How to Develop a “Kid-Focused” Philosophy

Article by Ross Cochran January 7, 2020

As KidMin leaders, children’s pastors, youth leaders and child influencers, we have our hearts set on discipling kids, but our ministry programming may not be set up to accomplish this vision. So how do we move from where we are, today, to a more effective future that will produce the resilient disciples to lead the church of the future? We’re going to walk through a pathway to implementation marked with five practical steps.

This is part 2 in a series on the five practical steps to apply resilient child discipleship to your ministry.

Step #2: Develop a Kid-Focused Philosophy

As a part of my ministry role, I travel frequently; speaking, leading workshops and consulting with churches. Inevitably, I run into occasional negative customer service experiences. During these encounters I sometimes find myself wondering, “Are your policies and practices designed around what’s best for the airline? Or for what’s best for getting passengers to their destinations?” I think KidMin leaders feel a similar tension, wondering if our ministry is designed to help kids arrive at the intended destination, lifelong disciples of Jesus, or something else entirely.

One critical question we’ve been asking is:  Are we programming for the immediate, or prioritizing for the future?

We can focus the bulk of our energy on the programs that keep kids moving, filled with energy and excitement, but kids can still walk out of our care and be left feeling unknown, isolated, disconnected from the church and having no space to hear from God. We’ve all been there, and it’s easy to gravitate towards solutions and strategies that we know we can control, like large group programming. This reminds me of the story of Peter, Jesus, and the boat in Matthew 14:22-33. In this passage Jesus asks Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him. Peter has to leave the safety of his control in order to answer the call of his Lord.

When I read this passage I think, “this is us!” We like to focus on what we can control, what we can pull off, what we can do in terms of KidMin programming—which doesn’t always equate to child discipleship. Just like Peter, we have to make a shift to prioritize child discipleship so that future generations of children and students can experience the love of Jesus and respond to the invitation of the gospel.

Just for a moment, let’s set all of our programming aside, and ask the question, what would a “Kid-Focused Philosophy” look like?

Let’s take another look at the Resilient Child Discipleship definition:

Resilient Child Discipleship: The process of a Christ-follower committing meaningful, intentional, and consistent time and space to a child or a group of children so that they may know who Jesus is and are known by a body of believers (Belong), to place their faith in Jesus and apply the Word of God (Believe), and to reproduce their own discipleship (Become) so that a third spiritual generation can lead and love like Jesus Christ.

What do you see there?  We see the presence of loving, caring adults who are being intentional and faithful in engaging children. During their time together, these Christ-like adults engage relationally so that these children feel known, loved, cared for. The kids are hearing and experiencing God’s Word. They have space to think about it and ask questions. They can explore it, learn it, memorize it and live it out. And we see kids being shown how to engage the culture and live outside of the simulation of “weekend church,” loving and leading like Jesus. We call this Belong, Believe and Become.

Notice what is not there—curriculum, videos, programming, a polished and highly produced experience, etc. The metrics for child discipleship are not measured by these things. They are simply methods or tools for engaging these children. We didn’t start by listing out the programmatic practices first. We started by fleshing out a kid-focused philosophy that’s designed to influence discipleship for a lifetime.

Our temptation as KidMin leaders is to go right to the programmatic practices or to put all of our energy into making the existing system better. But as the research is showing, we really don’t even know if the existing system is producing long-term discipleship results. We know we are good at programming, but we don’t know what the programming is producing long-term. Therefore, let’s develop a proven, child-focused discipleship philosophy first, then we will build a system and a program to match the philosophy!

So, what shifts do you need to make in your ministry?

Are you trying really hard to make the existing system better or more efficient? Or, could you slow down. See the children that God has brought you and seek to make it more relational than ever before?

Child discipleship sees each kid as being on a path to becoming all who God intends for him or her to be in His Kingdom. Each child is known, loved, understood and has a pathway to spiritual growth as they believe in, belong to and become like Jesus.

If we are not clear, visionary and specific, KidMin can become merely week-to-week programming. In setting and meeting our short-term goals we may completely miss the ultimate goal of child discipleship. As we prayerfully anticipate the church of 2050, let’s unite as a KidMin community around what will shape the fearless future of the church —child discipleship.

This reimagined church is a church made up of child disciple makers. These are the fire carriers. The loving, caring adults who make up an engaging church community who throw their doors and arms open to the children of our families and communities. This is a place of belonging where kids can believe in and become like Jesus. This is the church of 2050.