Teach Others to Feed Themselves
“I would love to help you with the children’s ministry, but I need to be in church on Sunday mornings to be fed.” Have you ever heard that? I used to dismiss it and not think too much about it. After all, how can you argue with that excuse? Then I had a thought. “Hey! If someone is only ‘fed’ one day a week at most, and they have to be fed from the senior pastor only … do I really want that person ‘feeding’ my kids? And how does the senior pastor (or kids’ pastor) get fed spiritually?”
As I started reflecting on this concept, I realized that part of my job as a leader is to help train the volunteers and kids how to feed themselves spiritually. Now let me state this up front, because I hear you thinking to yourself already, “YES, it is important for your volunteers to be in the adult service on a regular basis!” There is no doubt about it. It’s a great time for them to learn from God’s Word. But there is also a critical opportunity and need to minister to kids at the same time each week. Volunteers and kids to “eat” more than just one time a week if they’re going to be healthy, growing followers of Jesus. That’s vitally important!
The teaching process is very similar to teaching kids how to feed themselves with physical food. At first, it’s messy. Young kids throw the food all over the floor and it doesn’t all make it into their mouths. Also, at the beginning, it takes more preparation on your part as the parent. It requires more direction on your part towards healthy choices for a balanced and nutritious life. As they grow up, they begin picking their own restaurants and shopping at various grocery stores. They learn to cook for themselves … well some of them at least. They develop eating patterns that can be good or bad and affect their overall health. Whether or not their dietary habits are good or bad, they WILL eat every day, and multiple times each day. They won’t survive if they only eat a maximum of one healthy meal a week for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, teaching them to feed themselves spiritually is important for them to live a full and healthy life, even more so than feeding themselves physically. If you don’t teach them, who will?
Just like when your body is well fed it has more energy and you’re healthier, there are definite outcomes when kids and volunteers learn how to feed themselves spiritually. When your volunteers are well fed, they can serve more often in the children’s ministry without starving spiritually. They will also be able to provide consistency and better spiritual nutrition to the kids in your ministry. When your kids learn how to feed themselves spiritually, they will have a strong foundation to grow quickly, even in an environment where they are not able to come to church as often as they would like.
Cast the Vision.
The Bible is where we receive teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness from God so that we can be equipped as believers (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Yet, we live in a culture where busyness is choking out the Word of God in many Christians’ lives. Even though the Word of God is more accessible than ever before (you could even read in the bathroom on your phone or tablet), only 19% of Christians in the U.S. report reading the Bible on a regular basis (Barna Group). Combine this with some churches having only one service per week, as well as the majority of regular attenders attending an average of once or twice a month, and we find a culture where Christians are trying to grow spiritually by feeding from a very limited source. Even at churches where there are many services available each week, most regular attenders will pick one service a week at most, because they’re so busy.
As spiritual leaders, we have a great opportunity to help teach kids and volunteers the importance of feeding themselves spiritually on a regular basis. Take the initiative to continually teach them why it is important. Never assume that a person, young or old, knows how to study the Word of God and has a regular plan in place.
Cast the vision to your volunteers. Remind them that not only is it important for themselves but also for the kids they minister to. The kids need healthy ministry just as much as adults. Some kids are not able to attend regularly for a lot of reasons, beyond not having a driver’s license of their own. They need to be equipped and encouraged to spend time with God and His Word on a regular basis outside of church. They’re never too young to learn this. Otherwise, they’ll grow up thinking that the normal pattern is to go to church when they feel like it, sit and listen, then go home and live their week out in the “real” world. But they can and should have an active spiritual life every day. Remind them that the same Holy Spirit that is in you also lives in them if they believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit teaches us and helps us remember what Jesus said in His Word (John 14:26).
Give Some Practical Ideas.
As you begin this journey of helping the people you lead get consistent with spiritual feeding, keep in mind that many of the children, and even adult volunteers, have never learned how to feed themselves. They need to be taught. Remember that different things work for different people. Multiple things can also be used simultaneously throughout the week or month. Here are a few practical ideas to consider.
- Study for the lesson they’re teaching. It can apply to their lives as well, not just for kids!
- Suggest a Bible reading plan or daily devotional. Daily devotionals work well to help focus and ask practical application questions.
- Use technology. Create a regular social media page, email blast, or conference call with your leaders to have a devotional or discuss a scripture each week.
- Provide a CD from the weekly adult service, or provide a link to the online archives, to those who served in the children’s ministry each week.
- Suggest podcasts, books, devotionals that are helpful to you. If you have a budget to purchase some of these for your key leaders, even better.
- Encourage your volunteers to meet with a spiritual mentor or Bible study group throughout the week, even if it’s through online video chat.
- Provide a New Testament daily reading plan.
- Suggest an easy read Bible translation (i.e. NIV, CEV, ESV).
- Encourage scripture memory at church and at home.
- Give Bible app suggestions for the techy kids.
- Teach kids how the Bible is organized and how to find scriptures. Make it fun. Use scavenger hunts for fun facts in the Bible, old school sword drills, or other various activities that help kids learn their way around the Bible efficiently. You can even teach them how to use the concordance to look up topics in the Bible.
- Provide weekly take-home sheets or provide a weekly challenge on your social media or website.
- Provide a daily devotional for kids—something at their level that they can work through each day on their own.
Provide Accountability and Incentives.
“Did you eat your broccoli?” As you begin this process of teaching and training kids and volunteers how to feed themselves spiritually, follow up with them regularly. Providing incentives or prizes for completing a challenge on a weekly or monthly basis can offer great motivation as they begin to form healthy habits. Even with the adult volunteers, a Starbucks gift card can go a long way to motivate! Get feedback as to what methods are working or not working for them. Suggest other options if one idea isn’t sticking. But keep checking in with them. Healthy habits take consistency if they’re going to last long term.
Hopefully, this has inspired you to help those you lead, both kids and volunteers, to begin actively feeding themselves spiritually on a regular basis. It will initially take effort and energy on your part as a spiritual leader, but it’s an important and valuable step toward developing healthy, growing followers of Jesus.