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Will it work?


Around 30 years ago I started leading the children’s ministry of my local church. Our vision was big. We did not want to raise a generation who would keep coming to church, we wanted to raise a generation who would become the future pillars of the church – the revivalists and the reformers of the nation.


At the time the dropout rates from church were awful – the same as the average across the western churches but still inexcusable.  We searched the Scriptures to gain our principles and pioneered a ministry unlike any we had seen.


As a team together we came up with radical slogans like, ‘The creche is NOT a babysitting service,’ ‘Children are leaders in the church today, not just in the future,’ and ‘Every generation needs an encounter with the Holy Spirit.’


As people looked on at the changes in vision and direction of ministry, intentionally making space for children to encounter the Lord and then encouraging them to go out and serve him one question kept popping up.


It was implied by some people, discussed by all of us on team and always at the forefront of our minds. It was a question that one person finally put into words, ‘Does it work?’ Does this intentional vision for children to encounter and grow with God in love and service work? Will these children last the test of time?


When I was asked this question the best I could reply was, ‘Come back in 20 years to find out!’ We knew we were using scripturally rooted principles but it felt like we were pioneering something so radically different from what had gone before and what we saw around that we had no way of knowing for sure what the outcome would be.


The challenge was that we were not satisfied with short term results. Sure, it was great to hear that children were sharing their faith boldly, but would they still be following God when they were 20? It was great to see children hearing God’s voice and praying for miracles, but would they still have faith when they were 30?


Our continuous prayer at this time was Lord give us fruit that remains! As such, the longevitiy of discipleship was the only test that could prove the effectiveness of our discipleship. Anything less would be superficial encouragement that could serve as a distraction from the actual call of God to make disciples.


In other words, if we allowed ourselves to use the fact that children could hear God’s voice as evidence that we were being effective we may have taken our eye off the goal of complete discipleship and focussed more on the spiritual gifts. If we allowed ourselves to celebrate a change in character we may have pursued external characteristics rather than heart transformation. The only test would be to return when they were 20 or 30 and see how they were doing and for that we would have to wait.


30 years on I can categorically say that the principles we put in place worked. Last week I had the absolute privilege of attending the wedding of one of the boys from the Sunday school (now aged 31). Also at his wedding were many others from the ministry around the same age. All were still in church, many passionate for the Lord. Even the few who were not as firey for the Lord still connected in with church and were working through their life to get back on track. They knew where they wanted to be and were working on it with God.


Now, as my own family has grown, we have used these same principles, worked out through our family and we’re thankful to the Lord to see how he is shaping our children as his disciples too.


The principles were simple.


1.        Pray.

Pray passionately, continuously and fervently for the children and their families. If Jesus prayed for his disciples how much more should we be praying for our children. Impossible situations are turned around,  hard hearts are softened and God is revealed as we pray for our children. 


2.        Start young.

The ministry to the youngest (even the unborn) was key to seeing the children rooted in God. Proverbs 22:6 tells us that if we train up a child in the way they should go when they are old they will not depart from it.


3.        Teach.

Teach the word of God, not just Bible stories but meat. Give a deep theological understanding of God. 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us to teach the word in season and out of season. We know that the word is living and active, that it is a light to our feet and it will cause us to be fully equipped for every good work.


4.        Encounter.

Create opportunities and space for children to encounter the Holy Spirit for themselves. In listening to Him and learning to be led by Him so their desires will be shaped by Him. John 17:3 says, ‘now this is eternal life: that they may know you and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ This knowing is more than head knowledge – it is an intimate, abiding relationship with the Lord.


5.        Build community

We are not called to serve Jesus in isolation. The community of family, wider church across the generations and peers are all important parts of growing together with God.


6.        Service.

Encourage the children to be active in their faith during the week, not just at church. Starting with daily times of prayer and Bible reading and growing into evangelism and discipleship of those around them. We wanted to raise a generation who would be doers of the word not simply hearers of it.


So, I want to encourage you – keep praying, keep serving, keep creating opportunities for your children to grow in the Lord.


Your fruit will remain for all eternity.


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