Children's ministry does matter, but why does it matter? Obviously it matters because children matter to Jesus . . . in Matthew 19:13-15 it says, "One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: "Let the children alone, don't prevent them from coming to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these." (the Msg) If children mattered to Jesus, and they did, then they should matter to us!
George Barna's research shows 43% of people make the decision to get saved by the age of 13 and after the age of 21 less than 23% of people get saved . . . clearly we have a window of opportunity with children which is unmatched with people of any other age group. In Matthew 28:19,20 Jesus told His disciples to, "Go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end." (NIrV) Jesus Himself said to go and make disciples and since the most decisions to follow Jesus are made by children, we can know for sure it matters what we do with children's ministry!
We need to have a vision, passion and plan for our children's ministries. Clearly the people who most influence children are their parents so we have to have a vision, plan and passion for parent's ministry along with the vision, passion and plan we have for children's ministry. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 tells us, "Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got! Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates." (the Msg) How do we go about equipping parents to "write these commandments on the hearts" of their children? Do we have a plan to help the parents get God's Word "inside them and then get God's Words inside their children"? What is our vision to help parents know how to talk about God's Word where they are? What are we doing this week, this month and this year to come alongside the parents to support, reinforce and build on what they are doing with their children? Just as it matters what we are doing with our children's ministry, it also matters what we are doing for our parent's ministry!
What will the result be if we do not have a vision, passion and plan for our children's and parent's ministries? Psalm 78 tells us how the people of Israel followed God . . . for a time, but then they forgot all God did and turned to a life of sin. When the people of God forget all He has done for them - or at least live as if they have forgotten - the next generation grows up not knowing Who God Is. I've seen this in my family with my brothers and their children. It breaks my heart. How much more must it break the heart of God. There is a huge price to pay when we do not have a vision, passion and plan for our children's and parent's ministries.
Deuteronomy 6 has more to say in verses 13-25, "Deeply respect God, your God. Serve and worship him exclusively. Back up your promises with his name only. Don't fool around with other gods, the gods of your neighbors, because God, your God, who is alive among you is a jealous God. Don't provoke him, igniting his hot anger that would burn you right off the face of the Earth. Don't push God, your God. Carefully keep the commands of God, your God, all the requirements and regulations he gave you. Do what is right; do what is good in God's sight . . . The next time your child asks you, "What do these requirements and regulations and rules that God, our God, has commanded mean?" tell your child, "We were slaves . . . and God powerfully intervened . . . God . . . pulled us out of there . . . that's why God commanded us to follow all these rules, so that we would live reverently before God, our God, as he gives us this good life, keeping us alive for a long time to come. It will be a set-right and put-together life for us if we make sure that we do this entire commandment in the Presence of God, our God, just as he commanded us to do." (the Msg) This is God's vision, passion and plan for children, parents . . . for all of us!
When our children's ministry fails our youth ministries become a "salvage" ministry. Think what they could be if we had a vision, passion and plan and were able to see our children reached for Jesus and then grow to be discipled so they remember, understand and live God's Word! So they know how to take God's Word out the doors of the church and live it in their everyday lives, every day! Take some time today and think about your children's and parent's ministries. Do you have a vision, passion and plan? If not, get a team together and develop your plan, get it on paper and share it with the people in your church!