Today’s guest blogger is Johnny Johnston, a Fuller MDiv grad and the Family Ministries Pastor at Church in the Vineyard in West Grove, Pa
I’m about to make a statement that most pastors wouldn’t dare to utter: Children’s Ministry may be the most important ministry in the church.
Here’s why: Children’s Ministry could be the first place a child has an encounter with Jesus Christ. While research shows us that parents remain the most important faith influencers in their children’s life, our ministries play an important part in coming alongside of families to reach their children for Jesus.
As a Family Ministries Pastor, one of the findings in the Sticky Faith research that really stuck out to me was the fact that the trajectories of where our teens will end up in their faith are set during the childhood years. In other words, if we have an idea of what we want our teens to know or at least be exposed to when they graduate high school, we need to start thinking about that when they enter the nursery, not when they enter their senior year. Children’s ministries are helping set the foundations of faith that should be built on the gospel. We, as those who love Jesus and love our children, need to take this fact very seriously.
Because what we do in Children’s Ministry has great implications in the future for how our teens view the gospel, Jesus, and the church, there are certain aspects of the Sticky Faith research that can help inform the way we lead our children:
Involve Parents Early and Often.
Dr. Christian Smith from the University of Notre Dame conducted thousands of surveys with parents and their teens about religion. His conclusion was that “the most important social influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parent.” 1 Parents have to be involved in our ministries. We have to keep them informed, help train them, and provide opportunities for them to interact with their children in a spiritual way.
Leave Space for Questions and Doubt.
Eventually, a teenager wrestling with a healthy understanding of their faith will have doubts and questions. Church needs to be a safe place to wrestle with those things. If we allow the children in our ministries to ask questions at a young age, hopefully they will feel comfortable doing so when their questions and doubts get more serious.
Look for Ways for Children to Serve in the Church.
Shadow an usher, help with greeting, put the cups out for coffee. The possibilities here differ from church to church but the more children are serving alongside adults the easier it is to create intergenerational relationships.
Teach the Gospel.
Children’s Ministries can be guilty of teaching “law.” Children are concrete thinkers and teaching the do’s and don’ts is easier than trying to teach something as abstract as grace. When we do teach the moral side of Christianity, we have to be careful to explain why we live that way: Because of Jesus. And out of gratitude for God’s grace. More importantly, our children need to see the gospel lived out in our lives.
What ways are you seeing Sticky Faith lived out in the children’s ministry at your church?
What other ideas do you have for starting young?
- Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford Press, 2005), 56. ↩