Friday, January 21, 2011

Church Politics and Children's Ministry

If there are two things in this world that should never be "together" it is most certainly church politics and children's ministry. It grieves me that "politics" so often determine how things are done in church rather than what is truly the most effective way to help people of all ages come to know Jesus and then remember, understand and live God's Word. Just because we "have always done things a certain way" - or at least think we have - it doesn't mean that is the most effective way to continue doing things. I realize it is part of the sin nature to want "power" and to do things our own way, but it is so damaging when this attitude rears it's ugly head in children's ministry.

The most recent information I've been able to find from George Barna indicates that 43% of people make their decision for salvation between the ages of 4 and 13; that number moves to 64% between the ages of 4 and 18 and after the age of 21 less than 23% of people get saved. Those are sobering numbers. They also serve the underline the absolute importance of children's ministry. We can not afford to be taken off track by church politics.

Why is it we can't make decisions in our children's ministry based on if what we want to do will enable us to more intentionally engage children so they can understand their need for Jesus and then remember and understand God's Word so they can take it out the doors of the church and live it in their everyday lives? This is what matters. There is no room for church politics in children's ministry when the stakes are so high.

Children's ministry matters. I want to say it again, children's ministry matters! We do not have the time to get bogged down in church politics. George Barna's research shows, "When it comes to church engagement, those who attended Sunday school or other religious programs as children or as teens were much more likely than those without such experiences to attend church and to have an active faith as adults." Furthermore; David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, directed the research and clarified a common assumption about families. “Many religious workers assume that parenthood motivates people to return to their spiritual traditions and to church attendance. This perspective is especially common when it comes to justifying the frequent disengagement among young adults. Sometimes faith leaders go so far as to simply wait for parenthood to occur, when they figure the ‘real work’ of ministry can begin."

The survey calls that strategy into question. Children do, in fact, act as a catalyst for millions of parents. Yet, this is not the most common or normative experience for parents in the nation. While parenthood can reset people’s priorities in life, having children is not an automatic faith-starter for most adults. It’s more complicated than that. Family background and their personal faith history impact their behavior.

Kinnaman pointed out the importance of influencing young lives. “Parenthood might help to clarify and enhance people’s pursuit of spirituality, but usually it does not fundamentally alter a parent’s spiritual trajectory. Getting people to transition from church involvement based upon religious inertia to activity driven by a sense of engagement is exceedingly difficult – and relatively rare.  Compounding the challenge, the age of parenthood is being pushed back as more young women delay having children into their late twenties and beyond. If the objective is to incorporate young parents into congregational life, it is important to help shape young people’s beliefs attitudes, habits and aspirations long before they become parents.”

Children's ministry matters. We must make decisions in our children's ministires and our church based on what will best enable us to reach children and then disciple them so they remember, understand and live God's Word. Period.

Church politics have no place in the church; they only serve to keep us from being effective at reaching children and families for Jesus. As we move into 2011 let's determine to do all we can to be sure church politics do NOT find their way into our children's ministries!

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