I may be different from most, but I believe leading your kids to Christ is a journey and not a destination. There are many markers on the path of that journey, but too often we refer to those markers as a parent or pastoral “To Do” list. There are certain spiritual milestones every path should be marked with. When and how that takes place makes all the difference.
I think Jesus’ use of fishing illustrations with professional fishermen was no accident. He told them that he was going to transform them into fishers of men instead of fishers of fish. This must have sounded a bit weird, but nonetheless, they picked up their nets and followed Christ. This same fishing analogy that Jesus used two thousand years ago still has relevance today.
“And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him.”
You don’t need all the tools, just the right tools.
So often we get caught up in thinking we need the coolest lures or the best radar to know where the fish are. Those tools are great, but sometimes what we really need is a pole, string and bait.
Like professional fishermen, kids’ pastors can get caught up in the fishing equipment– comparing lures, wandering up and down the fishing aisle in Wal-mart, peering in other fishing boats to see what tackle they are using. In the church world, it is so easy to become distracted by the “if I only had this or if my budget was bigger” complex.
Fishing is about following. Jesus told his disciples that he was going to give them a different set of tools. Without questions or a fight, the disciples simply dropped their nets and followed Christ.
You can’t lead others where you aren’t going yourself so following is essential. The most powerful tool you have as a leader is a heart that follows hard after God. Faith is a journey, not a destination, and so often a journey is all about the intangibles. I know in my life there is a big difference when I go on a road trip with some buddies and when I go out to dinner with my wife. One is about the journey; the other is about the destination. In transferring our faith to our kids, it is so vital that they see in us a genuine, passion-filled, life-tested faith. The journey is not about blind faith that says “take me to your leader,” but a faith that says, “Lord I don’t understand why you allow things to happen the way they do, but no matter what, I trust you. In the midst of trials and in the midst of blessing, I trust you.” I believe that when our kids see us living a life of authentic faith, it goes a long way to help prepare them to follow Christ for themselves.
We need a working, practical knowledge of the Bible that can only come from reading it ourselves. I grew up in a Christian home, and we had devotions every night, and you know what? I hated them. Are devotions bad? Depends on how you do them. We had devotions regularly growing up, but my parents weren’t the greatest at “doing” devotions. What they were really good at was “showing” us as kids that their relationship with God was real, that God heals, and He answers prayer. In my family, we don’t have a set devotion time. We do read the Bible together, but I want to make the most of every moment as life happens. That comes during those times when I explain to my kids why we need to love others and why we need to extend forgiveness to the Red Sox fan in the seat next to us at school. I truly believe that the more we read and understand our Bible, the more God moments we will have during the day to connect our kids to a very real and very loving God that we serve.
You can’t make a fish bite, but you can make your hook attractive.
Sometimes we try to create situations where we get our kids to raise their hands to respond to an altar call. Then we tell ourselves, “Mission accomplished.” Am I against altar calls? Not at all. But, as a kids’ pastor, I myself have been challenged by this thought: Does my life make following Christ look more attractive or less?
In kids’ ministry, it is very easy to get kids to go through the motions when responding to an altar call, but the statistical reality is that many walk away from their faith when they leave home. As a parent, that scares me. I think the reason why this happens is because we as kids’ pastors and parents have taught kids to be nibblers.
Have you ever been fishing and thought you had a bite, only to pull in your line and find your hook empty? Frustrating! Then there are times you feel a tug, give a pull and fight to bring in the fish. Once you land it, you have a difficult time getting the hook out so that you can release the fish.
How do we take our kids from being nibblers to fully devoted followers?
- Kids need to experience community.
- Kids need to experience a God who is bigger than they are.
- Kids need to serve in the local church.
- Kids need to understand for themselves the supernatural power of God’s Word.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”
Don’t tell fishing stories.
Be authentic. Kids can spot a phony a mile away. They know when you are giving them a pat Christian answer. So don’t do it. You don’t have to know the answer to every question. You just need to know the Guy who does.
Authenticity is not just a good idea; it’s essential to helping our kids discover who God is. When God does something in your ministry or in your family, tell others. Just tell the truth. For example, when you spread the news that 80 got saved at your VBS when there were actually 50 people who attended, you get mocked; and Jesus gets a black eye.
Don’t turn fishing into a sport.
We have all seen those fishing derbies. They may be fun, and they may get great TV coverage. But we know when the real work begins … when you have to clean those fish. For me, one of the biggest deterrents to fishing is gutting fish. I hate gutting fish! Everyone wants the photo op with the world’s largest fish, but who in their right mind wants to cut that bad boy open and clean out the guts?
Discipleship is not easy, but if we want our kids to follow Christ as we follow Christ, it is essential. Just the other day, I was reading Luke 15 to my son. He started to ask me all kinds of questions about what it means to be lost. How does someone get lost? What happens when they are found? He looked at me and asked if he was lost. I explained how we all sin and how he sins, and the only way to be forgiven and be found is to confess our sins and believe in the power of the resurrection. I finished explaining all of this to my four-year-old son, and then I went for it. I asked him, “Son, do you want Daddy to pray with you right now?” He paused for a few seconds and then said, “Not right now. Maybe when I am older.” I was so grateful for our conversation, because I know one day he will confess Jesus as his Savior. I know every conversation paints one more stroke on the canvas of his mind of who Jesus Christ is. Discipleship can be a long, dirty, smelly, difficult process, but the results are worth every tear, every drop of sweat. Don’t settle for the photo op. God has called us to so much more.
Fishing Guide for Dummies
- Read Luke 15 till you are sick of it. Then read it again. We need to understand what lost means. As Americans, we don’t understand what lost means because we “just buy another one.”
- Take advantage of every opportunity when your kids ask questions, and make sure you really answer them. Don’t just give them some pat answer.
- Demonstrate to your kids how you need Christ on a daily basis.
- Create a spiritual map for your kids. Once they have received Christ, begin talking to them about baptism and other milestones.
- Make sure you know what a healthy Christian looks like.