A question I am often asked about children’s ministry is “what program do you use for your ministry?”.
As the end of the year comes up quickly I am already looking at what programs are available for 2014. There is a smorgasbord of children’s ministry programs available, all fun, vibrant and informative. The choice is tough, because I want to choose one that is equally as fun as it is engaging with the Bible. I want kids who attend our church to know that Jesus is King and Saviour- but I also want them to have fun while they learn. There are so many programs available, I find myself asking what makes one program better than the rest; which would “grow more fruit” than the others.
But what does it mean to have children ‘grow fruit’? How do you measure the spiritual ‘fruit’ of a child? How do you know when the lesson you’ve taught them has sunk from head to heart? James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead. When children start to use their hands to demonstrate what they know in their heart, then we can see real ‘fruit’. But what is this ‘fruit’? Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, as in Galatians chapter 5? Is it telling others about Jesus like He says in John 15? How do we know that what we are teaching will last?
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Yet statistics in Australia are telling us that once a child becomes an adolescent, they are much less likely to stay at church, and more often than not, leave church altogether. So what is this ‘fruit’ that will last and what do we teach that they ‘will not depart from it,’?
While many children’s programs and lessons are vibrant, fun and informative, we often unintentionally measure their ‘fruit’ or effectiveness by how much Bible knowledge or moral conscience children have. But knowledge of how many colours in the rainbow in the story of Noah is not enough. Knowing the difference between a ‘whale’ and a ‘big fish’ in the story of Jonah is helpful, but not life-changing. Even memorizing Bible verses each week is ineffective if children have no idea why they are learning them. In a world where children know that there are ten commandments, but don’t know why God’s people were given them, and when children know that Zaccheus was short but not that Jesus forgave his sins, faith becomes little more than head knowledge. In that world, blessings become ‘gold stars’ that God ‘gives’ to ‘good people’ and sin is something that only ‘bad people’ do. There is no need for Jesus in that world – and that is not what we desire. In fact, we desire the opposite.
We want children to know God. We want them to know that he made the rainbow as a promise to Noah, because God is good and His glory is magnificent. We want children to know that Jonah was swallowed by a ‘big fish’ in an act of undeserved grace by our loving heavenly Father. We want them to know the Bible. But more than that, we want them to know Jesus. Personally and authentically, for themselves. We want to see kids bringing their friends to church because they want them to hear about God’s love. We want to see kids praying for their world because they see the need for Jesus around them. We want to see them worshipping God in song because they are overwhelmed with the grace He has shown them. This is the fruit we strive for. Whether we talk about the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit in Galatians or the ‘fruit’ that is telling people about Jesus, children will only move from head-knowledge to heart-felt action when they are moved by God’s Holy Spirit.
We are blessed to be able to partner with Him in this ministry. We get to see the Holy Spirit grow ‘fruit’ in children when we cease to try to do it ourselves with only programs. The best way we can make a real difference in the lives of children is to be like Him ourselves. Our love for Jesus should be so obvious in our ministry to children that they want it for themselves. If we want to see children grow ‘fruit’ and have faith that will last – it needs to start in our own lives.
-If we want to see children passionate for Jesus Christ, we need to be passionate for Jesus Christ. (Be an example)
-If we want to see children telling others about God’s love, we must tell others about God’s love. (Be an example)
-If we want to see children praying to their Heavenly Father in all circumstances, first, guess what? We must pray often and with them! (Be an example)
Fruit that will last stems from a heartfelt passion for Jesus – and that overflows into others’ lives. Children will want to tell their friends about Jesus love when they experience it for themselves. They won’t want to memorise bible verses to win prizes, they’ll be doing it so they can tell their friends at school. Our programs and intentions can be wonderful, but if they aren’t pointing kids directly to the source of the wonder, they aren’t worth the time it takes to photocopy. We need children transformed by Jesus’ love, and they will see this love when we show them what it looks like.
Post date: 16/04/2014 • Post Author: Sally Contessi