I’ve never served in children’s ministry. I loved high school ministry back in the day at Grace Chapel of the Coast; I love teaching my own kids; but I’ve never been involved in “little kids” ministry. It’s a wonder, then, that I have become so incredibly and deeply moved by what God has been putting in my heart for our children’s ministry, our Kids on Mission.
In “big church,” our vision for our folks is to see people be ”saved, equipped, and sent” into the world by anchoring them to the Gospel, because it’s only the Gospel that can do those things in a worshipful, God glorifying way. With our kids, it’s no different.
We had our Kids on Mission Team Meeting a couple nights ago, and I shared with them the big, long term vision of what our church must be about. I believe that it is our mandate to see our kids saved, equipped, and sent. Sent into their homes, schools, and playgrounds as growing disciples who know, love, and bring the story of Jesus with them wherever they go. Children’s ministry is not a “necessary evil” of church (I’ve heard it called that), it’s not “babysitting” so the adults can learn and be equipped, and nor is it just “entertainment time” to keep them happy. Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2.2 were to “teach men who will teach other men” (my paraphrase). This is a FOUR GENERATION command! Paul (one) told Timothy (two) to teach men (three) who will teach other men (four)!
As ministers of the Gospel, we are simply farmers. We plant seed, and then we water…over, and over, and over, and over again. For weeks, months, and years. And we trust that the planted seed of the Gospel will start bringing change in the little hearts God has brought to us. We look forward, in faith, to the fact that if we invest deeply, passionately, and faithfully NOW, we WILL reap the benefit of the harvest that the Holy Spirit will bring in these lives in the future. Our children, you mark my words, will raise up to be grounded, Jesus-loving men and women, moms and dads, bible study teachers, and even church planters and pastors. But only if we believe that now is the time, and only if we bring them daily to the One who can change their lives.
And it’s for this reason that I am, first and foremost, excited for the men and women God has brought to our team and has impassioned to give their own hearts to these kids’ lives, and I am also excited about the plan that God has given us to see this vision for their lives happen.
A Different Kind of Gospel.
Too often, I’ll read a children’s bible that says “God chose Noah because Noah was a good man who obeyed God.” I’ll also read “and just like David, you too can beat the giants in your life if you just have faith.” Or another, “and the moral of the story of Jonah is to obey God, or else you’ll get swallowed by a fish.” Okay, I’m exaggerating on that last one, but not too much.
Here’s the problem: Noah wasn’t a good man (he was a sinner just like you and me), and that was definitely not the reason God spared Him. God spared Noah because GOD is good and gave Him grace, and because GOD wanted to have mercy on this sinful, ill-deserving world! David shouldn’t be the hero of the story, and neither should we! David doesn’t represent us in the story, we’re represented in the story by the scared Israelites on the hillside cowering and helpless, looking for the REAL Someone to save us! And the real moral of the Jonah story is that because Jesus so loves you and wants to send you out into your life mission, He’ll even send you into a fish in order to get you back on HIS track and bring you to the great joy that it is to be walking in His will! You can’t change God’s perfect plan for you!
Now that’s a different Gospel than we’re used to hearing, isn’t it? That’s because the usual “Gospel” we see taught to our kids and that WE teach our own kids isn’t really the Gospel at all. But this Gospel is different, because this Gospel is the biblical Gospel. Our goal for our Kids on Mission isn’t just to teach them “right or wrong according to the bible”; it’s not to just show them the “moral of the story” so that they don’t sin and instead choose obedience; it’s not just simply to change their outer behavior. Our goal is to bring our kids face to face with the real Hero each and every day, holding their little hands and guiding them to Jesus so they can see who Jesus is and letting Jesus be the One who doesn’t just simply change their outer behavior, but changes their inward hearts as they get to know Him and fall in love with Him.
In our Kids on Mission ministry, we are using the Gospel Story for Kids Curriculum. This is a 3 year curriculum that first takes the kids through the Old Testament over a year and a half, and then takes them through the New Testament over a year and a half. But here is the great part: each Old Testament story doesn’t focus on the “moral of the story” or the “do’s and don’t’s” of the stories, but each story’s focus is to show the kids where Jesus and His Gospel can be found in each story of the bible!
Each lesson on every Sunday will purposefully point the kids towards Jesus (not good works or simple obedience and morality), and help anchor them in the Gospel. Over a year and a half, the kids will get an incredible understanding of how the Old Testament paves the way towards Jesus, before then spending a year and a half in the New Testament that reveals Jesus!
One Story for All Ages.
What’s more, the curriculum is divided up for three age groups: Preschool, Lower Elementary (K-3rd), and Upper Elementary (4-6th). ALL THREE classes will go through the SAME section of Scripture, learning the SAME way that Jesus is shown in the Scripture’s story, but each class will be varied in depth and challenge and each will be uniquely age appropriate. From object lessons to activities, each age level will get a personalized look at how the Gospel is formed through the Old and New Testament.
The best part of this is that all of your kids, no matter what age, will be learning the SAME thing every week, but in their own way. This makes family discussion so much more fun and valuable! They even have the same monthly memory verse to work on, but each age group works on a different amount of the Scripture (Preschool learns the main line, Lower Elementary learns a couple sentences, Upper Elementary learns a whole paragraph).
To add to that, when your preschooler gets through the 3 years of curriculum and “graduates” into lower elementary, he or she will start over in Genesis, but now it will be deeper and more challenging and will build on what he or she had been learning before! By the time your preschooler is in junior high, he or she will have gone through the entire bible three times (!!!!!), but at three uniquely challenging levels.
To top it off, you, the parents, can get involved every day of the week! You can purchase a daily, 10 minute devotional for your family that further develops what your kids learned on Sunday! This devotional is available online for both the year and half in the Old Testament, called Long Story Short, as well as the New Testament devotional called Old Story New, to go along with our Sunday teachings (you can also get our Sunday teaching book called the Gospel Story Bible). So, if on Sunday we taught through “Week 1: God Creates,” on Monday through Friday you can open up the devotional that takes your family deeper into the story of creation, and also helps gear them up for the next Sunday’s lesson. It includes more fun object lessons, prayer time, and great discussion questions to ask your kids!
The Parents Will Grow.
Lastly, I know that this will revolutionize the way you shepherd your children in the Gospel. And as a matter of fact, I know this will also revolutionize even the way you shepherd your own heart. I know how crazy life gets, and I know many of you parents don’t have a regular time in the Word that really “does something” for you and keeps you on track. Well, this is a great way to start! Start by going through the entire bible over the next three years with your family and find Jesus all throughout the Old and New Testament! It will change your life!
A Final Word.
All that to say, I am simply elated. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in God’s work in this future generation. So much so, that I thoroughly enjoy hanging out not just with my own kids weekly (read about what we call “Fight Clubs”), but I also do so with some of the other younger ones in our church because I know that they, too, need to be shepherded in the Gospel, and that the fruit of that harvest will “feed” thousands as they, too, are “saved, equipped, and sent.”