Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

14 Sep 2013

Don't Abandon Children's Ministry!


D.L. Moody and J.V. Farwell’s first Sunday school class

This past Sunday evening, we had our annual Ministry Equipping and Training Seminar here at Inter-City Baptist Church. During this time we have ministry-specific seminars and also general sessions. I did a general session on “Discipling the Next Generation: The Mission and Goals of the ICBC Children’s Ministry.”  There is a lot of discussion in families and churches, much of it critical, of the role of age-graded children’s ministry–especially among those in favor of so-called family integrated churches (for a brief, helpful article on that movement, see Doug Brown’s article here.)

Here at Inter-City, we don’t just have Sunday School, Junior Church, AWANA, and other programs just because “that’s the way we have always done it.” For us, our children’s ministry has as its mission to honor God by making and maturing disciples who are becoming like the Lord Jesus Christ among the children of our church and community.  This mission reflects our church’s mission and is specific to children. Paul’s exhortation and Timothy’s experience in 2 Tim 3:14-17 guide us in setting our goals, which are as follows:

  • To see children in our church and community led by the Scriptures to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (v. 15, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”)
  • To see children of all ages learn from the Scriptures and learn to honor the Scriptures (v. 14–15, “continue in the things you have learned . . . and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings…. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable”)
  • To see children live under and in accordance with the Scriptures, being prepared for adulthood (v. 14, “continue in the things you have…become convinced of”)
  •  To provide mentors and examples for our children in the body of Christ, allowing a variety of church members to exercise their gifts and abilities in influencing our children (v. 14, “knowing from whom you have learned them.”)
  • To see children matured in the faith, prepared for a life of service to God through the local church (v. 16–17, “All Scripture is…profitable…that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.)

We believe discipled parents are key to those who have one or both parents in the church, so we provide nurseries to lovingly care for small children so parents and others are not distracted in giving their attention to preaching and teaching. We provide Sunday School to give regular, systematic teaching of the Bible and theology to children. We provide Children’s church on Sunday mornings to give opportunities for age-specific preaching and singing, yet still in a God-honoring format similar to our adult services. We provide AWANA both for outreach and discipleship on Wednesdays. All of these programs serve our mission and goals, not vice-versa.

Parents have the responsibility to evangelize and train their children, but it is also the responsibility of the church to evangelize and disciple people of all ages, and a well-organized children’s ministry can help accomplish these goals. Don’t abandon ministry to children!

6 Responses

  1. G. Adam Roland

    Praise the Lord for the biblically based ministries of every church that strives to glorify God. While I am not opposed to children’s ministries, I do find it interesting that the references to Timothy’s upbringing used in this article direct us right back to II Timothy 1:5. Timothy learned the holy scriptures from childhood because of the instruction of a godly mother and grandmother. The church cannot fulfill or replace the responsibility of the parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As far as children of unsaved parents are concerned, yes, we should give them the gospel. Yet, when those parents are renewed by the gospel, the hearts of the fathers will be turned toward their children, and whole households can be redeemed.

  2. Pearson Johnson

    I agree with all you say completely. His grandmother and mother clearly taught him. Paul also calls him his “child in the faith” and “my son” so he taught and influenced him as well. We should have a both/and focus, not an either/or. Parents are responsible for disciplining and instructing their children, and Pastors and churches are responsible for making and maturing disciples in the church and community. Both are involved and neither replaces nor supplants the other.

    I think we could argue that Christlike disciples could be made without godly parents being involved (obviously we want godly parents involved and we seek to evangelize and disciple those who are not), but Christlike disciples cannot be made without involvement in and the involvement of the local church.

    Thank you for your comments!

  3. Mark Harvey

    Why must it be either/or?

    My wife and I have been involved in childrens ministry much of our lives, and I agree that it’s an important part of the church’s mission of preparing the next generation. But I find myself increasingly troubled by the tendency to segregate our corporate worship by age groups.

    This shows up in the practice of scheduling the ministries for kids and young people at the same time as regular “adult” services. I worry that the main motivation for this is the desire to avoid placing too many demands on our workers and over-scheduled kids.

    If it’s important for parents to participate in church, isn’t it equally important for children’s workers to participate?

    And if childrens ministry is as important as we both agree it is, isn’t it worth investing an extra hour or two every week so the whole church family can can worship together like the body of Christ we are?

  4. Pearson Johnson

    I am not sure I understand your worry or increasing troubling (maybe your church is making significant changes), but it is important for workers to participate in worship (so we try to rotate workers so some aren’t always missing) and it is good to have times when all worship together (we do this on Sunday evenings and occasional morning services, while still having nurseries for infants and toddlers).

    I think churches, regardless of size, can pursue a balanced approach which both promotes unity in worship but also diversity of application/ teaching focus with age groups. Each church will apply the principles differently based on size, gifted people, and a number of other factors also. They don’t all have to have the same programs we have.

  5. The question is not if we should abandon Children’s Ministry but if all our programs are producing the objectives we desire. Are we oblivious because after all our programs are still running year after year with good intentions? Are we brave enough to revisit our programs and prayerfully evaluate the needs of the children that God places within our reach. Are we seeking God’s wisdom and freely abandoning anything that is draining workers and not delivering the help the kids really need.
    I think Mark raises legitimate concerns. Families have precious little time together… should the church be something that takes more of that time away? Our family relationships are suffering. Could it be we are so busy sometimes doing we don’t realize when we’re in trouble until it’s too late? How do crumbling families affect the faith of the children?

  6. Pearson Johnson

    I agree that all programs should regularly be evaluated to see if they are accomplishing their biblical purposes. Some people love the programs more than the purposes for sure and programs should not just provide activity that takes away from the real purpose of the church and family.

    I doubt many families are in trouble because they are too committed to the local church. There are probably other lesser commitments that need to be cut first. However, some may be, and church leaders should be conscious they aren’t overloading committed families with non-essential activities (i.e. sports leagues, craft clubs, yoga classes, etc.–even some evening bible studies) so they cannot fulfill their commitments to each other and to evangelizing the lost around them.