Question: When you hear “children’s ministry” what do you think of? What images accompany that thought? I think it’s easy for us to default to defining it along the lines of “entertaining the kids until the adult service is over… and if they learn something in the meantime, that’s great too”. In other words: babysitting. This can provoke the thought of the time spent in children’s ministry as a sacrifice—because at least when you’re actually babysitting, you get paid right? But what if we saw it as Jesus does, not a as a sacrifice, but rather as a privilege?
What if we used only the Bible to define what children’s ministry is? I think God has some things to say that might mess with our definition a bit…
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven BELONGS to such as THESE.” –Matthew 19:14
Okay, we all saw that verse coming. Jesus loves the little children… But how does that redefine how we think of kids ministry?
First, I want to focus on the disciples. I love the disciples because of how much each of us can relate to them. We see all these moments where they were big-mouths, betrayers, doubters… where they let their own personalities get in the way of their spirituality… and I don’t know if I’m the only one who has identified with each of those things at some point in life, but I love watching Jesus shape true theology right before their eyes. I love that Jesus always faithfully taught them the heart of God, instead of just focusing on the fact that they were wrong most of the time. In this particular situation, the disciples were under the impression that children were not worthy to be in Jesus’ presence. They weren’t worth His time. Jesus could not be bothered or slowed down with “babysitting”. It says that they rebuked the children.
So what are some ways you have seen children “rebuked” in the modern-day church? As a culture, I think we have all seen children be looked down upon or thought of as “less than”, just for being children. We have this idea of “big church” versus “kids church”– where the important, spiritual, deep stuff happens in “big church” and the kids are simply being entertained in “little church” till the adults are done with their true encounters with the Lord.
I think we have to be careful not to correlate someone’s age with their spiritual capacity. We need to understand the spiritual potential that kids have, and provide them with opportunities to encounter and be changed by the Spirit of God. Jesus desires to be with them, around them, to bless them… and we are instructed, as the disciples were, not to hinder that from happening. Spiritual hunger and awareness are on the rise in our culture, and children are as affected as everyone else. We must bring them into authentic experiences with God’s presence. Children are observers, learners, behavior absorbers, adapters. They are not so “set in their ways” as we are. They are looking for solidity and truth in any form as the world shapes them, as they grow each day. Their hearts are open, longing for experiences and adventure. As ministers of the gospel, what better opportunity could we ask for to win souls to Christ, than to minister to a child?
Throughout the Bible God gives so much revelation about His heart for children, and how He desires for His spirit to be present in young hearts to carry His Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these! Let’s start accepting that in the church as biblical truth. There are pivotal things God has done and still desires to do in the Kingdom, and He wants to do them through some powerful kids who love Him and live in His presence. Let’s not hinder them or limit them… let’s bring them to Him!
The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. I challenge you to pray about if God is calling you to labor for His very heart… the PRIVILEGE of doing kids ministry!
By: Taryn Thompson, Children’s Leader