One of my favorite children’s anecdotes is the night of the storm filled with thunder and lightning.
The parents, concerned that their preschool daughter would be afraid, got up from bed to check on her. When they opened the door to her room, she was standing on a chair in front of the window with her hands up in the air in glee.
The lightning flashed and the thunder roared and the mother asked if the little girl was ok. She turned and replied, “Quiet, God is taking my picture!”
For that little girl, God was like a loving father grabbing a photo of His precious little girl. It is this relational nature of God that is so critical to children and to our children’s ministry.
Over the last weeks, we have developed a thorough biblical exposition of five crucial children’s ministry qualities found in Deuteronomy 6.
It is this passage that is one of the few sections of the Bible where God speaks directly about ministry to children, through His servant Moses.
In the next five weeks we will see how God’s interactions with His own children feature these same five qualities. While we could cite other examples, we will focus on the calling narrative in Exodus 3.
Here God calls Moses into ministry and we will see these five qualities. We will jump right in this week and see God’s relational approach to Moses.
We can see God’s relational approach in three ways, all of which should guide our ministry with children.
1. God Communicates to Moses in a Personal and Relevant Way
First God communicates to Moses in a personal and relevant way.
"Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, 'I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.' When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then he said, 'Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.' He said further, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God." (Exodus 3:1-6)
God speaks to Moses by name and reminds Moses that He has a long-standing relationship with his family. The message is in a language that Moses understands and is audible and understandable to Moses.
God does not communicate in writing through a letter. He does not call Moses by a miraculous sign, but rather with an audible personal voice. It is this relational intimacy that causes Moses to be so aware of God’s presence and to be afraid.
2. God Promises That He Will Be With Moses
Second, God promises “I will be with you” - a relational commitment of the first order.
Moses is not being called and sent off with God nowhere to be found afterward.
When difficulties arise, challenges present themselves and obstacles are to be overcome, God promises Moses that He will be right alongside, as relational as it gets!
"But Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?' He said, 'I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.'" (Exodus 3:11–12)
3. God Reveals His Personal Name to Moses
Third and finally, Moses asks God for His personal name, the currency of relationship in so many cultures.
There would be no distant formalities such as sir, mister, thee, or thou. Moses wants to know God’s real name, a sign of relational intimacy.
God reveals His personal name, YAHWEH, granting Moses relational access like no other before him. His bold request is met with a relational response of such magnitude that Orthodox Jews will never speak the name YAHWEH for fear of using the LORD’s name in vain.
Moses could call on God’s name and be assured that not only was God with him, but he was also on a first-name basis with the God of the Universe; relationally amazing!
"But Moses said to God, 'If I come to the Israelites and say to them, "The God of your ancestors has sent me to you," and they ask me, "What is his name?" what shall I say to them?' God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' He said further, 'Thus you shall say to the Israelites, "I AM has sent me to you."' God also said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the Israelites, "The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you": This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations." (Exodus 3:13-15)
Relationship is Essential in Children's Ministry
This kind of relational ministry foundation is absolutely essential in children’s ministry as we saw in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
Children need relevant and personal communication. It is a sign of love and care that is essential to a fruitful life-changing ministry with boys and girls.
Children also need to know that we will be with them in times of trouble, difficulty, pain, sorrow, or challenge. They can count on us to be a good listener, supporter, and resource as they face the inevitable challenges that life presents.
Finally, boys and girls need the kind of intimacy that God offered Moses, including the first name access that God gave to Moses. I know that in some parts of the US, formality is a cherished value. I share that concern.
Perhaps you will ask your children to call you Ms. Suzy or Mr. Bill, out of respect, but the main point is that they should have the chance to get to know you personally as you call them by name and enjoy getting to know them.
In Poland, where we lived for ten years, you never spoke to someone using their first name when you met them. You also never referred to them directly with the “you” pronoun.
In other words, you never asked a person “Do you know the time?” You asked, “Does the lady or gentlemen know the time?” A direct question or use of their first name was only allowed after they invited you to do so.
God invited Moses into relational intimacy establishing the foundation for Moses’ calling and subsequent life of ministry. This is our challenge as children’s workers, to develop meaningful relationships with the children that God has entrusted to our care.