In recent months I began serving as the kids ministry director at my church. For me, getting on the floor to teach toddlers about Jesus has become a joy. But I’m discovering not everyone feels this way. And actually, I didn’t always feel this way.
I realize there are people who should never work with kids. But the reasons for not serving in a children’s ministry I hear from most people don’t stand to reason. The main explanations I hear for why people don’t want to serve in a ministry to children could be summed up in three categories:
- They aren’t “kid” people.
- They don’t feel equipped or comfortable teaching.
- And they need to be in church not with kids.
I’d like to show you here why those three arguments should not be reasons to not serve children the gospel.
Your theology needs the humility of snotty noses
Ministry to children is not dignified. When I ask people to serve in kids ministry and their response is, “I’m not a kid person,” I want to say, “Well that’s nothing you can’t repent of!” Unless you have a history of abusing children, your aversion to teaching and serving children as a Christian needs repentance, not a refusal to serve.
When Jesus was teaching the adults and crowds who followed him, his disciples were annoyed with people who were bringing their kids to hear Jesus. They thought Jesus was too important for slobbering, loud, disruptive kids. And when Jesus saw that the disciples were shooing the kids away, he was mad! He scolded Peter, James, John and the other men with him. And then he told them no one would even enter the kingdom of heaven, unless they humbled themselves to the position of a snotty-nosed toddler.
There was a time I wanted to lead a women’s ministry. And when I was asked to serve in kids ministry, I felt disappointed. I felt like it was beneath me. And the Holy Spirit convicted me of my desire for an “honorable” position. Not that there’s anything wrong with ministering to women or adults, but if I am not in a posture before God that sees the goodness of bringing children to Jesus as an honorable position from which we grow in the Kingdom of God, I’ve got Jesus’ kingdom values all turned upside-down.
If you know your Bible, and believe sound doctrine, but when it comes to teaching the next generation the good news you know like the back of your hand your response is, “I’m not a kid person!” Repent! You don’t have a personality problem, you have a sin problem. If you won’t lead a child to Jesus because kids get on your nerves, repent of hindering children from knowing Jesus because of your pride, anger, impatience, lack of love, etc. You’re theology needs a dose of snotty-nosed humility. Humble yourself, get down on the floor with some disruptive kids and share your passion about what Jesus has done with them!
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” And God commands his people, all of his people, to proclaim his goodness to the next generation.
You learn the best when you teach another
A very well-known fact about learning is that when you teach someone what you’re learning, it sticks. I work in a hospital as a nurse and the gold-standard for teaching patients and families is what they call teach-back. In teach-back, the patient or family member teaches the nurse what they are learning. This demonstrates that the patient comprehends what they were taught and can apply it to their life.
One of the more common replies I get when inviting people to serve the church in teaching kids about Jesus is, “I don’t feel comfortable teaching.” Upon further discussion I find what’s behind that is a feeling that they don’t know the Bible enough or don’t know how to teach. But the very thing they’re avoiding doing is keeping them from growing in the area they feel insecure about.
The best way to get a handle on the message of the Bible is to spend time reading it, wrestling with God about it and telling someone else what you’re learning. I know for me, if I’m not teaching kids or telling someone else what I’m learning as I read the Bible, I won’t read it nearly as much. Teaching kids the Bible forces me to study the scriptures like I otherwise wouldn’t have .
The reasons behind God’s command to teach the coming generation about what he has done in Christ is not singular. It’s not just so the next generation will know. It’s also so we will know! Telling others what God has done helps us grow. Jesus’ final command to us was to go make disciples and to teach them all that he has taught us. Surely this is meant to grow us up in Christ as well as lead others to follow him with us.
Teaching kids what you are learning from the Bible as you follow Jesus is one of the best ways to learn your Bible and grow in knowing Jesus.
Jesus is there
“I need to be in church, not with kids.” This is the third most common reason for not serving in kids ministry I hear from tired and weary people who are depending on Sunday’s preaching and singing to be the gas that fills their tank for the week.
We suburban, American Christians tend to use church like Burger King. We go to church to get our dose of worship and Bible and then head out into our week, running on spiritual fumes till the next week. We treat the church like consumers instead of a covenant body.
We are to come to God hungry and desperate, but he feeds us more than just for an hour on Sunday listening to good preaching and good singing. We are to consume what God feeds us, but he doesn’t feed his church the way the teenage cashier at Burger King feeds us, giving us what we want and sending us on our way.
Jesus said to his disciples once, “I have food you know nothing about.” He was talking about the time he had just spent telling a woman their society pushed to the margins that he was the living water she was looking for. Jesus was fed where he poured himself out. The same goes for us.
Jesus is not just in the sanctuary, or big room gathering on Sunday. He is on the floor with kids in the nursery and in the elementary room opening Bibles to find out what God has been doing. He’s at home, and in the office, and at the grocery store and on the street. He’s with us. He’s with his people. And he wants to feed us. He wants to help us grow strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. But this spiritual muscle and healthy growth in Christ happens in obeying what the Father tells us to do.
Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me to accomplish his work.” Our food is also to do what Jesus has sent us to do. It is the will of our Father that we teach the next generation of kids the good news about what he has done for us in Christ. And there, on the floor, with snotty-nosed kids, he’s feeding us.
The strength our weary souls desire is not found in escaping the denial of ourselves. It’s found in embracing the denial of ourselves to serve others in Jesus’ name.
We MUST Teach Other People’s Children
In my Bible, Psalm 78 has a title over it that reads, “Tell the Coming Generation.” In it, the psalmist is charging the people of God to hear him. He’s admonishing them not to hide the wonders God has done from the next generation. One thing that strikes me about this psalm is in verse four. It says, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” It strikes me that this isn’t a plea for parents to teach their children, as in Deuteronomy 6. But it’s a plea for God’s people to teach the children of other people in the congregation. We are to teach other people’s children.
Teaching kids the gospel of Christ through the Bible opened with young children, through songs in the nursery, through stories about Jesus to toddlers, is for all of us in the church. May the Spirit turn the hearts of the adults in his church to the children.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.