I recently asked my friend Lori Eilers to write, as a guest blogger, about her passion for Children’s Ministry. She can be reached using Facebook Messenger – Lori Mackey Eilers.
The Urgency of Kid’s Ministry
What I’m about to share will be a reminder to some and a revelation to others. Maybe your kids are grown and this may not seem relevant to you. Some others will be stirred by the Holy Spirit to do something about the things I will tell you. Can I challenge your thinking about Kid’s Ministry? Sometimes we have to re-think our ideas on a subject.
In the relatively short history of organized children’s ministry, we who have been involved have seen great changes occur. In the 80’s church people considered children as people who needed childcare and did not think about them as having souls. In the 90’s we figured out that children had souls and that they could have and needed a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I remember when I first began working in children’s ministry, there were very few children’s pastors, only a handful of decent curriculums and no such thing as a web site. There is now a wonderful and seemingly never ending amount of information, resources and tools. Now, in this time in history, we have begun to understand the power of a child who loves AND serves God. Kids can and are making a HUGE impact on their families and peers for the Kingdom of God.
Nevertheless, we are not gaining much ground in keeping our kids in a personal relationship with Jesus. Did you know that between 60-80% of our “church” kids will walk away from their faith by the time they hit their twentieth birthday? Envision ten teenagers from your church that may have grown up attending or are living out their faith. Statistics say six to eight of them will go off to college or enter the working world and will not serve God even if they are engaged in ministry while in high school.
You might think, “Wow, youth pastors need to get it together and start better equipping those kids for real life.” I say to you that it is NOT a youth pastor problem…it’s a children’s pastor and parent problem! I actually heard another statistic that said 90% of boys will abandon their faith by age twenty.
Research has shown that a child develops their moral standards by the time they are ten to twelve yrs. old! If we rely on the youth pastor we are in trouble…it’s too late. How about the 10/13 window? That is between ages ten to thirteen kids are the most teachable and moldable for leadership skills. The most reachable but yet unreached people group on earth are ages four to fourteen. We have all heard that after the early teen years the likelihood of someone accepting Jesus as their Savior goes way down. Researcher George Barna says a child is eight times more likely to accept Jesus than a teenager and six times more likely than an adult.
These staggering statistics are hard to swallow. I want to share three factors with you that I believe are the core of reaching our kids and reaching them in a more effective, intentional way. These are three keys to our thinking and actions that will win and keep our kids for Jesus.
Factor #1 – Church Culture Factor – The church as a movement in many ways thinks like the world. Many people in the world and in church don’t take kids seriously until they are twenty-one. We don’t expect anything great from anyone before they are twenty-one. It’s been said, “They are kids, let them get their crazy teen years behind them, let them get the college wild life out of their system and then we can expect them to buckle down and do something worthwhile.” Let’s do a re-think on this. The prodigal model is overemphasized. We think we don’t have much of a testimony if we haven’t been rescued from horrible sin. I say the best testimony is no testimony at all. The best we can do is to reach kids before they need rescued!
Luke 2:40-52 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. 41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” 49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
The NKJV says in verse 49, And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Jesus lingered there…how many know this is an absolute miracle? A twelve yr old who lingers for anything. Think about it. We have it backwards…it’s not twenty-one it’s twelve!
We need to have an army of “I must” kids! God told us about Jesus’ birth, his life after 30 yrs. old, his death and resurrection and when he was twelve; not his teenage years, not his college age life…when he was a child. God is allowing us to see something that we many times miss. He knows kids can do awesome things for Him and His Kingdom before they are grown up!
Our church culture needs to look at kids in a different way. Not just as the future church but the church of now. I believe if we train up, equip and allow kids to do ministry as children, the stats we heard earlier will be greatly reduced. How much more could be accomplished when we prepare our kids to win their friends to Jesus? There isn’t anything more exciting to me than a child who leads another child to Jesus! We could possibly help train up the next Billy Graham, TD Jakes or Joyce Meyer but we can’t wait until they are twenty-one.
Factor #2 – The Male Factor – 1 Peter 5:1-4 (NIV) To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Peter is addressing the elders and young men of the church. Barna research says 31,000,000 more women than men go to church on any given Sunday. Attendance is 61% female and 39% male. 90% of American men believe in God. Five out of six men call themselves Christians. But only two of six men who claim to be Christians go to church on Sunday.
Manly influence…it’s a huge factor in winning boys and girls to Jesus. Let me give you an example of one of the churches I recently served as Children’s Pastor. I counted 82 kids on the roster that had been through the doors in a two month period and then I looked over all those names and only 37% of them have a male figure living in their home. Of that 37%, I cannot honestly tell you which men are spiritually healthy. Probably around half.
We hear it said, “Godly men raise Godly families.” What do we do when a child has no earthly father? Our culture in the United States has many generational sins that need to be broken and single moms are a large one. We need Godly men to set the example for these kids. We need men who are not ashamed to worship God in public and kneel at an altar of repentance. We need Godly men who will come along side a child and mentor their relationship with Jesus. Obviously we need many females who provide nurturing, which is essential, but kids also need nurturing from males. We need Godly men to show these boys how they need to respect women, be a man at home and in the world, and how to do it with God first in their lives. They need the healthy physical touch and nurturing of a man in their lives. The male factor is huge! Can we show them that Jesus is the Father to the fatherless? Friend to the friendless and Hope for the hopeless? That leads us to the last factor.
Factor #3 – Parent Factor – Reading Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV) 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.
Parents and grandparents, you are God’s intended spiritual leaders of your children. I know how that statement can freak you out! I asked myself the same question every parent has asked…how can I be the spiritual leader of my home when I’m still learning myself? You will make mistakes but none the less it is still your responsibility. Listen to me…you don’t have to do it alone. The Bible and the Holy Spirit are your partners. Look for those teachable moments. Listen to the scripture. Research has shown there are great benefits to reading out loud. It will give you all a love for the scriptures.
Parents and grandparents, let’s not be like the generation in Judges 2:10 (NIV) ‘After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.” We must tell them!
There are 168 hours in a week. Most churches only have one to three and a half hours a week with their kids. We need to work together to get the job done. Kid’s pastors should be actively resourcing families with devotional ideas, books, web sites, parenting classes, supportive small groups, family activities and such to help equip parents to fulfill their call as their children’s main source of spiritual growth!
We, the church and pastors, must provide a place where kids can say yes to Jesus; and once kids say yes to Jesus we need to provide a place for them to grow, giving them living examples of doing life as a Christ follower.
I’m not gonna lie to you. Children’s ministry can be hard work. You might get dirty; you might have someone wipe their snotty nose on your shoulder when you hug them. You might be stretched in your patience; it may cost you something besides your time or treasure.
But one of the founding fathers of our country, Thomas Paine said this, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” I love what Proverbs 16:26 says, “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.”
What are you hungry for? I’m hungry for more of God and more souls won to Him./strong>