Shining the light on what matters most
by Kris Smoll
The email popped up: “My son has been selected to be on an advanced soccer team. His games will be held on Sundays for the next eight weeks. Because of this I will no longer be able to serve in third grade. Sorry for the inconvenience.” As I made call after call to find a replacement, I heard reason after reason why a commitment to serve would not fit into a busy family schedule. The message was coming through loud and clear: We will structure our serving around things that we enjoy—football games, sleeping in, weekends away, etc.
My mind was filled with thoughts like: “Don’t you understand? I’m inviting you to serve the King of Kings! This is an amazing opportunity to make an eternal difference in the life of a child. This is about something much greater than your schedule or activities! It’s an act of worship!”
After I hung up the phone, my mind turned back to that original email. That leader missed the opportunity to pour the beautiful truth of God’s Word into the lives of children so they can personally know the God of the universe. This truth can permeate their minds and hearts to become the core of who and what they are. When our kids truly know God, the results will be apparent: a transformed, purposeful life that is pleasing to God. They will recognize that everything—salvation and abundant life—is found in the King.
For the church to be a significant part of this work, we must help transform schedule-driven thinking into eternity-driven thinking. A great starting point is breaking through the barrier of how the church perceives children. I often use a candy bar to teach kids the difference between the flesh and the soul. The wrapper is like our flesh, but the chocolate on the inside is like our soul. When we die, the wrapper is left behind and the good stuff, our soul, lives on. It is our soul that is forgiven and it is within our soul that the powerful Holy Spirit lives within all believers. Notice I said ALL believers. Yes, the power of the Holy Spirit that an adult receives is the same Holy Spirit that a child receives when he trusts Christ as Lord and Savior. This is an extremely powerful truth that we should not ignore or underestimate. Kids can be used by God to rock the world for Christ!
This understanding ought to propel us to a state of urgency in reaching kids for The church often forgets that there is a spiritual war that rages over children all around the world. The statistics are clear that there is a huge spiritual harvest of souls before the age of 12. Why would Satan sit back and watch when he knows that not only is a soul saved but also a life is transformed when a child repents and believes? He is alert. He prowls like a lion around our kids, and he cheers as leaders bow out to the distractions of the world or arrive ill prepared while souls arrive at church ready to receive the powerful, life-giving truth of God’s Word.Christ when they are the most open to hearing the Gospel.
How can we as leaders be used by God to break through this barrier?
#1 We must get on our knees and pray that God will open the eyes of those in our churches to see the souls of kids through the lens of God. Pray that God will break their hearts when they see lost children and then allow them to truly celebrate with confidence when a child receives Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
#2 We must expect the Holy Spirit to be working in the souls of our kids. On a recent Awana night, our usually-runs-overtime missionary speaker spoke for just six minutes and ended early. Yikes! I scrambled for a way to connect the kids personally with what the speaker had just shared about God’s work in Burkina Faso, Africa. I felt God’s prompting to have four kids come up and pray specifically for that country’s children and then encouraged all the kids to write “1 million” on their pillowcases at home (with parent permission, of course!) to remind them to pray specifically for one million kids to be saved through the Awana ministry. Our kids took the challenge, and God is continuing to burden their souls to reach these kids for Christ. Our kids are part of a God-sized movement in Africa.
I don’t believe we are challenging and encouraging our kids to live out their faith nearly enough because we critically underestimate them. If our senior pastors are not expecting much spiritually from our kids, could it be because we as children’s ministry leaders don’t expect much spiritually from them? We need to unleash our kids!
#3 We must step up and declare victory over this barrier and shine the light on what God is doing in the souls of kids. Regularly share testimonies with your pastor, your volunteers, and your church of how God is at work.
My son, Solomon, and I were going over the top 12 verses this morning, and he was able to recite 11 of them (for the most part)! This dude is barely 4 years old and he has God’s Word in his mind and it is trickling into his heart.
On our way home from Awana tonight, my son and I were talking about when Christ is going to return. I asked, “Wow, what would you think if Christ really did come back next year?” With utmost confidence my son said, “I know that if Christ came tomorrow, I would go to heaven.” He then started to get tears in his eyes thinking about his friends who don’t believe. He said how every time someone accepts Christ it’s like a party in heaven. He wants all of his friends to be able to experience the party and he worries about those who don’t know Christ and how they will spend eternity suffering. I have to remind myself this is a 12-year-old boy saying this stuff!!
My husband has been battling severe depression off and on for three years. He’s been hospitalized countless times, and even went to a residential program for 50 days. But instead of getting mad at God, our son 100% trusts that God is in control and is going to heal his dad when it’s time. Amazing!
Sharing how God is working is powerful. I Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We WILL win because HE has already won! Ask for those stories and share them!
#4 After we pray, if we do ministry with the expectation that the Holy Spirit is working and keep God’s work squarely in front of us, we will be motivated to play our “A game.” Giving our very best is so important! We will expect kids to learn. We will expect that from a soul overflowing with love, joy and awe of God, they will go out and impact parents, friends and whole families for Christ. With God’s help we will expect them to rise up and change a generation. A child-like faith is incredibly powerful. Let’s not compromise, but instead play our “A game” as we strategize what is most effective in discipling our kids to know and live for Jesus.
My kids are in karate. Karate is intense! They expect kids to show up on time. They expect them to be disciplined. They expect them to learn. When they graduate from karate, they stand up proudly and declare, “I AM A BLACKBELT!” When our kids step into their communities, school, and homes, can they say, “I AM A CHRISTIAN!” with that same bold confidence? We have to intentionally teach kids whom their God is in order to see that happen. Let’s shout out Psalm 78:4, “We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.”
You know, when you put the spotlight on the soul, it is not going to get easier. In fact, it may very well get more intense; you may feel as if there are even more barriers. God will be working in amazing ways and the evil one would like nothing more than for us to give up. I love how Romans 12:11 encourages us to never be lacking in zeal—an enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal with tireless diligence in its furtherance—as we serve the Lord. I encourage you to keep running hard. Run with zeal and never give up shining the spotlight on what matters most—the soul!
Kris Smoll is the Director of Discovery Land Ministries. She oversees the children’s ministry of Appleton Alliance Church and is launching the DL Global partnership program. She is the wife to an awesome husband and fuels her two teen boys with frozen pizza.