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.
Hebrews 11 shows us the success of some who were killed for their faith. How death could be viewed as successful is perplexing if taken out of the context of serving an eternal God.
So what kind of hallmarks should we be looking for to measure the kingdom success of a children’s ministry? In no particular order, I offer the following for your consideration.
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.
Children should be transformed not simply 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 grandmother 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. This is where encounters with God are key for heart change.
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, quoted from the King James Version 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, but highly anointed, artist.
Growing in number not just keeping those 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.
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. This should not be some random process, instead we should be looking to release the children into the giftings that God has given them. This is an intentional active development of the children under our care.
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 Christanity 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 and are digging deeper into the Bible.
Flexible to the Holy Spirit not fixed to 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.
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. Parents are the primary disciplers of children – God’s plan A for faith formation. Often we look to parents to support our ministry (by bringing the children along and using the take home sheets we create), but a successful children’s ministry will aim to look to parents to support parents in their ministry.
Ultimately success is hard to measure as it is all about whether the children are meeting with Jesus and growing in their discipleship. True success can only be seen through the lens of time. Let’s not settle for the superficial but let’s dig in for the sake of this generation. Let’s work together to bring God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.
How do you measure success in children’s ministry?