This article is part of the Open Letters series.
Dear Fellow Laborer,
Children are a blessing from the Lord—sweet, reckless, and sometimes crazy blessings from the King. The Lord has given them to us to steward, love—and God-willing—raise into a future generation of those who will walk with God just as we walk with God. Whether you serve in the children’s ministry full-time, once a month, or on an as-needed basis, you are tasked with a role in helping to teach these miniature blessings. I hope to provide a few bits of encouragement for you as you join with parents in training up the younger among us.
Your work is more significant than you realize. This hit me like a ton of bricks not long ago. As I parked my car outside the grocery store the other day, I noticed a car next to me with a bumper sticker that caught my attention. The sticker said something to the effect of, “It’s easier to train a young child than it is an old man new ways.” Though it was surrounded by literally dozens of other stickers, it stuck out like a sore thumb. Sitting next to pro-choice and proud atheist stickers, it weighed heavily as I realized that the world understands the importance of children in ensuring their ideas are adopted. What it effectively communicated was that if peers struggle to adopt your ways, you can always raise up someone that will. Children, like the rest of us, are not neutral when it comes to ideas and they will learn from someone what they should believe.
Parents must constantly go to battle against the world for the sake of their children’s minds. The enemy would love nothing more than to influence a young generation to believe truth and morality are relative, that actions have no eternal consequences, and that God is irrelevant. Your privilege and duty as a children’s ministry worker is to come alongside other parents and refresh their little ones with the word of God. You are not a babysitter on Sunday mornings. You are a trainer and developer of those who will, God-willing, be the next generation of brothers and sisters in Christ. You have an active role in shaping those who are soon to rule the world. We must take this work seriously because it is serious work.
Embrace Big Theology
“Beware what you say, children are sponges.” This is the advice countless friends and family gave us as we were expecting our first little one to join the fold. Now as we are expecting our third, this statement rings truer than ever. Our daughter Lucy, who turns four in a few months, loves when we read her Bible counting primer before bed. She has gotten to the point where she can identify the two natures of Jesus, name who wrote the four gospels, and can list out the seven “I am” statements of Jesus. This has been picked up from semi-consistent, mostly distracted times of reading before bed. Our bedtime routine is crazy most days, and this kid has still somehow managed to memorize these books. For better or for worse, Jess and I can attest that children are sponges.
Capitalize on this. Don’t shy away from feeding them the big truths of the Bible out of fear they might not fully understand it. Simplify the Scriptures and do your best to communicate it on a level they grasp, but don’t be afraid to teach them the foundational truths of our God. Does Lucy understand all the nuances of the hypostatic union and its implication for salvation? Absolutely not. But one day when she struggles with the question of who Jesus is, she will hopefully remember that he is both fully man and fully God. The children entrusted to your care have ears, and they use them. So teach these little ones the big truths. It will yield fruit for many years to come.
You are not a babysitter on Sunday mornings. You are a trainer and developer of those who will, God-willing, be the next generation of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love the Church and Stay Connected
One of my favorite themes in the New Testament is how Paul addresses those to whom he writes. The way he is sometimes portrayed makes it seem like he’s a big-brained robot only interested in communicating the deep things of Scripture. When you read his letters however, this is not the full story. Paul was undoubtedly focused on making sure the truth was known and understood, but his heart and hands matched the size of his head. Listen to Paul talk about other believers:
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thess. 2:8)
We endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face because we wanted to come to you—I Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. (1 Thess. 2:17b-18)
To Timothy, my true child in the faith. (1 Tim. 1:2)
As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. (2 Tim. 1:4)
To Titus, my true child in a common faith. (Titus 1:4)
I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment . . . I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. (Philemon 10, 12)
Paul modeled for us what it’s like to be committed to loving people. He worked hard to know and express the truth, but his heart was bound to the people of God. As you go back to the wild field of serving children this week, remember that you’re serving the children of those whom you’ve committed yourself to. You’re a part of a local body and serving in the children’s ministry is a tangible act of love.
When you get discouraged that they’re not getting it, or when the box of crayons ends up on the floor for the 10th time, remind yourself that God and the people of God are worth it. The temptation to pull away mentally and start checking boxes is real. But you must fight to stay connected. God and the people of God truly are worth it. So, realize the significance of your work, embrace big theology, and continue to love the church for the sake of Christ.
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