Over the years I have shared the “3 Ds” of a child’s spiritual journey, (Discover, Discern, Decide). As evangelical people, we’ve intentionally placed evangelism as the focus of our ministries but I’m concerned that in many of our churches we have dropped the ball with discipling past the point of conversion. It’s time we focus on a fourth D, DISCIPLESHIP.
One of my favorite books is Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline.” It’s where most of my thoughts regarding spiritual disciplines have originated and continue to contemplate and grow. I want to share four of these as we think about creating a Disciple-Growing Kids Ministry.
Solitude: Spending time alone with God, meditating and focusing on His nature and His character.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Being still in a busy world and allowing that silence to increase our awareness of God’s presence and guidance is not easy. Including prayer and meditation in our very busy lives is difficult but the Bible is clear:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Children can pray (and should) and we must teach them how. Children can say their own prayers, pray when others are praying, know the Model Prayer, pray Scripture, participate in sentence prayers, and they can create a prayer journal.
Children can get quiet and think about and listen to God (and they should). Children can identify and think about the characteristics of God. It’s been said that children can be still for one minute for every year old they are. Start there.
Bible Study: Intentionally reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible.
“If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
Reading the Bible renews our minds so that we have the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes of Christ. But we must go beyond simply reading the Bible to studying, comprehending, and understanding the Scriptures.
A fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs is to memorize Scripture. The purpose of memorizing Bible verses should be to understand the verse in addition to reciting it. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is the beginning of pure living.
“I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
Children can read the Bible (and should). Children can study the Bible (and should). Children can memorize age-appropriate Bible verses and phrases (and should). Kids Ministry leaders must place priority on Bible reading, meditation, and memorization as we equip kids for a successful spiritual journey.
Worship: Responding to the overtures of love from the heart of God.
“Our Lord and God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because you have created all things and by your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11
Be insistent that the Object of your worship is the One True God. Jesus said:
“You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Matthew 4:10
Worship involves our whole being. When asked, Jesus told the scribes the greatest commandment was
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
Children can worship (and should). Children can participate in different aspects of congregational worship. They can sing, they can pray, they can give, and they can listen and observe (and they should).
Jesus taught that if we don’t praise Him, “the very rocks will cry out” (Luke 19:40). As Kids Ministry leaders we need to be busy putting a few rocks out of business.
Service: Becoming a servant of others.
“Little Children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
“But be doers of the word, not hearers only deceiving yourself.” James 1:22
True service builds humility. In his book, Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster says, “Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness.”
In choosing to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available, vulnerable, and Christlike! Christ was a servant. To be Christlike, we will strive to be servants, too.
“Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him.” John 13:3-5
Children can serve (and should). Children need to be less occupied with themselves and more interested in the needs of others. Children can be made aware of others needs and expected to show the love of God in their actions.
Kids ministry should be an equipping ministry, equipping kids and helping to equip families. If we’re not equipping kids with the skills to live as growing, loving, followers of Jesus Christ we’re just playing. Teaching kids spiritual practices, habits … yes, spiritual disciplines must become the core of who we are and undergird everything we do. If not, we’re just playing and not equipping.
Bill Emeott serves as Lead Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Kids. He is a graduate of Mercer University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as a Kid’s Minister. Bill currently teaches 3rd Grade Bible study.