I love kids! I love kidmin! I also enjoy the processes and forms that bring order to chaos (the business of ministry). With all the demands on a children’s ministry director or leader, though, it’s easy to make the work of the ministry the main thing rather than creating a culture that helps children connect with Christ for life. This is the main thing and what should be the end result of the work of the ministry.
There are three functions of a shepherd or a shepherd helper, which is basically every one of us in kidmin. 1 Peter says that as shepherds we are to feed the flock of God that is under our care. It’s our job to feed, care and oversee. Everyone who helps us and serves on our teams helps us in one of these three areas. They are either feeders, (large group presenters, up-front folks), caregivers (small group leaders, monitors, first impressions, baby rockers, extra hands), or overseers (check-in, coordinators, trainers, team leaders, and middle managers). We can easily let all the tasks of ministry take priority over the main thing of going and making disciples.
Stephen Covey in his book Habits of Highly Effective People says that habit number one is to start with the end in mind. The end for all of us in kidmin is not decorated environments and high tech check-in systems but discipled children who are committed Christ followers for life.
We all know Proverbs 22:6 by heart, “Train up a child in the way they should go.” But the proof of whether the church and home actually partnered together and pulled this off is that when they are grown, are these kids—now adults—in church, serving others by being a doer of the Word? In other words, are we training them for life as an adult Christ follower?
For discipleship to happen is a process. In any life-stage ministry there is a bridge in and a bridge out. While most of us focus on what happens during the life stage years we work with, we forget to manage and concentrate on the bridges in and out or the entrance and exit points. I’ll save this discussion for another day, but the point I’m trying to make is that for discipleship to begin, a decision to become a Christ-follower has to be made—both personal and public. Scripture tells us both are important. So how do we make sure we’re leading our teams toward personal decision moments in order for discipleship to begin? Here are eight keys to make it happen.
- Develop same language. Throughout all your life stage ministries, all leaders should use the same phrasing or terminology. At our church we’ve stopped asking if you want to “ask Christ into your heart” or “become a Christian.” Instead, we use “become a Christ follower” as our desired language.
- Define whose job it is to make this happen and train them how to carry it out. So whose job is this? Is it the church’s job or the home’s job? Is this a large group function or a small group function? It’s all of the above; it’s both/and. Train parents, small group leaders and large group presenters how to lead a child to a personal decision.
- Make room for this to happen by including it each week. The large group presenter needs to ask children if they would like to make a personal decision. If your church gives altar calls, then give them consistently, but also tell children if they don’t want to come forward, they should talk to their small group leaders about how to do this. Small group leaders should take time and be sensitive to the Spirit about when to have these conversations. The small group leader should strive to have a relationship with parents to know if the parent would like to be the one to pray with their child. Then, they can work together to make this happen.
- I love the idea of adding parent/teacher conferences to our ministry, just like school. This gives small group leaders an opportunity to talk to parents about their wishes—whether to be the one who leads their child in this decision or if they just want it to happen organically. I want to encourage parents to inform us what God conversations they are having at home so we can work together. Parents have to be in the know as far as what’s going on at church, so home and church can work together. The home has more time than the church. That’s why being intentional about working together is imperative.
- Baptize often. I know a lot of churches that baptize on request or just baptize once a year. If you want to see children and families follow the Lord in baptism, you have to make room for it. Churches do this differently, but the more you do it, the more baptisms you have. Just the mere fact that you schedule one and let folks know about it starts the conversation in class, in small group and at home.
- Start early talking to parents and continue the importance of these discussions throughout the life stages. I’ve redefined the importance of infant dedication. This is the perfect time to paint a picture of what their responsibilities are as the primary persons responsible for the spiritual development of their children. This point needs to be emphasized from the front of the room in the sanctuary. Excellent things happen when the children’s department is not the only voice communicating to parents what their responsibility is. Never forget Deuteronomy 6 was written to parents, not preachers, and reveals God’s original plan for world evangelism.
- Cover your team, your kids and teens, as well as your parents, in prayer. Sometimes we’re so busy doing the work of the ministry that we don’t pray continually for the outcomes and spiritual decisions we’re working so hard to achieve. Things happen when we pray—things that just don’t happen any other way. The prayers of God’s people are powerful and effective. So every week, ask Jesus in advance for the decisions that will happen.
- Talk personal decision moments up at your VIP meetings each week. Talk them up in written correspondence to workers, parents and kids. Expect it. Be intentional. Make this a primary objective to why we minister to children.
Consider these eight keys to providing a healthy, informed environment for your kids to make the decision to claim Jesus as Savior and Lord. What steps can you take to better prepare your leaders and parents for personal decision-making opportunities?