The best ministry we do FOR children is when we do ministry WITH them.
1 – Not our future
One of the craziest things about Lutheran Christians is that we baptise children! We don’t ask whether they comprehend. We don’t wait for them to be worthy. We just welcome them because Jesus welcomed them (Mark 10:13-16). When we do this absurd act we show that God’s grace is for all and is not dependent on our maturity. But in baptising children we also make another audacious statement. By baptising children we declare that they are NOT the church of the future. They are members of the body of Christ right now (Gal 3:26). Good children’s ministry doesn’t see them as ‘potential’ for the future, but as disciples now. So the prayers, worship life and service of children are valid, vital and important for us all – right now (Ps 8:2)!
2 – Not just Sunday school
Guess what most people say when I ask them what their church does for children. They name something like Sunday school or kids’ talks. But sometimes these things get in the way. By communicating that ‘this bit is for the kids’, we may unintentionally tell children that the other stuff is not for them. We may actually be communicating that the rest of worship and community life is not so much for them. Even worse, we may actually assume that elements like kids’ talks or Sunday school are the main thing. But what really makes the greatest difference for children is being noticed, known and cared for by adults. We could have no Sunday school, kids’ club, kids’ talks or anything formal. But if each adult genuinely listened and built real relationships with children, we would have an incredible life-changing children’s ministry (Ps 78:6, Col 3:16).
3 – Not ministering ‘to’ them
When I was seven, my dad was the ‘Superman’ of home repairs. On Saturdays Dad would mend the neighbour’s air-conditioner or spend half the day fixing an old person’s blocked toilet. He helped everyone. And here’s the big thing. He took me along as his trade-assistant. I didn’t watch, I worked! That’s how to do good children’s ministry. Don’t make them observers. Involve them as participants. The best ministry we do for children is when we do ministry with them. It might be including them as you serve communion on Sunday, or taking them with you as you drop off groceries to someone in need, but whatever it is, we need to do it with them, not to them.
4 – Not apart
What does happiness mean to you? Young people tend to think in terms of excitement. But older generations might think of happiness more in terms of contentment. The gospel of Jesus encompasses both excitement (1 Cor 2:4) and contentment (John 14:27) all at once. Only together can older and younger Christians reflect the fullness of the gospel. We play different roles but we need each other. The best ministries to young people include many generations together, because when generations come together then we truly reflect the beautiful, diverse, crazy body of Christ!
Pastor Matt Thiele shepherds the flock at Immanuel Lutheran Church at Buderim on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
This feature story comes from The Lutheran September 2016. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT children