5 Smooth Stones for Transformational Children's Ministry
One of the Bible’s great stories for children is David and Goliath. I mean, it has a lot going for it, especially for the boys.
Once when I told the story to a group of four-year-olds, I apparently went on a little long in my description of Goliath. During the week I ran into a mom and dad in the grocery store, and they told me their four-year-old boy thought Goliath was the hero.
Oops! David, the actual hero, is a young boy whose life illustrates how God can use boys and girls to accomplish His work.
In fact, some of the greatest ministry in the world is done by children. For our purposes, though, I want to focus on the stones. David used five smooth stones in his confrontation with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40).
Remember, the army of God was facing a giant, and these fighting men were clearly afraid of him. Each day passed, and no one was willing to step out in faith against the Philistine champion… until David volunteered (v. 17).
King Saul offered the shepherd boy the world’s tools of combat—his helmet, armor, and sword—but David turned down the offer. Instead, he took up five smooth stones and marched toward his opponent.
In the name of the Lord, he was ready to face Goliath. David vanquished the enemy with the first stone he slung, and his victory has been told to countless children for centuries.
Not many of today’s children faces a single battle champion seeking to destroy God’s people. Instead, every one of today’s children faces a spiritual battle against the dark powers and principalities of this world. Consumerism, internet pornography, wars, domestic violence, disease, and a host of other issues definitely put children at risk.
To equip children for that battle, the church has frequently turned to the world’s educational models, ministry techniques, and popular programs that are akin to the world’s armor King Saul had offered David.
There are countless books on children’s ministry that are programmatic, methodological, and educationally sound: the loose biblical proof-texting makes them all appear a viable approach to teaching kids about Jesus.
I want to propose, however, that we use instead five smooth stones that God has laid out for us in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. These Five Smooth Stones are the bedrock principles for transformational children’s ministry.
Transformational Children’s Ministry is another word for making disciples of children in response to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Transformational children’s ministry is focused on helping non-Christian children enter into a relationship with Christ. It is also seeking to help children that have that relationship experience the life that Christ has for them, including being a vital member of His family the church.
In contrast with secular educational models that are cloaked in Bible verses, the transformational model flows directly out of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 as well as the methods evident in Jesus ministry with His disciples. EGM believes there are five transformational ministry principles found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 as follows.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts." (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)
Transformational children’s ministry is relational ministry. In a relationship with their leaders, children experience for themselves the amazing love of Christ. They also learn from their leaders’ example what it looks like to live with Jesus as the Lord of every aspect of life. The Holy Spirit works through these honest, caring relationships that ministry workers develop with the children to bring life change and genuine transformation.
"… sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Experience is a crucial element of the learning process, and experiential teaching helps connect biblical truth to the children’s real life. Experiential teaching engages both the heart and the mind of boys and girls.
"Impress them on your children." (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Children need to hear Bible truth—and they need to hear it repeatedly. After all, the Word of God is more than a collection of stories, doctrines, and ideas. It is life-changing truth that teaches us who God is and who we are. The Bible is the handbook for living the life God intends for all children. Its truth stands at the core of God’s transforming work.
"Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Connecting the Word of God to the children’s real life is essential to our being able to effectively minister to them. Transformational children’s ministry means the workers engage the children by talking about the Truth of God’s Word and, in that context, about the challenges they face at home and at school. Discussing what God’s Word says about specific aspects and certain circumstances of their real lives helps children understand the Bible and recognize its relevance.
"Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:8-9)
Helping boys and girls respond to the truth revealed in God’s Word is every teacher’s goal. So transformational children’s ministry makes sure that children have the opportunity to respond to God’s Truth. This putting into practice what they learn is the next crucial step on the path toward life transformation. When we keep on responding to God’s truth, He changes us. In fact, He transforms us into the likeness of Christ!
These five elements—Relationship, Experience, Truth, Discussion, and Response—are the building blocks of a transformational children’s ministry. The Word of God comes alive for children and speaks into their real life in a fresh new way. In fact, thanks to these building blocks, many boys and girls experience the Bible’s relevance for the first time ever. Having a personal relationship with Jesus takes on new meaning, and church is not just where Mom and Dad make them go. Instead, church is a source of joy, friendship, and a sense of belonging.
The entire process looks something like this: