, we think about 66 books with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories contained within them. In actuality, there are not thousands of stories. There are not 66 stories. There aren’t even two stories with the Old and New Testament. There is one story and that is the story of what God is doing—redemptive history.

The Gospel is Not a Self-help Program

Part of the challenge is in the midst of sharing the Gospel. We want to teach morals to kids, but we don’t want them to become moralists. Yet that is a facet of the predominant religion of our culture today—moralistic therapeutic deism.

Christian Smith coined this phrase.

Moralism is the idea that whatever God is out there wants you to be a good person. It’s also therapeutic. It makes you a better person. It’s actually good for you to have some spirituality in your life. And deism is merely the belief in some God doing something up/out there.

While many people would not self-identify as moralistic therapeutic deists, that is exactly what they are, practically speaking.

They often draw their theology from various sources, including the Bible. But they cherry pick Bible stories that work well with their worldview and adopt the morality found in the story. This will make them feel better and pleasing to God. Mission accomplished.

But that isn’t our mission. That’s not our desire.

The Gospel is that sinners have been saved and are part of a family of believers who edify and equip one another to go out to other sinners and tell them about the Savior. Scripture tells us how God has been searching for and saving people from the first Garden to the Eternal City. We have the privilege of telling that to others, including kids.

Contextualization for Children is Essential

I’m not a children’s pastor and do not have a Ph.D. in educational pedagogy.

Yet, I can tell that that we should not let the fact that children are still learning how to learn keep us from sharing the whole counsel of God with them. When Jesus taught about our acceptance of the Gospel, He said that we must become as children.

Children were designed to hear about the things of God and have faith in them with few hurdles. So let’s be honest with them about the Gospel. It will make more sense if it is delivered holistically, and it will have a greater effect in their lives.

Definitely contextualize, as you would anywhere to anyone else. But do not strip the Gospel of its power in your delivery. God has a Story, and they are in it.

  • How can we more effectively teach stories without extracting them from the Story?
  • What have you found as you teach children about the bigger story?
  • What part of the Gospel is the most difficult to contextualize for children?

Some Resources

Thankfully, many gifted people see the need to teach the whole Story of Scripture to children. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great resources available to the Church today to teach children about Jesus, the Gospel, and God’s Word. There are some links to some below. Feel free to suggest your tools in the comments below as well.

> Read more from Ed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Is Your Children’s Ministry More Than Fun?

One of the hidden treasures that the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, left the church was a little book titled Come Ye Children. In it, Spurgeon contended earnestly that one of the most important tasks given to a parent, teacher, or minister is teaching kids the gospel. Spurgeon writes:

There must be doctrine, solid, sound, gospel doctrine to constitute real feeding. When you have a joint on the table, then ring the dinner-bell; but the bell feeds nobody if no provender is served up. Getting children to meet in the morning and the afternoon is a waste of their steps and yours if you do not set before them soul-saving, soul sustaining truth. Feed the lambs; you need not pipe to them, nor put garlands round their necks; but do feed them.

As a parent, teacher, or minister, teaching your kids the gospel is the most important task you have. So, what is your plan? Just like kids grow physically in proportion to the food they eat and emotional support they receive, they grow spiritually in a similar manner. Are you intentionally feeding your kids the gospel? It is estimated that pastors have 104 hours a year with kids in their ministry, while parents have 8,736 hours a year.

By the end of 2014, will your kids know the gospel?

Help The Kids Understand The Gospel!

According to our kid’s team at LifeWay there are several foundational truths that should be established as the support structure of a child’s faith development—including God, Jesus, Bible, Creation, Family, Self, Church, Community and World, The Holy Spirit, and Salvation (These are charted out in Learning as They Grow). In other words, understanding these biblical concepts is vital to the spiritual development of the next generation. How are we doing with our children? Can our children answer questions such as:

  • What is sin?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What did Jesus do?
  • Why do you and I need Jesus to save us?
  • How do we receive the salvation that Jesus offers?

It is important that we be careful with our precious children. We do not want to walk them into making a decision to follow Christ without an intentional plan for walking with them down the road of discipleship. Our ministry to children will be measured by disciples, not decisions. In the video below, Trevin Wax offers some practical suggestions on teaching your children the gospel.

TrevinWayGospelProjectforChildren

  1. Repetition is essential.
  2. Choose your language carefully.
  3. Don’t underestimate your kids’ understanding.

So, what are we teaching our children? Are we teaching morals, or the gospel? In that same little book, Spurgeon writes, “…the gospel produces the best morality in all the world.” As we teach our children the gospel, we teach them how to live as disciples.

Point The Kids To Jesus!

Trevin and I both serve as editors for The Gospel Project, a Christ-centered Bible study resource that presents the gospel story of redemption through every major Bible event. Our desire is that kids not only know all the Bible stories, but know the Bible story. We pray that kids would not see Jesus as part of the Bible story, but as the point of the Bible story. Not long ago we heard this story from a pastor in Oklahoma:

One night we were going over the story of Passover. It was such a natural transition to a gospel presentation that I was vibrating with excitement—they were going to hear a clear presentation of the grace of God in Jesus Christ! That night three kids gave their life to Jesus. The next week two more gave their lives to Jesus. The week after, those kids were bringing others to hear the gospel, and those kids were turning over their lives too.

No matter how you do it, or what material you use (unashamedly, I want you to use The Gospel Project) make sure you clearly and consistently communicate the good news of Jesus through your children’s ministry. Make sure you have an intentional plan to disciple your little ones. This is your most important task if you are a parent, teacher, or minister.

Read more from Ed here.

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Culture >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

lindaransonjacobs — 10/22/14 12:13 pm

A few years back I was leading a DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) group at a church in NC. We were meeting in the spring and over Easter. The kids in our group had so much fun as they healed and connected with each other and when Easter came along I didn't hesitate to tell them the story of Easter. One little kindergartner was in our group. I didn't think he had listened to what was said but the next year when Easter rolled around he proceeded to tell his mother the entire Easter story. This was a family that didn't attend church. When his mom asked how he knew so much about the real Easter he said, "Miss Linda told us about it last year." Kids want to know the truth and they can handle hearing the gospel, especially hurting children of divorce. Thank you for validating what I believe. Linda Ranson Jacobs Blog.dc4k.org

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.