Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Gospel and Children's Ministry

Here is a letter I recently sent to a friend in children's ministry back in Illinois, as they recently have been struggling with a large influx of uncooperative children and not enough staff to deal with them all. I print it here as an encouragement to my fellow-laborers in Christ, around the globe. May you all rejoice in the sufficiency of Christ!

Hey, Johanna,


I am writing to encourage you, Stacy, Janice and Amanda (and whoever else) about Wednesday Nights with the kids at church.

All I can do is encourage you in these 2 things:

First: your vision. What IS the vision for the children's ministry, and specifically, the Wed night crowd? Calvary's mission statement is a good place to start -- "Cooperating with God in turning spiritually dead people into fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ". How does that look for the ministry on Wednesday nights? As I knew it, we were there to feed and get to the hearts of the children we knew well, the ones that were most likely already believers. Because the numbers were smaller than on Sunday morning, it was a time to really get to KNOW and invest in these kids -- bringing them along to being fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I realize this is not the case any more. With MORE kids, and visiting kids and kids from unchurched backgrounds, you are dealing with unbelieving kids! BUT THAT'S GREAT! If anything, we probably made the mistake of assuming belief in a lot of those church kids, and should have shared the gospel with them more regularly and more clearly. NOW is the time for that. If there is anything I can encourage you in, it is the gospel. Of course kids are bad. They are sinners. We don't just want them to be good, we want them to BELIEVE.

Now you need to hash out how that will practically play out. Do you need to be more intentional about sharing the gospel EACH WEEK to all the kids gathered there -- especially in an un-canned, fresh way (not just repeating a bit about Jesus being a sort of ticket to heaven). People need to be convicted about their sin. It is good to specifically point out sin and call it sin (privately, if you are talking to a specific child -- more on that thought). Emphasizing sin and need for Christ bearing our punishment is incredibly important. Consider how you might be able to do that with the kids. During lesson? In small groups? Through songs/discussion? Maybe you need to see about recruiting more people so that you CAN take children aside one on one and talk to them when they are bad -- to show them their sin and need for a Savior! I'm not thinking that every single time a kid is bad they need to go pray a prayer, but the gospel is the ONLY ANSWER for their problem!!! We should be so encouraged because we KNOW THAT ANSWER! Perhaps there are people who could not teach a whole group of kids, but would be willing to join the team to play a role of that sort. Maybe you all should pray about that and seek to recruit people who might be able to do that. These people (and you guys) can plan to take kids who are really acting up out of the general gathering and confront them with their sin and tell them they are under God's judgment for that sin. Tell them they NEED a Savior and that they need to believe. Perhaps pray for them to be able to believe, but then stop there and watch to see if the Spirit is moving. If not, it wouldn't be best to push for a false conversion.

Second: Your encouragement. As a team, you must knit together. Having a common vision helps to do that, but you must be intentional about building one another up. After the kids are gone, your first inclination may be to discuss their behavior, but refrain from doing so, and instead turn to your fellow-laborers and encourage them! This is something I've learned from Ryan Townsend, my children's director here. When I'm finished teaching, he blows me away by blessing me: "Thank you, sister, for using your gifts here," he says. I can't believe it every time. He views our ministry as vital and precious and important and thriving, and communicates that to everyone who serves with him. It is more than just thinking positively, it is encouraging your brothers and sisters IN CHRIST and in the gospel. Everyone serving together with the children ought to be participating in this. You all can be thankful for the gospel. You all can be thankful for how Christ uses the believers in the body to minister. And you can all SAY SO. It is not just delivery, it is not just a smooth running program. It IS dirty hard work, and you ALL need to get down and dirty with one another and HELP one another by knitting your hearts together in brotherly love. A temptation can come to be knit together by sharing a common discouragement. You can all enjoy griping about the little sinners you are called to minister to, that's easy. But how is that different than gossip? Certainly, we bear one another's burdens, and it would be good to pray together, even briefly, before and/or after or at another time. But you cannot knit yourselves together to stress about how hard it is, you must not allow yourselves to do that. Embrace the children God has brought you to minister to. HE has done it. Take it from His hand with thanksgiving, and spur one another on to do the same.

Finally, I want to remind you that our joy comes in the gospel. WE ARE SINNERS. We are not so different from those wicked children. In fact, if we look at them, we see them just as God saw us, apart from His Son. You can show the children love and patience because Christ has shown YOU love and patience. I remember a few months ago, a family sitting behind me had a child misbehaving over and over during the service (it was a Lord's Supper morning, so even longer). I began to feel frustrated with the child because of how many times, over and over, he would begin to be bad, and his parents would patiently stop him. That child had no idea how loving and patient his parents were being. He kept sinning against them. Suddenly, my frustration washed away, as I sat there, remembering Christ's atonement for me. I WAS THAT CHILD. I presumed upon a patient and loving Lord who loved me and called me to be his own. I saw my own sinfulness and foolishness played out in this child's behavior.

Friend, I will pray for you, and seek to encourage you in any way I know how. Have confidence in God's Providence. He has not brought you to a place that He has not before ordained. His grace is sufficient.

Love, Gretchen

Fellow-workers, a book I'd recommend is Ted Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart. This book is for parents, but I found it extremely helpful thinking about what my task was in the children's lives in my care.

14 comments:

Tony Kummer said...

Gretchen,
Thanks for posting this letter, its encouraging to me -- and we had a great day at church.

Brenna said...

Ted Tripp's book is magnificent. I need to buy it (I borrowed from a friend) so I can have it on hand always.

Andrew Randazzo said...

I haven't read the book, but I got a free copy at T4G this year, and I'm watching the video series at my church. I'm just a college student and single, but what he teaches is so good for future reference and I'm actually learning for myself how I should be acting in respect to my parents. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

YEAH YEAH Out Loud said...

You might want to check out the children's ministry link for using our program at your facility! www.yeahyeahoutloud.com

Paul Sr. said...

I would recommend a book by Eric Wallace called, 'Uniting Church and Home'. It is a massively different way to approach all ministry & it especially touches 'children's ministry' & reforms it in appropriate & effective ways.
We have implemented this in our church & the results are amazing.

La Tea Dah said...

What a lovely and informative blog. Thank you for linking to it through Gracious Hospitality so I could find it. I came to read your post for the tea blog-a-thon, but I'm too early. I will check back, as I believe you will be writing about your church tea. How wonderful to be the 'hospitality hostess' of such an event! Much success to you!

LaTeaDah

James and Christen said...

Great post! I have just started reading "When sinners say I Do" and the whole first chapter focuses on the fact that we are sinners and that is problem. The Gospel is the solution!!!

It is amazing how life revolves around the Gospel and how often we forget that obvious fact.

Tell the girls I am praying for them too. You are right, what an amazing opportunity to influence the lives of these kids for ETERNITY!

ellen b said...

Hi Gretchen,
Where's your tea post? I came from the link you left at Gracious Hospitality but I can't find a post about tea...

Mia and Shua said...

Do you want me to e-mail you the picture?

....t said...

Gretchen, You are so wise beyond your years. i think that Gretchen Reads could easily be changed to Gretchen writes. You have a wonderful message--how total sufficiency can be found in Christ alone. Keep it coming girl your word from the Lord can change lives....t

Sara Mincy said...

Great letter Gretchen! An encouragement!

Unca John said...

Gretchen, a great passage of encouragement to me has been II Tim. 2:24&25. It especially speaks to me regarding bad actions by kids, teens even adults--the things they do are in opposition to their best interest--if only their blind eyes could see. Patience, prayer, meek instruction of the Gospel and then, if it is His will, God moving. If only I did this every time.

Emily said...

I had the beautiful joy of being a sub. teacher tonight! I was nervous, but then again I wasn't, teaching is definitly one of those things that becomes easier with time. :) Tonight we only had about 12-14 kids once the little ones left. It was really small and close knit, but there's something refreshing and cozy about that. :)

-emily

LinaJones said...

Thanks so much for this post. I really needed to hear and apply this to our youth ministry.