I am often asked about the Children's Ministry here at Flint Reformed Baptist Church, and I am always happy to give an answer. The reactions to my answer vary from a lack-luster stare to an enthusiastic conversation. The disparity here, I think, is not really a result of how we do things but of why. This question is seldom asked, but its undergerds everything else. If your why does not line up with our how the whole thing seems weird. Conversely, if our how resonates with you, it's probably because you align with our why.
I know that some of you have never heard this before, and it’s possible that you’ve never really given it much thought. Children’s Ministry is just something that churches do in that other big room when they're not having potlucks. I know that some of you live and breath this subject so much that it’s kind of become old hat, and you know what I’m going to say before I say it. You could even finish my s… However, I think that for most of us this is likely a subject of great importance that doesn’t get a whole lot of thought. It’s kind of like the engine in my car. I know that it’s really important, but I don’t know what goes on in there, and I really don’t even think about it until it makes too much noise, and even then I just want someone else to take care of it. So, for those who are interested, here is how and why we do Children's Ministry at Flint Reformed.
Why do we do Children’s Ministry?
As I mentioned before, it’s extremely important think through the why precisely because it always determines the what and the how and all the other question words you learned in Elementary school.
Larry Fowler, the Executive Director of Programming and Training for AWANA Clubs International, wrote a great, little book called Rock-Solid Kids: Giving Children a Biblical Foundation for Life. In it he discusses this idea of why churches have Children’s Ministries, and he gives four categorical reasons. So, his assertion is that if you have a Children’s Ministry, your reason for having it falls into one of these four broad reasons or “Attitudes” (as he calls them).
- Children are a Bother. This is somewhat of a pejorative distinction; no one comes out and says, “we need a Children’s Ministry so those kids won’t pester me so much.” It is often cloaked and covered in a slightly smoother expression. You will often hear this reasoning expressed in something like, “The kids will be a distraction.” This doesn’t sound too bad, but it relegates children to the status of text messages, flashy clothing and you-know-who’s singing. There’s nothing wrong with them per se; just keep them quiet. This is obviously not why we do Children’s Ministry.
- Children are a Tool. This one is surprisingly not very veiled. You will often hear this reasoning expressed in something like, “We need to get the kids so we can get their parents.” It’s a very practical plan, and it’s probably pretty effective, but in so doing it turns kids into a window display just so you can bring in the real businesses. This is not why we do Children’s Ministry.
- Children are our Future. This one gets tricky because it happens to be true. Children are our future. They are the leaders of tomorrow. However, there are a lot of other true statements that do not make great reasons for having a Children’s Ministry. “Children are short” for example. That’s a relatively true statement—most of the kids back there can’t even touch the top of my head. However, that true statement is a woefully insufficient reason to do Children’s Ministry. Children are our future, but this is not why we do Children’s Ministry.
- We do Children’s Ministry because Children are People. Our pastor has begun preaching on the book of Matthew, and there is a particular phrase that I think will become very familiar to us. Take a look below.
Matthew 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons
Matthew 9:2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.
Matthew 14:35 they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick
Matthew 19:13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus (in verse 14) said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
The reason we do Children’s Ministry is because children are people who have value in the eyes of the Lord Jesus. They are not second class citizens who are only as meaningful as they are useful until they too are adults. They are meaningful now; they are important now, and they, just like me and just like you, are in need of a Savior, and THANK GOD that Christ did not wait until they turned 21 to die for them!
How do you do Children’s Ministry?
That is why we do Children’s Ministry, and that shapes how we do Children’s Ministry. This is a more common question anyway. I’ve never been asked why, but people will often ask me, “How do you do Children’s Ministry at your church?” or “What do you do for kids at your church?” This answer obviously gets a bit more extensive as they are several things that we do.
How we don’t do Children’s Ministry
Before I answer that, however, I want to point out a few things that we don’t do. For our kids past the nursery stage we do not babysit; we do not entertain, and we do not parent. Yes, we do make sure they are safe, but babysitting is not our primary goal. Yes, we try to have a fun, but entertainment is not our primary goal. Yes, we put a lot of emphasis on teaching, but it is not our primary goal to be the spiritual leaders of these kids.
That last one is a tough one to try to avoid. It is not uncommon to find people in well meaning churches who drop their kids off for Sunday School in Kindergarten, pick them up after highschool graduation and wonder why they didn’t turn out like they expected. But the church’s ministry to children was never intended to supplant, substitute or even supplement the spiritual leadership of parents (particularly of fathers). The church’s ministry to children should help excite kids in their spiritual life and help encourage parents in their spiritual leadership.
How we do Children’s Ministry
With that in mind we can actually answer our second question, “How do we do Children’s Ministry?” In the interest of time, we will look briefly at four different ways that we do Children’s Ministry. (We do more in the nursery area, but we will look specifically at the pre-school through grammar aged kids.) For the kids at Flint Reformed we do Sunday School, Kids 4 Truth, Baking a Difference and Camp Outs.
For our children roughly aged 3-5, we do Sunday School every Sunday morning using the Children Desiring God curriculum. This material looks at the Old and New Testament stories following key scriptural themes that help familiarize kids with the unchangeable character of God that is fully revealed through His Son Jesus. It should be noted that this curriculum is not scripted out, which is to say that any heathen off the streets could not teach these lessons. It requires the leader to honestly study God’s word prior to showing up Sunday morning. This may be slightly more intense preparation than you would ordinarily find, but if a three year old is a valuable person in the eyes of the Lord, it’s exactly what we should expect of those teaching them God’s Word.
Kids 4 Truth
For our kids roughly aged 3 through fifth grade, we do Kids 4 Truth on Sunday Nights. Kids 4 Truth is a curriculum that puts a large emphasis on age-appropriate catechisms and scripture memorization. Each week the kids are challenged to memorize the answer to a theological question and a scripture verse that coincides with that answer. They are also challenged to, throughout the week (or in our house just hours before we go back to church on Sunday), read, think about and discuss with their parents a related scripture passage. Now all of that is prior to them actually coming to church. Once they get here, they say their verses, and then an adult teaches a lesson on—you guessed it—the theological point made by catechism and scripture they have already been reading and discussing at home. In this curriculum, you really see the why shaping what and the how.
These are the only two weekly things we have specifically for kids. There is a temptation for churches to boast in their massive number of programs that they have for kids, but I think it may also be a temptation for churches to boast in their scarcity of programs they have as well. That is not the case here. These are the programs that we have right now because these are the programs that the Elders, through thoughtful prayer and scriptural consideration, have chosen to have—not because their is anything particularly holy about only having two weekly programs. In fact ...
Baking a Difference
In addition to those weekly programs, we have Baking a Difference for our young ladies. This is a much less formal and somewhat less official time for the young ladies to get together when it's "just the girls." They bake goodies. Then they sell them back to their parents and the rest of the church at extorted prices, and all of the proceeds from those events are given a mission organization about whom the girls learned on their baking day. It’s a fantastic and delicious activity.
For the young men of the church, we have Father-Son Campouts. This is obviously even less formal and even less official. At this point, these trips have only been once a year or so, but we are working on making them more frequent. (Obviously schedules and the elements don’t always line up very well.) Nonetheless, this is a great time for boys to be boys and for men to be men. I know that when I was a kid I paid a lot of attention and learned a great deal while watching my dad interact with other men. That’s not something that kids get to see often. These trips have been a nice time of male bonding in a very safe environment.
In the End
Again, it is our goal to excite and encourage families to grow closer to God through the study and discussion of His word. We do so through a few programs that mirror those emphases. Though we feel it is the primary responsibility of the parents to be the spiritual leaders of their home, we encourage and expect our entire church family to be involved in the equipping of the saints. For many of our members, that is through volunteer opportunities in the Children's Ministry. For all of our members, that means support through prayer and conversation. We (as parents) earnestly ask our church family to pray for us and come along side us. Being a parent is a tough job. We appreciate the help. If you have any questions, please feel free to emails us. We would love to talk with you more.