My experience with children’s ministry began when I was 6 years old and took part in a very excellent children’s program. Almost every year, our church produced a musical and the entire cast was made up of children. The end results were quite professional so it was very special to be a part of it. The most memorable performance for me was the year we did “The Music Machine.” I ended up having a solo part! Oh, how I wish I could sing to this day. How I got this part was beyond me, but I had it. In my youth I spent MANY of days laying on my bed, kicking my foot to what I thought was the rhythm and would just sing to music as if I was really singing in front of a big crowd. Anyways, I loved this ‘Music Machine” experience and it was one of the best things I did as a young child within the church family.
This was one of many foundational times with Children’s Ministry that led to solid Youth Group participation for me in Middle School and High School. I was part of Young Life in High School and led Young Life after college. I had wonderful leaders, teachers, mentors and adult friends in all of these childhood and teen programs. Because of my personal experiences, I want my children and other children to have the same kind of foundational teachings and experiences that I was fortunate to have.
As I came into the Children’s Ministry at Bridge, a good friend reminded me of the verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1: “for everything there is a season…..” and the rest goes, “and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Sure, her context was relevant to me in a slightly different way than maybe what God intended with His phrase. There is a season in a person’s life when they are most open to learning what it means to trust God. It’s a season, sometime between the ages of 4-14 yrs. when people are more moldable than they will be in other times of their life. Many people call this the 4-14 Window. It’s when people are forming their understanding of the world, of relationships, of love, of God. How we teach our children during this window may be one of the most important things the church does. Unsaved adults will always be among us and they will need environments designed to reach them, but a person is a child only for a short time. And in this short time, the entire course of his or her life can be altered.
Our oldest recently entered middle school and we started realizing that our family wasn’t necessarily living in what I considered a sweet, little protective bubble anymore. Earlier on in life when we had 3 kids under the age of 7, I never really looked into the future thinking at some point they all 3 would be spread out in elementary, middle and then high school. I mean, “what was I thinking?” Everything seemed all cozy and perfect when all 3 kids were in preschool and elementary school; no real outside world was getting into my kids. Birthdays were still being celebrated with mom bringing cupcakes into school, and buying and making valentine’s for the other 17 kids was still fun. News flash moms of smaller children: there’s none of this in middle school. Now, as a mom of a middle schooler, I am realizing how the world starts to be exposed to my child in mighty ways. Many times you hear of someone “hitting rock bottom and finding Jesus” and I relate this to the need for Jesus in your child when you start seeing too much world trying to invade your protective bubble. There are so many “looking back” times that us parents have in our children’s lives, but this has been one of those times that I am thankful for his growing up with a framework of the Bible through Sunday School teachings. He was and is still being equipped to understand what the Bible says versus what the world is telling him. Integrating weekly devotionals at his age and reading the Bible isn’t weird, it’s normal and what is expected in our family.
Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 18, 2-4: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, therefore whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus loved and used children in his ministry. They modeled what his kingdom was all about. Children were the examples of the type of faith that adults are to have.
If you think about it, how many adult problems would be solved if as a preschooler they entered our churches and left knowing they have a Heavenly Father who loves them? Or what if every elementary child left knowing they can place their trust in Jesus for every area of their lives? Or what if every High School student left knowing their place in God’s story and having made a lifetime commitment to serving Christ? What if everything we did for children focused on winning them to Christ? I recently read a quote that stated, “What is rooted in the heart of a child is almost impossible to uproot in their life as an adult.”
Children’s Ministry is an optimal time to shape the church’s rising leadership. We can’t let the window close without God’s Word getting in first.