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Philosophy of Children’s Ministry

I chuckle every time I think about the interview for our first full-time Children’s Pastor position.  We had driven most of an hour trip toward the airport very early that morning only to realize we had left our tickets at the house.  We retrieved the tickets and made it to the airport just as the plane pulled away from the gate.  We were transferred to another airline.  They held the plane as we raced across the terminal. Yes, we made the flight and actually arrived slightly earlier than the other flight, but our luggage did not arrive for another 6 hours.  A little nervous, a slight anxious, and a bit unsure of how things would go, my wife and I sat in the Senior Pastor’s office near the end of this exhausting day.  One of his first questions was, What’s your philosophy of Children’s Ministry?  After covering everything from A to Z and a couple of extras thrown in, I closed by saying, I hope that answers your question.  He preceded his next question with these words, As briefly as you can…  If anyone ever asks you, What is your philosophy of Children’s Ministry?, maybe these thoughts will help. There are a variety of actual approaches to children’s ministry among the many veteran Children’s Pastors. In the past, some have viewed children’s ministry only from an educational standpoint, but children’s ministry goes much farther than education. It reaches the heart and soul of a child, creating spiritual experiences that change and influence each member of a family. When realizing this aspect, pastors become aware of the profound importance of having an active and successful children’s ministry for their body of believers.

Some time back, I had the privilege of meeting with some world leaders in ministry. In one session, we discussed the importance of ministry to children and it’s affects on the church as a whole. A well-known pastor of a prominent, 6000 plus member church in the Philippines, stated that their church was started by ministering to children. Years later, their body entered into deep intercession to seek God for answers as to why the body had become stagnant and ceased to grow. With joy in his voice, he said that God clearly spoke and led them back to the humble beginnings they had left, which was ministering to the children. Since that time, their church has regained its spiritual vigor and again begun grow.

The Nigerian General Superintendent of a main denomination was also in these sessions. He explained that they had tried many different ways to plant churches, such as outdoor concerts, canvassing, tent meetings, etc., but all failed. The only successful way they discovered to plant a new church was to begin by reaching the children. Several other missionaries and pastors concurred by sharing their passions and experiences of making children’s ministry a major focus in their churches.

With these testimonies, and the successful growth of ministries such as Willie George’s Church on the Move, there’s no doubt or question as to the importance of ministry to children. But where should we begin? Obviously, there needs to be a sincere love for the children, a deep desire to see them spiritually nurtured and touched by the love of God.

How do you view the children’s ministries role in your church body? To the surprise of some, children are not the church of tomorrow. They are, indeed, the church of today, a church within a church, a vibrant, vital, life-giving force whose needs must be recognized and attended to.

For a better analysis of this group of individuals, let’s use the analogy of a bicycle wheel. Imagine the church body as a wheel. The one wheel has many parts, just as the body is made up of many parts. Each part does its job for the maturation of the body. In the church body, each ministry area must do its part to bring growth and maturity in the body. When you examine a typical church body, you will determine that the momentum for that body usually comes from the large-group gathering, which is, in most cases, the Sunday morning worship service. This service produces the energy, excitement, vision, and motivation to propel the body forward in fulfilling their mission. Compare this vital part of ministry to the hub of the bicycle wheel.

Next, let’s consider the spokes of the wheel. The spokes give strength to the wheel. They hold it together as it moves to fulfill its purpose. In our analogy, these spokes are the small group settings that take place in the church body, such as Sunday School, mid-week service, cell groups, Bible studies, etc. Small group settings are vital to the growth and maturity of the body. They facilitate learning, relationships, and mutual burden carrying.

Since it has been established that the children are a church within a church, then our analogy leads to the picture of a wheel within a wheel. Successful children’s ministry must have a large group gathering such as a Children’s Church to set the pace, momentum, vision, and excitement for that ministry. Just as important, however, are the small group settings such as Sunday school, clubs, choirs, Bible quiz, etc. to establish strength and maturity. Working together, these two elements will develop young leaders in your church.

Upon further examination, it becomes clear that these two settings also have two distinctly separate purposes. The small group settings must address the spiritual education of the child. The large setting must focus on experience. That is to say, it must be a setting that leads the children into the presence of God to where they not only know about Him, but to also experience His moving in their lives. Remember that scripture says, knowledge puffs up. Because of this tendency and the fact that scriptural knowledge alone does not bring salvation, scriptural knowledge must be tempered by a true spiritual experience. Also, we realize that it is the spiritual experiences taking place in a children’s worship service which creates hunger and enthusiasm for more of God. However, in regard to the purpose of small group settings, spiritual experience without a scriptural education foundation leads to one being tossed around by every whim of doctrine.

This brings us to the third part of our bicycle illustration. We have a strong wheel in motion. Who is going to take care of the wheel? Who will give the hub structure? Who will be sure all of the spokes are intact and secure? And who will lead the wheel into the direction it should go? The answer is clear, the Children’s Pastor. A Children’s Pastor is to the children’s ministry what the Senior Pastor is to the sanctuary congregation in the analogy of a wheel within a wheel. He is the spiritual guide and facilitator for this growing body. He must be more than a Christian Education director or a Sunday School Superintendent. He carries a God-given calling as a Pastor for his congregation. This is an awesome responsibility not to be taken lightly. Remember Jesus’ words, And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

The purpose of this short discussion is to lay an understanding as to the importance and structure of children’s ministry in the local church. Though there are other side issues that could be addressed, we trust this article has provided important basics so a leader will gain the proper perspective for structuring his/her children’s ministry with a stable foundation on which to build.

© by Rev. Gary R. Linn
Children’s Ministry Today

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