Why do we have a children’s ministry?

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 1 in a series on the five practical steps to apply resilient child discipleship to your ministry.

Step #1: Start with the “Why”

After more than 15 years in children, youth, and family ministry, I have witnessed thousands of child pick-ups—that moment when a parent brings the security sticker or tag into the room. Like you, I pay attention to those interactions because I always want to make sure a kid goes home with the right adult. That moment also provides a brief window into what’s going on underneath the surface of a child’s life, as well as into the minds of the parents. I’ve seen countless parents ask a question that is an unstated metric of children’s ministry—”Did you have fun!?”

The question, “Did you have fun?” is not a terrible question. It’s just not the most important or the final question. “Did you have fun?” is a natural response as we see our kids bound out of their classrooms with a smile on their face (most of the time :)). We want kids to enjoy themselves as they engage at church and as they become disciples of Jesus. We want them to form impressions and memories that being with the people of God is a safe harbor in a world filled with violent storms. We want kids to run to church as the place where they are seen, known, and understood better than any other place on the planet.

But why? Why is, “did you have fun?” the wrong question to lead with? First, it demonstrates to a child that “fun” is the most important metric of their time at church. They may begin to ask themselves, did I have fun? Was I supposed to have fun? Is church always fun? In my almost two decades of vocational church ministry, I’ve learned what you have probably also learned as well —that church is not always fun.

As these children mature, they are going to see that being the church and living out the mission of the church—it is both our greatest joy, but also some of our deepest pain as we walk alongside those who are hurting as we live out the mission of the church. Being a disciple means being connected to pain, struggle and sadness. As pastors, we help celebrate births and hold hands with loved ones beside fresh dug graves. We stand before young couples as they say, “I do.” And we also watch families rip themselves apart like ships breaking up underwater. It’s not always fun and we need to set the right tone for children, from the earliest of days. We need a better question, because if we don’t, we are suggesting that church is some kind of simulation which simply won’t work for the church of the year 2050.

So why do we minister to kids? Why do we have a children’s ministry?

It’s because you want to see these kids love Jesus for the rest of their lives. And you want to see them believing in, belonging to and becoming like Jesus. Just imagine if our “why” was abundantly clear to church leadership, child disciple makers, parents and kids. Imagine if we were all speaking one language, with unity and clarity!

You can just envision a new set of questions and exclamations:

  • Oh, Emma, I missed you! Did you learn about the love of Jesus today?
  • Hey Garret! Did you experience Jesus today?
  • I just love watching you become more like Jesus!
  • I heard you were worshipping God in here today—you inspire me!
  • Your leader said you helped a friend today.  It’s so encouraging to watch you live like Jesus.

Let’s keep being laser focused on our “why” and equip leadership, parents and kids to join in on our common rally cry—Resilient Child Discipleship.

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.

This reimagined church is a church made up of child disciple makers. 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.