Let the Little Children Come
People often think that Children’s Ministries only serves or reaches out to children. I have the privilege and responsibility to minister to parents, leaders and children. I have been involved with Children’s Ministries for 41 years, seven of them in leadership at the Southwestern Union.
My passion is helping parents in the labor of educating children for heaven. It’s a joy to encourage leaders in this ministry, providing ideas, resources and workshops to help them be successful in their homes and churches. I believe the most important element in Children’s Ministries is teaching each child about Jesus and His plans for their life.
Discipleship describes the process of growth in Christ; it’s a posture of learning, a relationship, devotion, journey, a new perspective. It is the Spirit-imbued life.
We must not fool ourselves into thinking that discipleship can only begin in adulthood. As soon as children learn to walk, talk and read, they can learn about the love of Jesus and begin their discipleship process. I’ve found the Children’s Ministry Manual, formerly Children’s Ministries Ideas and Techniques that Work, to be very helpful for leaders in this ministry. It outlines five steps to help children grow in Jesus, and discipleship is growth in Christ.
Growth in Christ
Teach Them To Pray Daily. I think this is one of the most precious privileges we have. Whether you’re the parents at home, leader at church or teacher in Christian school, you are able to share with them powerful Bible promises about prayer and feed their faith with moving Bible stories of prayerful people.
Teach Them What To Do About Guilt. This is one of the greatest needs, especially for our primary and preteen kids. The enemy uses guilt to keep us away from God’s grace and love. Our children need to know that Jesus loves them and that He takes away those feelings when we ask for forgiveness. Affirm that He loves to listen to us no matter the situation.
Teach Them To Grow Through Bible Study. We are so blessed to have the GraceLink curriculum (GraceLink.net) for children’s Sabbath School. It includes a Bible lesson for every week, memory verses and happy worship songs designed for each age group and learning style. All adults need to do is take a few minutes to read, study and share the Word of God with our little ones—the Holy Spirit will do the rest! Parents and caretakers, don’t forget to take the kids to Sabbath School!
Teach Dependence On Jesus. Sounds easy, right? Even adults often have a hard time doing this. Kids need to know that trying to make good choices on our own doesn’t work, but we can make good choices with God’s help—asking Him every day to show us the best way to live.
Help Them To Serve. You and I bear witness about Jesus’ love in what we say and do. Service is love in action. Like everything else in life, we learn at home first. It is important to teach kids how to serve at home in the family. This will prepare them to serve at school, at church and in the community.
Love in Action
Teaching kids to serve can begin with simple activities or projects such as helping to set the table before meals, learning to fold laundry, participating in chores and helping other family members with their tasks. Talk to them about the importance of these simple acts of service. Celebrate with them with a big thank you or affirmation, letting them know they are serving with love. In her book Christ’s Object Lessons, Ellen G. White shares, “Parents should teach their children the value and right use of time. Teach them that to do something which will honor God and bless humanity is worth striving for. Even in their early years they can be missionaries for God.”
At school, teachers have a unique opportunity to put together teams to serve. There is nothing better than friends helping and serving together. One opportunity is through the ministry of song and music. Ellen G. White says in her book Christian Service, “Students who have learned to sing sweet gospel songs with melody and distinctness, can do much good as singing evangelists. They will find many opportunities to use the talent that God has given them in carrying melody and sunshine into many lonely places darkened by sorrow and affliction, singing to those who seldom have church privileges.”
The ministry of song is not only genuine but powerful. In my experience, every time we’ve taken children singing and visited the elderly, they light up the room. Everyone is smiling, eyes are bright and hands are moving in all directions. Joy! Simple joy! School teachers, church teachers, let’s share this joy with others.
The best and safest way to serve your community is to invite the whole family to serve. This could be serving at the food bank, cleaning a park near your church or preparing back to school packages for kids in need. Check with the community services department of your church for ways to involve kids in their projects in a way that is fun and educational.
Engaged in Church
My favorite Sabbath at church is Children’s Sabbath. This is celebrated on the first Sabbath in October across the North American Division. Resources are available for download for free that include a full program, ideas and tips for celebrating children in your local church.
I love to see little ones at the door greeting us. They proudly put the church bulletin in our hands, saying “Happy Sabbath!” With happy voices and big smiles, deacons and deaconesses in training are ready to serve, paying attention to the adult leader to guide them to do a perfect job for Jesus. They can’t wait to serve at church.
The praise team is usually made up of sweet voices, ready to praise God. They lead out singing and invite us to sing with them. I don’t know about you, but this is heaven for me! The sermon is often presented not by one or two but three or more kids. The time and dedication that the Children’s Ministries leaders put into this is evident. The children speak clearly, read portions of the Bible and even tell stories to make us understand the message of the day.
How can children serve at church? There are many ways! Children’s Sabbath is just one way to start. For more information on this special day visit ChildMin.org. Can you provide even more opportunity and the training for children to serve in church? Children attend church weekly and are often eager to get involved, if only someone would just invite them.
In the Southwestern Union, our goal is to help children know, love and follow Jesus. May the Holy Spirit guide you in making little disciples of Jesus! He is coming soon! Heaven is waiting! Let’s work together to be ready for it.
By Sonia Canó. Canó is the Children’s Ministries Director for the Southwestern Union.