How to Match Your System to Your 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 3 in a series on the five practical steps to apply resilient child discipleship to your ministry.

Step #3: Match the System to the Philosophy

Systems are very important! Marketing expert Seth Godin says, “It’s not (exciting) to talk about building or maintaining an infrastructure, but just try to change the world without one.” Infrastructure. Systems. Processes. They are all vitally important. You and I could not meet up at the local Starbucks were it not for systems, processes and infrastructure.

But what system are we talking about? Are we talking about the systems of the past? Systems of the present? Or the systems we need to build the disciples who will lead the church of 2050?

Let’s imagine for a moment that all of our church programming and calendar existed on a backup server and all the backups were erased. It crashed. It’s gone. Now what? What would we do? Would we start over? If we started over, how would we build our ministry today? Would we raise millions of dollars and build a state-of-the-art education wing? Would you launch an innovative ed-tech learning environment where kids and leaders could access the community from any place on the planet at any time? What if we didn’t start with our assumptions about the needs of the system (existing programming), but rather we started with the needs of the child?

What if our ministry started with that young boy or girl looking up at us and asking, “Where are we going?”

We need to shift away from the assumed systems of the past, to child-centric thinking for the future of children’s ministry to thrive. For our ministries to elevate effective child discipleship, our teams (volunteers, staff, child disciple makers, etc.) have to personally know the kids in our ministries. What does school look like for them? What is their family life like? What hardships are they facing? No child should ever be just a name on a nametag that gets verified as they leave. Again, it’s not that the system is wrong (we need a check-in system!), it’s that we need to keep the system in perspective. The system is there to match our philosophy, not the philosophy adapting to the system of the past.

So let’s continue this robust conversation on the long-term effectiveness of what we are doing in our children’s ministries. We’ve narrowed our focus to prioritizing our time to “help every child love Jesus for the rest of his or her life” and we aim to accomplish this through “the process of a child believing in, belonging to and becoming like Jesus.”

Now that we’ve hit this point, there are a few meaningful questions we can ask:

  • How can we help every child to have a sense of belonging in our faith community? 
  • Do the kids in our care feel known, loved, seen, heard and engaged?
  • How can we be a safe haven for kids who come from challenging homes?
  • Are our “believing” tactics solid enough in a post-Christian culture?
  • In a time of increased confusion, do our kids understand the basics of the gospel?
  • Are the kids in our care Bible literate? Do they understand universal truth in a postmodern world?
  • How can we help kids live outside the simulation of Sunday morning and become like Jesus?
  • How can we redesign our system to major on the majors that are going to yield the best lifelong fruit?
  • Is our children’s ministry designed to help prepare kids to thrive in their faith in the year 2050?
  • In the distant future, will the kids in our ministry today “thank us” for preparing them for a future that may be hostile to the Christian faith

These are just icebreakers. We think your team has the best questions!

The future we are facing as a faith community may be one where the ways of Jesus are squeezed to the margins. As we face this unknown future together, let’s be sure to not start with our preconceived ideas and assumptions about our system and our church programming that may not produce the needed discipleship of the future. Rather, let’s start with a compelling “why,” a kid-focused philosophy of discipleship and build a system to match. With this direction, we can inspire an entire movement of fully engaged child disciple makers.

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.