What a day! IGNITE Children’s Ministry Conference and Expo is the annual training event for our leaders of children’s ministries, or for anyone who wants to be empowered to disciple kids…
Ignite gathers children’s ministry workers of all denominations across our state, and brings them together to hear inspiring key note speakers, empowering electives, as well as encourage attendees and leaders alike that we really are working together to make disciples of children in our homes, churches, schools and communities.
Over 700 people attended Ignite this year– each year us Baptists take up the greatest cohort of these delegates, and it is such a great time to connect with each other, encourage each other and learn from each other.
The theme of Ignite this year was INNOVATE. The dictionary defines it like this:
“to introduce something new; make changes in anything established.”
Change is hard! New ideas don’t always come easily! But in today’s ever-changing culture, we were reminded that it is important to stay relevant. Our key note speaker, David Wakerley, Kids Pastor at Hillsong church innovator-extraordinaire said, “Being relevant to kids means being where the kids are. If the kids are into video games, or whatever it is, that’s where we’ve got to be, because if we aren’t there, someone else will be.” It was a great challenge to our leaders and kids’ workers – are we meeting the kids where they are? Are we being innovative?
I’ve talked before about the greatness of Generation Z. They are ‘doers’. They don’t just want to sit on the sidelines of life and learn by observation, they want to be involved, giving it a go, and getting their hands dirty. Research states, “Typical training style preferred by Gen Z is interactive and multi-modal, while their key communication tools involve hands on learning and participation. Their leadership style is through consensus and feelers, their influences and values are global and short-term wants, while their management approach is involving and revolving around the statement ‘here’s what I think’.”(generationz.com.au) So to keep up with this active, involved, ‘here’s what I think’ generation, we need to be constantly innovating new and engaging ways to involve kids in our ministries. Jesus literally placed a child ‘in their midst’ when He was teaching His disciples (Matthew 18:2). This was astounding in Jesus’ time! No one looked to children as ‘the greatest in the Kingdom’ – they were the ‘least’ ! Surely Jesus is the greatest example we have for being innovative – His teachings turned things upside down! So how can we be ‘innovative’ and ‘challenging’ in our own culture, as Jesus was, to be engaging this generation of movers and shakers?
To be innovative like Jesus, we need to see kids in the light that Jesus did. Literally, “in our midst.” There are kids in our homes, kids in our streets, kids in our schools, kids in our churches, kids in our communities, kids everywhere. They are in our midst. And they all want to be involved. If we are going to be making any kind of difference, if we are going to try and innovate a way to reach kids for the gospel, we need to find a way to get them involved. Moving their faith from head-knowledge, to heart-felt faith and then seeing their hands move into action. If we are going to be relevant and reach kids of Generation Z, we need to involve them!
We need to focus on making disciples who are making disciples. We need to communicate to kids that we don’t just ‘cater’ for them at church, but that they are vital members of our church and that they can be involved in the church’s mission. Michelle Anthony, author of “Dreaming of More for the Next Generation” says we can teach kids… “how to look like a Christian in 10 easy steps…because good behavior looks so much like faith on the outside. The children look well-mannered, they go to church, they bring their Bibles, they memorize their verses, they say they’re sorry when they’ve hurt someone, they may go on mission trips, they may give some money as an offering, and they participate in selfless acts of kindness. When we’ve taught them these things, it’s tempting for us to say to ourselves, “Good job! Look how spiritual my child is!””. But Jesus doesn’t kids to look like Christians. He wants us to make disciples, who make disciples.
When we are discipling kids, we want to give them opportunities to put their faith into action – to do great things! To see them leading each other in worship, talking to their friends about the gospel, welcoming people to church, serving other kids and adults in the church and community- this is the goal of discipleship! To see heartfelt, passionate faith in action, to see disciples of Jesus make disciples! Kids today are asking for the opportunity, so let’s give them the chance to be involved. Let’s be innovative enough to foster a culture that not only teaches children to serve others, but also gives them a chance to do that. When Jesus was speaking to His disciples about going on to make disciples of all nations, He told them they would go on to do greater things than He! Jesus gave opportunities for His disciples to not just serve others, but set them up to do them greatly! (John 14:12.) This means giving kids opportunities to serve, the responsibility to lead, and the authority to have influence for the work of the gospel. It’s time for us to step up and be innovative. To “introduce something new; make changes in anything established.” If we truly want to see children as disciples of Jesus, let’s make disciples who are equipped and empowered to make disciples. They are ready. Are we?
“Many things can wait. Children cannot. Right now their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, and their senses are being developed. To them we cannot answer “Tomorrow.” Their name is Today.” Gabriela Mistral, – Their name is Today