I love this quote from Anne Frank, “Even if people are still very young, they shouldn’t be prevented from saying what they think.”
For so many children, church is where you go to sit and listen. You may have fun, sing, play some games and hear some teaching.
But it is a rare occurrence that a child can speak openly and freely about what they are really thinking. To develop a transformational children’s ministry this has to change.
Over the last three weeks we have built the case that Jesus was committed to Relationships (Smooth Stone #1) in His ministry.
This week we are looking at the fourth quality of a transformational children’s ministry (Smooth Stone #4).
That fourth quality is Discussion. Helping children discuss the Truth of God’s Word and how it applies to their real life.
Discussion, in Jesus' Ministry
Last week we looked at Jesus and how He was all about teaching the truth of God’s Word.
Often this mission involved helping first-century Jews see the error in their teaching (Mark 12:24; Luke 10:25-37).
On other occasions Jesus introduced some new doctrine (Matthew 6:9-13; John 11:25). Whatever His message, Jesus would not teach God’s truth apart from real life.
Below are several examples of Jesus connecting the Word of God to real life.
In the same chapter a wealthy young man and Jesus’ disciples were confused by the everyday-life implications of Jesus’ teaching regarding wealth (Mark 10:17-31).
In the discussion that followed, Jesus explained that believers are to integrate His teaching into real life.
In John 8:31-58, Jesus had a lengthy discussion with Jews who had believed Him (v. 31) but who did not understand how Jesus’ teaching of the truth would set them free (vv. 32-33).
Jesus explained that their current master was the sin that had enslaved them (vv. 34-35) and then reaffirmed that “the truth will set you free” (v. 36).
This conversation took place as the Jews talked about the truth of Jesus’ teaching and its bearing on everyday life.
As the discussion continued, people asked questions and Jesus answered, leading to His climactic statement “Very truly I tell you… before Abraham was born, I am!” (v. 58).
With those two simple words “I am,” Jesus ascribed to Himself the name of Yahweh, leading the Jews who had believed Him to want to stone Him.
Jesus was clearly not content with stating a propositional truth and then moving on. He was willing to talk about His teaching and its real-life implications.
Finally—and most disconcerting—was Jesus’ attitude toward people who knew the truth but twisted it, resulting in a twisted life.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So, you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:1-3)
Jesus didn’t say that the teachers and Pharisees weren’t teaching the truth; He was pointing out that their teaching had no connection to their own life.
He labeled them hypocrites because their actions did not match their words: they did not practice what they preached.
Jesus reserved some of His strongest criticism for those who knew the truth but did not live accordingly.
We could look at numerous other examples (Matthew 12:1-14; John 3:1-18; etc.) where Jesus talked about truth and its real-life applications.
He wanted His followers to connect His Word to their real life. Only then would they see their life transformed.
Help Children Understand How the Truth Relates to Real Life
Children’s workers should have the same concern that Jesus had Jesus connecting the truth to real life.
Teaching the truth is foundational, but equally important is helping children understand how the truth of God’s Word relates to real life.
Jesus did not just talk about the truth and real life, he created an environment where His followers could ask questions, talk with Jesus and even disagree with Him!
When Jesus spoke, He would invite comments (John 6:35-71), questions (John 16:16-30), and disagreement (Mark 8:31-33).
In each case He clarified, corrected, and challenged. This is the essence of a discussion.
Many times, Christians know the Truth but struggle to connect that truth to their real life. This is a crucial issue for children.
I was made aware of this early in my children’s ministry life when we taught a group of six-year old’s about honoring your father and mother in the LORD (Ephesians 6:1-2).
In my little Discussion group of 6-8 boys several of the boys were in single parent homes with no father. They were confused and sad because they only saw their dad occasionally. In my friend’s group one of the boys started crying because his dad had died.
Sometimes we are so concerned about teaching the truth, being creative and connecting with children that we forget about the real-life challenges that they face.
The Discussion time allows children to say what they think and even share some of their struggles.
Creating a transformational children’s ministry means creating a climate where boys and girls can speak openly, share their hearts and “talk about” God’s Word and their real life.