Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Children's Ministry Questions

This post has been percolating for a couple of weeks now, but in light of all the (somewhat ridiculous) angst leading up to the President’s address to the children yesterday, and Grady’s post today, it seemed like a good time to throw it out there.

Why do we do children’s ministry? Especially in a church planting—missional context? The obvious answers are: It is easier to reach kids. They don’t question your motives or argue with your teaching. There is a hope that if the kids are reached, the parents will follow. And, admit it… it is easy.

The problem is that all of these reasons are questionable at best. Kids are impressionable. However, how would you like it if some well funded Muslims showed up at your local park to do children’s ministry. It is not necessarily nice to take advantage of the fact that kids don’t question your motives, because frankly, children’s ministry of this sort does have ulterior motives. They may be good motives, but do the parents of the kids think so? Due to that fact, there is a lot of doubt that reaching kids will translate into reached families. (The truth is that the other way of working—reaching parents to get the kids—works a whole lot better.)

So maybe children’s ministry, an attractional model by the way, should not be at the top of anyone’s list of strategies for reaching an area.

Then there is the whole other uncomfortable side of children’s ministry in the church itself:

How much damage have we done over the decades by reducing the Gospel down to the simplest of formulas and teaching generations of kids that Jesus is just some guy you “magically” “ask into your heart” as a “savior” and then you won’t go to Hell? There is an argument to be made that we have perverted the true Gospel enough that most of the Evangelical Ghetto has a false understanding of what the Christian walk is really all about. We have little understanding of Lordship, surrender and sacrifice.

5 comments:

  1. And then there's the model of a children's ministry in Africa where our pastor was a missionary. He questioned why he kept having "church" for these kids---adults weren't coming. And now those "kids" are the leaders in a viable church in their community.
    I was saved in a children's ministry. And I just had a college-aged nephew who thanked his grandmother for Child Evangelism and everything he learned there....he's acing Old Testament History in college because of the information he was taught as a child. So not all children's ministries "dumb down." And I don't know of many parents who are uninformed that their children are coming to many children's ministries--at least here in the States.
    Maybe children's ministry just isn't your thing---you enjoy the adult ministry--that's what I discovered about myself.
    And Jesus probably said it best: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them...
    Anyway, that's my food for thought! (And said in great love since you can't hear my tone of voice. LOL!)

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  2. And then there's the model of a children's ministry in Africa where our pastor was a missionary. He questioned why he kept having "church" for these kids---adults weren't coming. And now those "kids" are the leaders in a viable church in their community.
    I was saved in a children's ministry. And I just had a college-aged nephew who thanked his grandmother for Child Evangelism and everything he learned there....he's acing Old Testament History in college because of the information he was taught as a child. So not all children's ministries "dumb down." And I don't know of many parents who are uninformed that their children are coming to many children's ministries--at least here in the States.
    Maybe children's ministry just isn't your thing---you enjoy the adult ministry--that's what I discovered about myself.
    And Jesus probably said it best: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them...
    Anyway, that's my food for thought! (And said in great love since you can't hear my tone of voice. LOL!)

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  3. Well said Jason. I'm in agreement with you on this one, but I'm betting you get a fair amount of people that will disagree.

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  4. OK. I see a couple of clarifications are needed here. This all started out as some questions I am asking to provoke thought and get us to think about how and why we do things.

    #1 I am not anti-children's ministry per say. I have done and occasionally do this sort of ministry. I was saved as a child. The link in the post is to another one I did over a year ago defending aspects of children's ministry.

    #2 I think a lot of people do this sort of ministry for all the wrong reasons. They try to build up church planting strategies through this sort of ministry. They can point to success in the next generation sometimes, but they have given up on really reaching the culture. Instead of impacting a culture for Christ, they end up with a new generation of Christians that are made in their image, and you have a lot of little Christian communities built in America's image as a result. To truly reach the culture, you have to target the parents not the kids.

    #3 And my last point was sort of on a different tangent. Having worked for years in the Evangelical Ghetto that prevails in many Churches in the states, and specifically in Youth ministry, I think we have definitely watered down the Gospel begining in children's ministry. Or maybe a better way of saying it is, we have created a strange new "works-gospel" in a lot of people's minds. It is a works Gospel where the work is saying a few magic words, but where the cost in your own life is still free. There is no sacrifice and little talk of God's Lordship. You live how you want. Instead it should be understood as a Gospel that is freely given, but that will cost you everything. I'm not sure children can grasp that, and frankly a lot of Christians never outgrow their "Children Ministry Christianity." That could also have something to do with the current study I am doing in 1 Corinthians, but more on that in next Monday's post.

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  5. I see where you are coming from. And I also believe that we should always have ministries for children, but I sometimes think that we (maybe just me) are too afraid to reach out to the adults and think that by taking the easy way out (and getting to their kids first) will make it all fall in line. But probably the best way to reach an entire family would be to lead the father to Christ first, wouldn't you think? In the Bible it talks about how men and their whole households were saved...for example, Noah and his family.
    Children's ministry is incredible because it's so great when a child grows up hearing the gospel and never turns away from it. But it is tiring when I think that reaching my neighbor's kid will lead to reaching her parent. That's just too disappointing.

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