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!