Bigger is Better, Right?

Are you a small children’s ministry? Do you sometimes look at larger children’s ministries and think, “If only we had their budget, their volunteers, their space?”

Bigger has become equated with better. Bigger children’s ministries have more money, more space, and more volunteers. That must mean that they offer more value to the kids who attend their programs. They must offer better children’s ministry.

We all have these thoughts. But is bigger automatically better?

Where does the true value come from in children’s ministry?

Making DisciplesRelationships

The true value in children’s ministry is not in the budget or the space, it starts with the relationships you and your team build with the kids in your care. Do you take the time to get to know the kids in your programs? Do you start outreach programs with the express purpose of getting to know the kids in your community? Building relationships is a key part of children’s ministry.

Gospel

Children’s ministry is important because it is an opportunity to share the gospel in an age-appropriate, targeted manner with kids that you have been building a relationship with. Budgets, space, and a huge volunteer base won’t mean anything if they are not being used to help you share the gospel with the kids who attend your programs. The gospel is key; it’s central to everything we do in children’s ministry. Are you regularly sharing the gospel with the kids in your ministry?

Are you making disciples?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

This is what it’s all about: Children’s Ministry is about making disciples. Jesus commands us to make disciples. The true value in children’s ministry is the opportunity it allows us to make disciples of kids. We build relationships, we share the gospel. Why? In order to make disciples. And when children do put their trust in Jesus, we build them up as disciples teaching them how to pray, how to study their Bibles, how to use the gifts God has given them to serve and build up the church.

Are you making disciples in your children’s ministry?

Budget

Whatever your budget is, use it to build relationships, share the gospel, and make disciples.

Volunteers

However many volunteers you have, make it your goal as a team to build relationships, share the gospel, and make disciples.

Space

Whether you have a huge amount of space or one small classroom, creatively use the space you have to help you build relationships, share the gospel, and make disciples.

So, is bigger always better? Not necessarily. The focus shouldn’t be on how big your children’s ministry is. The focus should be on making disciples. It doesn’t really matter what size your budget is, what size your space is, or what size your volunteer team is. What matters is whether you are using those things to help you make disciples.

Email this to someonePin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+

My Week at Bible Camp

childrens-ministry-bible-camp
I recently returned from a week at Bible camp. I was the speaker for a group of 80 9-11 year olds. I haven’t been to camp in over 20 years, but my church is a huge supporter of this camp and they needed a speaker, so I agreed to help. I had never been to this camp before but I have spent lots of time at camp as a camper and as a cabin leader. I think Bible camp is a hugely important ministry.

I arrived on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. The camp is situated deep in the heart of a provincial park. There are lots of trees, huge rocks, and a gorgeous lake.
First up was staff meeting. I met those I would be serving with and we were given instructions and a job for while parents and kids were arriving. I was sent to the main gate to direct traffic (interesting job considering I had never been to this camp before!! But no one got lost!)

The kids started to arrive and the week kicked off.

I spoke every morning in chapel and three times in the evening at campfire. During my free time I read, napped, and wandered around the camp and hung out with the kids.

One afternoon I discovered the path to the archery range. The path wove through the woods and it was lined with lampposts. For a minute, I imagined I was in Narnia!

Chapels and campfires were my favorite times at camp. The kids were attentive, engaged, interested, and curious. I loved the questions they were asking!

One day at lunch a girl came to me and said, “You answered all of my questions and I hadn’t even asked them yet!”

After chapel the kids sat on the grass in cabin groups and talked about chapel and what they learned. They were able to ask questions; the leaders were given a chance to see what the kids heard and understood. It was a great opportunity for small group interaction.

One thing that amazed me as the week progressed was the things that hadn’t changed since I was a camper. The prayers prayed before meals; the early morning staff meetings; the skills offered like archery and canoeing; the songs sung in chapel and at campfire; the fact that God uses camp as a significant growing experience in the lives of the kids who attend.

One cabin leader reported at staff meeting that a boy in his cabin admitted that this was the first time he had ever heard that God loved him. Other cabin leaders reported kids choosing to give their lives to Jesus.

I love camp! I believe that it is a valuable ministry that should be supported and encouraged.

Here are 5 reasons why camp is a valuable ministry:

1. It is an amazing opportunity to get to know kids and build a relationship with them.

24 hours a day for a week – that’s a long time!

At camp you have time to talk. There is no rush. There are moments throughout the day to really talk with kids – in the cabin during quiet time or bedtime; at meals in the dining hall; walking to and from activities; during free time in the afternoons.

At camp you have time to pay attention to kids – to give them your full attention. There are some kids who are just waiting for someone to pay attention to them; someone who is interested in the stories they have to tell; the fears they experience; the bulls eye they got in archery.

At camp you have fun together. This is so important when building a relationship with kids. There are many opportunities to have fun. As a leader, you have to choose to get in there and participate. Don’t be afraid to let the kids see you enjoying yourself or even be a little silly!

2. At camp you have lots of opportunities to talk about God.

Chapels and campfires are great opportunities to talk about God, but they aren’t the only ones. Devotionals in the cabins; meals in the dining hall; walks to and from activities; hanging out on a flotation device. This is a chance to show that talking about God can be natural. You don’t need to wait until chapel or devotionals. Make “God talk” a normal part of camp life – a natural event. God is real and involved in every part of our lives. So, talk about Him in chapel, at campfire, during devotionals, walking to archery, while you are canoeing, while you are eating, anytime!

It’s also a great opportunity to share the gospel with kids and to take your time doing it. Kids have time to think through each part of the gospel message and to realize that it is personal.

3. At camp kids have the chance to think about the things they are learning and ask questions.

Sometimes at Sunday School or children’s church, things are a little rushed and kids don’t get the chance to ask their question or even to think about what their question might be. There is so much time at camp. Kids have the chance to think about God and what a life with Him looks like. They have a chance to formulate and ask their questions. They have the chance to really hear the answers and to follow-up. I like the pace of camp and the opportunity it affords kids to think and to express their curiosity.

4. It’s an Amazing Opportunity to Provide Training for Volunteers.

Some camps use this opportunity and make every use of it and others don’t. I was a counselor at a camp that gave its leaders very little training. You applied, were accepted, showed up for your week or 2 of camp, had one short staff meeting before the campers arrived and that was it. The camp that I recently spoke at provides 5 weeks of training for its Cabin Leaders. Training includes leadership skills, first aid, certification in skills, and spiritual training.

I was really impressed with the training offered to staff at this camp. Cabin leaders are primarily teenagers and with the training provided they are given skills that they will use in church ministry and can put on their resume.

5. Time Away

I came back from camp exhausted! It was early mornings and late nights. And yet, I was refreshed. It was time away from my regular schedule. There was no wi-fi at this camp, so I was cut off. I couldn’t check facebook or twitter. It was, instead, an opportunity to rest; to enjoy God’s glorious creation; to re-charge.

Camp is time away whether you are a camper or a staff member. And it is valuable whether you are a camper or a staff member. Rest is underrated in our society, but I believe it is hugely important. I may not have gotten enough sleep while I was at camp, but I did get rest.

Why Do I Take Time to Go to Camp?

The last day at camp I was down at the lakeside watching the kids swim. A girl came running to me, gave me a huge hug, and said, “Thank you for telling us about Jesus!”

That’s why I go to camp!

Email this to someonePin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+

Book Review – Rock-Solid Kids by Larry Fowler

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24

What attracted me most to this book was the tag line on the front cover – “Giving Children a Biblical Foundation for Life.”childrens-ministry-rock-solid-kids

Biblical literacy is very important to me so I was interested to see what the book had to say about it.

In the introduction, Larry Fowler outlines the purpose and format of his 142 page book.  “Those involved in children’s ministry must also build on the right foundation—and that is the primary concern of this book…Each chapter of this book starts with a Scripture passage—a ‘rock’ for your foundation. The Scripture passage specifically refers to children or ministering to them. Each chapter contains a thorough discussion of implications and applications. Together, the eight core chapters will give you eight ‘foundational rocks’—fundamental principles from God’s Word upon which to build your ministry.”

Larry Fowler discusses the importance of children’s ministry, the responsibility for children’s ministry, the content of children’s ministry, and the pattern for children’s ministry. He highlights a warning about ministering to children, allowing children to serve, the message for children’s ministry, and the opportunity of children’s ministry.

I loved this book! I would highly recommend it.

In his chapter on the content of children’s ministry, Fowler discusses the battle for balance. He discusses Biblical truth and application. I agree that a balance between these is really important. Start with Scripture and follow with application. He talked about Biblical truth, application, and relevance. He defined relevance as being how closely the biblical truth applies to a person’s life.

Although I agree wholeheartedly with the need for balance in our teaching, I did not agree with what he said about relevance. I think we need to be very careful about how we discuss relevance in relation to the Word of God. The Word of God is always relevant; we just may not see it. “The teacher’s task in application is to recognize and communicate Scripture’s relevance, rather than to make it relevant.” (Walton, Bailey, and Williford; Teach the Text)

I wonder if I just misunderstood Fowler’s use of the term relevant in this situation. I do agree with his ‘foundation rock’ for this chapter: “Scripture is the foundation of our content; relevance follows.”

My favorite chapter was chapter 7—A Clear Focus: The Message for Children’s Ministry.

“From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15

Fowler clearly defines what the gospel is and how we should share it with children. I appreciated his discussion about how we call children to respond to the gospel. “If we understand what the Bible says, then we won’t need a formula. Children, and everyone else, are saved by God’s grace through faith.

He goes on to say, “As presenters of the gospel message, we must focus children’s faith on the person and the work of Christ on the cross. Faith must be in Jesus’ death and resurrection…as presenters we have a responsibility to be as clear and biblically accurate as possible…So what do we do? Repeat the gospel over and over again. Reinforce it regularly. Let your awe of it show through.”

Building a children’s ministry on the foundation of God’s Word is vital and it can be done, whether you are starting from scratch or have been involved in children’s ministry for years. I recommend this book for parents, children’s ministry leaders and volunteers. I was encouraged when I read it and I think you will be too!

Email this to someonePin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+

Recommended Resources for Helping Kids Understand the Gospel

1. Helping Children to Understand the Gospel – Children Desiring God

This resource is written in 3 parts. Parts 1 &2 are about preparing children for the gospel and presenting the gospel to children. Part 3 is 10 essential truths of the gospel. I like how part 3 is laid out. The key point is clearly stated, scripture is listed, a kid-friendly explanation is offered, and then various illustrations are provided.

“God made a way for sin to be punished and sinners to be saved.”

I love this statement and use it often when is share the gospel with kids. It is short and easy to remember and full of hope!

2. Big Truths for Young Hearts – Bruce A. Ware

Bruce Ware is a professor of theology. Big Truths for Young Hearts is his effort to explain big theological truths to children. This is a great resource!

This book is more than a resource for helping kids understand the gospel. But there is great stuff in it to help you share the gospel with kids. Ware has a great way of explain deep theological truths in ways that kids can understand.

“To believe in Christ (or trust in Christ or put faith in Christ) means to count or rely completely on what Christ has done in his death and resurrection for my sin, so that my hope of being right in God’s sight is all because of Christ and has nothing to do with any good thing that I might ever say or do.”

3. Leading Kids to Jesus – David Staal

This book is about having one-on-one conversations about faith. The author does a good job of helping the reader to understand the dynamics of communicating with kids. I also like the focus given on helping the reader figure out how to share their own testimony with kids.  Another very good section of this book deals with questions kids might ask and how to answer them.

“Even though we deliver the message, true comprehension and conviction comes solely as a result of the Holy Spirit. To that end, no matter how well we word the gospel, different kids will require different quantities of time to fully understand. Give them as much as they need.”

4. Gospel Flipper Flapper – Child Evangelism Fellowship

I love using this tool to share the gospel with kids! One year at VBS we passed them out to 130 kids and together we flipped and flapped and the kids were actively engaged as the gospel message was told.

This tool uses colors and symbols as a starting point for sharing the gospel. You flip the flaps to reveal a yellow circle (God who is holy), a black heart (all have sinned), a red cross (Jesus died for our sins); and a white heart (salvation is offered to those who repent and believe). The kids love figuring out how to flip the flaps! Have fun with this inexpensive yet effective tool for sharing the gospel with kids!

5. In Search of the Greatest Treasure Comic Booklet – Campus Crusade for Christ

I have used this comic booklet for a few years now. The illustrations are great and the gospel is clearly presented with a focus on Jesus. For VBS, our counselor s use this as they talk one-on-one with kids and we give them out to all who attend.

 

There are a lot of resources out there. These are just 5 that I have used extensively and would highly recommend.

Check out the other blogposts in this series!

Email this to someonePin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+

7 Tips for Sharing the Gospel with Kids

Sharing the gospel with kids is a huge privilege!! It is also a heavy responsibility. Here are 7 tips for sharing the gospel with kids:

1. Back up what you say with Scripture

Kids need to know that you are telling them what the Bible says and not just what you think about the gospel. For every key point that you share with kids, back it up with Scripture. When you tell kids that God is holy, read from the Bible that God is holy. When you tell kids that we are sinners, read from the Bible where it says that all have sinned.

2. Use a Bible and have kids use their Bibles

This tip goes hand in hand with tip #1. Use a Bible when you share the gospel with kids. Hold it, open it, and read from it. The Bible is God’s Word and therefore wholly trustworthy and true. So use it! Encourage kids to use their own Bibles as well. It’s okay if different translations are used. Get the kids into their Bibles, checking that what you are saying is what the Bible says. Have Bibles available to give away to children who don’t have one.

3. Don’t get caught up in the numbers game

It can be too easy to get caught up in how many kids are being saved. Don’t let this distract you. Remember, God is the one who saves. God will do his work. Each child is special and there is cause for rejoicing for each one who chooses to follow Jesus. Celebrate each child saved and give God the glory!

4. Highlight the key points

There are some heavy theological truths in the gospel message. It can become too easy to get bogged down in explanations. Highlight the key point you want the kids to learn. This will help you not to get distracted. Teach one thing; even when sharing the gospel!

5. Kids, especially young ones, are literal

Be careful with the words and phrases you use when sharing the gospel with kids. Kids, especially young ones will take what you say literally. If you tell kids they can ask Jesus into their heart, the young ones will literally think Jesus is somehow entering their actual hearts. I remember a parent once telling me about her daughter who was about 3 or 4. She came in the room crying and very upset. Her mom asked her what happened and the daughter replied that she fell down on her chest. It didn’t seem that she was hurt too badly, so her Mom asked her why she was so upset. The girl replied, “I think I may have hurt Jesus!”

Older kids may not think so literally anymore, but such phrasing can distract them. They may lose focus and start thinking about how it might actually work to have Jesus come into their hearts.
Use words and phrases that make sense to kids. Teach them Biblical words and theological words, but explain them well.

6. Give them time

Kids may need to hear the truth of the gospel many times before they are ready to give their lives to Jesus. That’s okay. As they grow they can better understand the truths of the gospel. Also, kids need time to realize that the gospel message is personal. Kids are in a stage of constant learning. The truth of the gospel is information for them to learn and absorb. It may take them some time to realize that our holy Creator-King loves them; that they have sinned and are in desperate need of saving; that Jesus came to save them; that by dying on the cross, He took the punishment for their sins.

Don’t rush kids. Give them time.

7. Pray

Pray before you present the gospel to kids. Pray that God would soften their hearts and prepare them to accept the truth of the gospel. Pray as you present the gospel. Pray that you would speak only truth and pray that the kids listening will accept it. Pray after you present the gospel. Pray that the truth of God’s Word would sink deep into the hearts of the children who heard it. Pray for true repentance. Pray for transformation. Pray for lives to be saved.

It’s a great privilege to share the gospel with kids. Don’t dumb it down for them. Give them the whole truth, explaining new or difficult concepts in ways that kids will understand.

I love this quote of Tedd & Margy Tripp from their book Instructing a Child’s Heart,

“We give our children big truths they will grow into rather than light explanations they will grow out of.”

Check out the other blogposts in this series!

Email this to someonePin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+
1 2 3