Reaching the Family through the Children
More than any other ministry, children’s ministry can be the door that opens the hearts of the whole family to the gospel. When you touch a child’s heart, you touch the family. This is a fatherless generation; it’s time for people to get outside the four walls of the church to go after the children and their families in order that this world can be won for Christ.
As a children’s outreach minister for more than 27 years now, I have learned that the compassion of Jesus Christ through a believer is just hard for a heathen to pass up. Paul said it like this in Romans 2:4, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” It’s through the love of God by the hands of caring believers that the whole family can be brought to Christ and live a productive life on this earth.
Two young people who I have the privilege of seeing grow in the Lord daily are José and his sister, Lacretia, who were first led to the Lord through our bus ministry about 15 years ago. Their family life was a mess. José and Lacretia regularly came on the bus that we sent to the low-income housing area of Tulsa. Even though their parents didn’t attend church, they allowed the children to ride our bus to the other end of the city every Saturday. (We have 1200 children ages 3-15 years old who ride our buses every week for “Saturday church” without their parents.)
When we first met José and Lacretia, there were multiple families living in their house. As the church body reached out to them, we helped the parents get better jobs so they could move into a house of their own. Over time the parents and extended family members came to church and received Christ, bringing a whole new dimension to the power of the gospel in their lives. The congregation helped the family get furniture and appliances for the house. Lacretia had never had a room of her own, so some of the church members went on a shopping frenzy to bless her big time. They completely outfitted her new room with bedding, curtains, and accessories to make it as girly as possible. She had never seen anything like it.
At other times we gave them groceries when they were in need, and one time we even helped them with a car. They knew the church cared. That’s what made the difference in their lives. So José and Lacretia began working with us to help other small children in the bus ministry because of how it had affected their lives. They both worked as interns in various areas of the church, became lead counselors at the summer children’s camp, worked on the Mobile Kidz Clubs trucks in the after school hours, and went on several mission trips where they led other children to the Lord. Their impact has been tremendous in our city.
So what became of José and Lacretia? I’m glad you asked. Well, José is about to graduate from Oral Roberts University, he’s engaged to be married, and he has a dance group called Urban Sent where he is using dance and hip-hop to touch the next generation. Lacretia is working with young girls in the bus ministry and continues to reach out with the same love that has touched her life.
The Fatherless Generation
James 1:27 tells us the importance of reaching out to the families: “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” What does that look like in your church?
When I joined the staff of Victory Christian Center under Pastors Billy Joe and Sharon Daugherty, I noticed something different in the way they ministered to the bus children. They took the mandate from James 1:27 and lived it out in front of the congregation. The bus children were invited to a special service in the main sanctuary for the illustrated Christmas and Easter sermons. They weren’t kept in a side auditorium but were accepted as a part of the congregation. By including the children from the fatherless and at-risk families, the church body saw these children and youth who ride our buses as members of our congregation. They are generous to give the children new school supply packs in August, new toys at Christmas, and candy and prizes for the annual Fun Fest (Halloween alternative) each year. They also sponsor hundreds of bus kids to summer camp where they receive time away from their dangerous neighborhoods and quiet time with the Lord for a few days.
Since 1999, we have found a new way to minister to the whole family through the Mobile Kidz Clubs trucks that go into the Tulsa low-income neighborhoods. They can hear the music on these trucks coming into their neighborhood long before the truck actually arrives! The side of the truck comes down, and the volunteers start ministering to the children with music, games, candy, and a gospel message on their level. The parents who attend receive a free bag of groceries and are invited to attend the Sunday services. We even offer to pick up the whole family if they have no transportation for the church service. Many families are now attending the church services because of the outreach of Mobile Kidz Clubs.
We’ve got to get out of our Sunday-morning-Wednesday-night idea of church for this fatherless generation. Whole families are broken and dying out there, and they need people who are willing to be Jesus’ hands and feet to this world. Reaching the children is the easy part; changing a whole family takes a little more planning. But we can do it, and we will do it. Because the bus stops here.