Children’s ministry can be life giving or life draining, and often on the same day. I started out in KidMin because Christ changed my life as a child. Jesus invited me to know, love and serve kids, families and leaders so they would come to know, love and serve him too. At first it was exciting to create captivating environments and compelling experiences week after week. Then something shifted in the ministry and inside me. The meaningful turned mundane. I got caught up in a never-ending spin cycle. The greater purpose of lifelong discipleship subtly disappeared as I succumbed to inevitable programmatic pain points. Like so many of my ministry colleagues, I stuck with it year in and year out, trading in what was once life giving for a life draining model of discipleship. It took a wake up call for me to pursue a different discipleship path personally and professionally.
In today’s KidMin, there’s a “Not-So-Great Commission” replacing Jesus’ command. Matthew 28:19–20 in the RKV (Revised Kidmin Version) says, “Go…and go…and go. Make programs. Administrate all things. Don’t lose any kids.” Sound familiar? It’s very eye-catching to kids and parents to watch children’s ministry leaders spin lots of plates, but there’s very little eye contact or heart to heart interaction. Discipleship cannot exist outside of relationship. When kid-influencers are too busy to relate intentionally to God, kids and families, something must change.
So what’s the alternative? Jesus modeled five discipleship invitations that can help you relate intentionally to kids and families in a way that’s life giving to everyone over the long haul.
Draw kids into an unscripted adventure with God. Christ had strong words to say to anyone who tried to turn faith into a formula. Jesus invites us into relationship with him by simply saying, “Follow me.” For two thousand years, children of all ages have continued to drop everything to walk with him one unpredictable step at a time. More than providing the perfect program or curriculum, modeling this for kids and families is essential to getting them started on a lifelong discipleship trajectory.
Wrestle with messy faith together. Children thrive when safe people provide care and structure in their lives. Yet, they need relationship more than a list of regulations to obey. Jesus invites us to step into the unknown with him. There is more relational power in your presence than in presenting simple answers to a complex life of faith.
Build unconventional community with families. Children in your ministry come attached to families of all kinds. Jesus invites us into community with God and the kids and parents he sends our way. You can strengthen the discipleship partnership between home and church by lovingly building bridges to families through appropriate care, coaching and challenge.
Model Christ’s life-transforming mission.Jesus invites his followers to be thoroughly changed from the inside out. The same gospel at work in you is at work in the children your ministry impacts. As a kid-influencer you have a responsibility to lead kids, by example, to integrate the gospel into every part of life.
Equip children for dynamic discipleship. Kids need to discover what it means to walk with God day in and day out long before they graduate into adulthood. Jesus invites us to listen for and to his voice with each step we take. As you walk with Jesus yourself, you can shepherd kids to be guided by God to know, love and serve him.
Kid-influencers who follow Jesus deeply desire to know, love and serve children and families so they will come to know, love and serve Christ. If you’re in the KidMin trenches, you probably long for life giving ministry regularly. And, good news is just around the corner. There’s a way of relational children’s ministry that flows from Jesus’ invitational discipleship model outlined above. These five life-giving invitations will be available to church and children’s ministry leaders in April 2016. Look for Zondervan and Awana’s release of Relational Children’s Ministry: Turning Kid-Influencers into a Disciple Making Community by Dan Lovaglia.