We are concluding a mini three-part series on why your church is so important to your children’s ministry.
There are a number of New Testament principles that are evident but in my experience there are three that stand out.
Children need meaningful relationships that give them a sense of belonging and genuine social connection.
Created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), children inherently look for relationships that offer connection and belonging. (As infants and toddlers, they look in their home. If they are denied these fundamental relationships or if they suffer in these relationships, they will indeed have to navigate the consequences.)
From their earliest years, children benefit from a rich relational environment where they can know life-giving affection, attention, unconditional love, and protection—all of which they can experience in the church.
As children grow, their need for relationship becomes more and more important. They develop friendships outside their nuclear and extended families, and ideally, they begin to experience the church as the family of God.
Within a body of the Lord’s people, the children/tweens/teens find Christian role models, social groups, biblical beliefs, and faith-based values. The children discover that a larger family loves them and, if both parents are committed Christians, shares their family’s beliefs and values.
This household of one mom, one dad, and 2.5 children living in suburban bliss and being involved in a life-giving church community is, however, a shrinking demographic in the US. The Census Bureau reports the following:
Between 1960 and 2016, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88 to 69. Of those 50.7 million children living in families with two parents, 47.7 million live with two married parents and 3.0 million live with two unmarried parents.During the 1960-2016 period, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8 to 23 percent and the percentage of children living with only their father increased from 1 to 4 percent. The percentage of children not living with any parent increased slightly from 3 to 4 percent.
And Christian parents make up only a small percentage of these percentages.
Barring some significant societal developments, this trend toward more single-parent homes—and toward fewer Christian homes—will likely continue.
In other countries the population of children living in Christian homes is already very low, and the likelihood of parents in those places bringing children to a Christian church is quite remote.
The church can, however, be an invaluable community for single parents, extended families, and children as well as for Christian families. The church is the community where they can belong.
In addition to providing a place to belong, the church helps children understand their purpose in life.
Children, for instance, want to be useful and valued; they want to contribute and do things that please others. The church is a community of people who can give children experience in all those areas and more.
In a variety of ways, the church family provides children with purpose. At the risk of sounding theological, I’m going to offer a few examples of how the church helps children find purpose:
Bearing God’s Image (Genesis 1:27)
At church children receive life-changing teaching, coaching, and practical guidance on living the way God wants His people—young and old—to live.
The church helps young boys and girls learn about sharing, helping, thanking, and serving; develop virtues and character; and understand that one of life’s great purposes is to be like Jesus and reflect the image of God in this world.
And followers of Jesus of all ages are able to reflect God’s image in how we think, speak, and act because all of us bear His image.
Doing God’s Work
As a member of God’s family, we are a member of a church, and God’s church has a purpose.
When God called Abraham and said He would give this faithful man as many descendants as there are stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5), God’s purpose for all of Abraham’s family members was to bless the nations (Genesis 12:2). A child becomes part of this nation-blessing team.
After all, children have gifts, they have received a call to ministry (Psalm 8:2), and they can speak on God’s behalf to others (1 Samuel 3). Being part of a church community gives you purpose whatever your age.
We were created to worship God—and only God (Romans 1:21-25).
Today in churches around the world, God’s people worship and express their love for God by singing, dancing, teaching, and giving of their support for the Lord’s work.
Having opportunities to worship is essential for children, and they can start worshipping early on. In fact, some of my most precious ministry memories are of times I worshipped God with children.
As we noted earlier, the Great Commission is about making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Said differently, the Great Commission is about helping boys and girls who don’t know Christ become more like Him every day.
Making disciples involves many elements and would certainly include:
- Reading God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16)
- Praying (Matthew 6:5-13)
- Modeling Christlike living (Philippians 3:17)
- Loving fellow disciples (John 13:35)
- Giving (Matthew 6:21)
- Serving (Matthew 20:26-28)
- Using one’s spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12)
- Worshipping (John 4:23-24
All of these activities are most fruitful when they happen in the community of God’s people, the church.
Author of Relational Children’s Ministry, Dan Lovaglia put it this way:
What made the difference in my discipleship journey from childhood into adulthood was the way in which I was invited to receive a remedy for what ailed me. The people who loved me and surrounded me during those years made a huge difference in my ability and willingness to stick with Jesus through thick and thin. God placed his disciples in that church community and challenged them to invest in me as a person, not just another name or number in the database. (43)
The New Testament’s good news for children is, they can have a right relationship with God through personal faith in Jesus Christ and they can be members of His family, the church.
This coming weekend we are presenting the Good News, the gospel as we welcome children into the church, God’s family!