Based on what we’ve covered (and other findings not covered in this short paper), the following should actively shape how we do Children’s Ministry:
1) Parents must act as the primary disciplers of their kids, taking responsibility for their spiritual development.
Parents being primary post is the basic, foundational element to this. The church can take responsibility in the parents absence or abdication, but the familial environment is were the primary responsibility lies. And the church, while it has the best intentions to disciple and help, needs to remind and gently encourage parents in this regard, and not just take over.
2) The church much structure Children’s Ministry around this central idea.
This is the shift for me, personally, as a children’s pastor. And this has come about not necessarily from reading, but from experience and back to the numbers game.
When I first came to Hayward Wesleyan back in 2003, I was excited to structure sustainable, fun, and Bible-centered programming for children and teenagers. And to a fairly successful degree, that has been accomplished.
About 4 years in I started to realize how little time our ministry programming had with children and teenagers. This became very clear to me while working in the middle school arena. I would work with teens on a Wednesday night, correct some behavior as needed and would go home at the end of the evening thankful for the opportunity to shape young hearts and mold character (often times via creative discipline). Then I would come back the next week and what I now call the RESET button was pressed and the students were back to pre-last week. It was as if no conversation or correction had taken place.
Now there are many reasons why teenagers don’t obey, and I’m not going to tackle all of those at the moment. But my point is this:
Church Children’s or Youth Ministry cannot, on its own, disciple students.
It seems to me that only an ongoing, active partnership with parents as the primary disciplers/trainers of their children can the church ever hope to see discipled and fruitful followers of Jesus Christ.
3) The church must aim their resources at equipping parents to be successful in discipling their kids.
It is important for the church to engage children and teenagers in ministry environments. It is very important for children and teens to connect with God’s word and his world while among their peers.
However, and I feel this tension often, the resourcing of our youth and children’s ministry (thus by extension the whole church) should be heavily weighted more toward resourcing families instead of continually providing more and more ministry programming environments.
I’m all about making my children’s ministry programming awesome and great for the students who participate in them. However, I should not be spending my entire week and time prepping and “adding” things continually to these programs. I’m a pastor/shepherd, not a programming director. I understand there are aspects to my job that take programming, but realizing that programming alone is not going “disciple” children nor create and sustain fruitful followers of Jesus.
4) The church should help create natural and organic environments for parents and other adults to interact with kids in a meaningful way so that Classroom teaching, Apprenticeship and Immersion can happen easily and naturally.
For me this means helping to create and incorporate “family” style events through the church, instead of events primarily for the students.
But beyond “church programming” or “events” the natural and organic environment looks a lot like HOME. I think that classroom teaching, apprenticeship and immersion can best happen and be fostered at home amidst a family. Lots of teachable moments happen at home with brothers and sisters and parents. Discipline best happens at home amidst a loving environment. Shared family experiences are the most powerful and life-altering events that shape us as human beings.
5) These environments should be balanced between prayer, worship and teaching (relationship with God), caring, encouraging and having fun with each other (relationship with the church community), being on mission together (relationship with people who don’t know Jesus yet).
This might be what the author means when he talks about LifeShapes and the triangle. God, church, world… maybe.
Interesting environmental contexts:
- Prayer, worship & teaching [relationship w/ God]
- Caring, encouraging & having fun with each other [relationship w/ church community]
- Being on mission together [relationship w/ people who don’t know Jesus yet]
Are these “things” happening in these various contexts?
6) We will use a shared and agreed on discipling language that both adults and kids can use and understand. For our purposes, it will be LifeShapes and when kids leave 5th grade, they will be fluent in living out the Circle, Triangle, Semi Circle and Covenant + Kingdom triangles.
I’m not completely familiar with “LifeShapes” yet (from the book: A Passionate Life by Mike Breen & Walt Kallestad). It looks like I need to pick this book up and read it.
But the point is a “shared and agreed upon language” which is really important.
- What do we mean by discipleship?
- What does “Christian” mean?
- Mission? What’s that?
- Relationship with God?
Language. Words are just words. They are suitcases in which we place meaning to things. Some word suitcases are full, others are light. Some suitcases contain different meanings based on certain perceptions… especially as it relates to culture and time.
So, having a shared language is helpful.
Your thoughts, critique and questions are welcome in the comments below!