In our driven culture everyone is striving for success and fearful of failure. This applies academically, socially and even within the ministry. Indeed we want to be successful in all that we do for God’s kingdom and God desires that we are successful. However his measure of success may not necessarily be the same as ours.
So what do we need to do to see a successful children's ministry
1. GOD HAS TO BE THE CENTRE - PRAYER IS THE KEY – You need to be prayed up if you want God’s to be working He needs to be involved – you can’t fake it, or manipulate it, it has to be God who breathes life into your children’s /youth ministry, so your prayer life must be hot in order for you to see the children in your ministry rise up too.
2. PRAYER – Get the children praying! The prayer times are key parts of the discipleship of the children, enabling them to develop their spiritual lives. You can teach persistence in prayer by persisting. If they know how to pray, then their spiritual walk is already a long way towards being successful.
When leading a prayer time it is important that these are seen as teaching opportunities (how?)
a) You can model to the children that they need to use the sword ( The Bible) as they pray … by using it to pray.
b) If you are finding it hard to pray, pray harder ( Discernment) - If you are getting your children to pray into a situation and it feels like an uphill battle, do we let them give up? No! These children are in warfare and a battle is never easy. If you show them how to push through ( P.U.S.H - Pray Until Something Happens) then you will start to see them recognize their authority in Christ and see many testimonies come
c) You can model the two way aspect of prayer by giving God time to speak to the children/youth and discussing what they feel He has said.
d) You can teach the simplicity of prayer by keeping it simple. Get them to speak to God the Father as a normal person. God desires relationship with these children not religion and wants them to be able to relate to Him and speak to Him daily.
In short the prayer times are not just getting the children praying, but they are also times to model prayer and to stop and explain what you are thinking and doing as you are leading the prayer time. This is an effective means for modelling prayer to the children, make the most of it!
3. GROWTH – Children grow into their walk with God a bit at a time Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. That means pick them up when they fall and encourage them to carry on, expect growth in your children, do not despise the little ones but see them for the powerhouses that God has made them to be
4. TRUMPET THE TESTIMONIES – Shout aloud what God is doing not necessarily to the adult church but with the kids to build them up and encourage them. They will all want to be able to see their friends saved if they see one of their peers has seen successful in evangelism, or they will push through in prayer for situations if they see that God has answered someone else’s prayers
5. CHILDREN SHOULD BE LOVED NOT JUST OCCUPIED -All men will recognize who we are following by the love we have for each other. Every child in the children’s ministry should feel loved and accepted, not just by the leaders but by the other children. Indeed families should feel and share the love with the ministry. We are not with the children simply to keep them busy while the adults are off doing their own thing; instead we are to be as Jesus to them – to love as he loves. Everything we do should be out of that motive of love.
6. CHILDREN SHOULD BE TRANSFORMED NOT JUST ENTERTAINED - There is wisdom in relating to the children in a way that is relevant for the world that they are growing up in. using the latest technologies, colourful puppets and fun songs is all about how we communicate with the children. However this is not the goal of all that we are doing. We are not simply looking for the children to have a good time. We want them to be changed to be more like Jesus. You can strip away all the props that are used to help communicate the Gospel and still be successful. Think of the old granny sitting reading the Bible to her grandchildren and praying for them. She through her intentions can achieve more than all the flashing lights in a West End theatre to see the children changed to be like Jesus.
Of course children should enjoy being a part of the ministry and look forward to it. Jesus wants us to have life in all its fullness. In our hedonistic where people are encouraged to live for pleasure the joy of children should be based on whether or not they encountered Jesus and grew in him. I remember one time when we had a guest artist with our 10-14 year olds. He was culturally irrelevant, used complicated words and was generally out of touch. In the rest of the meeting we had a great programme with full band, flashing lights interactive games. At the end of the meeting the young people were unanimous in what they had enjoyed the most … the culturally irrelevant and highly anointed artist.
7. GROWING IN NUMBER NOT JUST HOLDING ON TO THOSE WHO WE HAVE.- Whilst success cannot be measured by numbers, a living church will be a growing church. God adds to those who are following him. We are not seeking to transform 3 children into 300; rather the goal is to transform 3 children. However in transforming 3 children more will be drawn to them, to God and to the ministry that those children are involved with. If no new members are added then this should be cause for concern, prayerful reflection and ultimately action to bring about changes.
8. RELEASING OF GIFTINGS NOT JUST INVOLVING CHILDREN - Having children involved in all that takes place is important to help them feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the ministry that they are a part of. However this should not be some random process, instead we should be looking to release the children into the gifting’s that God has given them. This is a process that is not random but needs to be carefully thought through. Too easily we can put them in a position where they are seen before they are ready, then performance replaces anointed ministry. Don’t rush children to serve too quickly allow them to know who they are serving first and then they will not get confused between the difference of serving and performance .
9. CHILDREN GROUNDED IN THE BASICS – A GOOD FOUNDATION NOT JUST A BROAD KNOWLEDGE - It seems so easy for children to feel that the main message of Christianity is to be good. While this is a great guide for life, it could not be further from the truth of what Christianity is all about. The main message is not that we should be good, but that we haven’t been good. God rescues us from our sin and empowers us to do what is right.A successful children’s ministry will be raising children who understand the Gospel.If you help children to be able to read their Bible, to find books and verses for themselves, to develop a love for His Word, memorize scripture and be able to study it for themselves, then they will see how God has fulfilled His word even in their own lives and this will only encourage their faith to be stronger.
10. FLEXIBLE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT NOT FIXED ON THE PROGRAMME - We need to heed the Holy Spirit so that at all times he has complete control. He has permission to change our well planned and rehearsed programmes and to interrupt without warning. After all His plan will be the best plan!
11. UNITY AMONG THE TEAM, THE CHILDREN AND THE FAMILIES - God loves seeing people united and so we need to unite together in love and in purpose. As we share a common vision we will see great things. In the individualistic Western world it is easy to be like the people in the time of Judges with each person doing what seems right in their own eyes. When we unite to see the children formed as disciples then God will bless. 12. INVOLVE THE PARENTS – The primary spiritual carers for the children are the parents. It is so easy as children’s leaders to run a programme where we can without meaning to dis empower the parents in leading their children in their spiritual walk. Where we lead their child to Jesus, and encourage their children’s spiritual walk without even mentioning to the Parents what we have been focusing on that week. Why not when a salvation call is given to the children, invite the Parents in to lead their own child to Jesus, to empower the parents in training their children in the way they should go so when they grow old they will not depart from it. I have found that the children who move on quicker with their walk with God are the ones with Parents who are empowered to be the child’s Primary spiritual leader and encourage their child daily to meet with Jesus.
Ultimately success is hard to measure as it is all about whether the children are meeting with Jesus and growing in their discipleship. If they are then everything else will follow. Encourage all parents to support you. Encourage them to get their children to be fully involved in everything going on in the children’s ministry. For the average family this will mean going out of your way once a month for their spiritual growth to see them get to various meetings. Let’s work together to bring God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.