Friday, February 4, 2011

Let's Go Back To the Basics!

In Matthew 28:19,20 and Acts 1 Jesus made it clear He wanted His followers to go, make disciples and teach everyone everywhere about Him, His love, grace and forgiveness! This command, from Jesus Himself, is the basics  - the core of what we need to do as His followers. 

In our churches we implement this command in a number of ways - ministry to adults, teens and children . . . but far too often the focus is placed on the ministry to adults and teens while the children's ministry only receives a minimal amount of attention. I'm not saying we shouldn't minister to adults and teens - we most certainly should - but, not at the expense of the children. 

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 that is unmatched with people of any other age group. George Barna's research goes on to show, "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."

Pastors are adults. Leaders in the church are adults. Volunteers are adults. Clearly this is a major factor in why our churches design their services so they appeal to adults. Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't have ministry to and for adults, but we need to pause and take an honest look at our children's ministries and then focus attention, resources and personnel so the age group where the most decisions are made receives the attention it so badly needs. Far too often our children's ministries operate out of the view of the church as a whole - with the exception of the Christmas play and VBS, so while everyone knows there are ministry opportunities for children, they really do not have an understanding of the vision, passion, plan and priority children's ministry must have!

This attitude of putting adults before children isn't anything new. In Matthew 19:13-15 it says, "Some people brought little children to Jesus. They wanted him to place his hands on the children and pray for them. But the disciples told the people to stop. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me. Don't keep them away. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like them.' Jesus placed his hands on them. Then he went on from there." Jesus' disciples didn't want the children to get in the "way", but Jesus made it crystal clear that He valued children! We need to value the children, too!

Take a look at your vision, passion and plan for children's ministry. Do the leaders in your church know what it is? Do the parents? Do your volunteers? Do the people as a whole? IF the people of your church knew the vision, passion and plan for the children's ministry they would be better able to understand the priority the church as a whole needs to place on the children's ministry. Share that vision! Express your passion! Help others understand your plan!

As I said last week, "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 every day lives! 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!" We need to go back to the basics - "Let the little children come to Jesus!" We need to be sure we, "Don't keep them away"!

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