Begin with the Right End in Mind So You Don’t End Right Before You Begin
One of the core principles in educational philosophy is to start with the end in mind—start with what you want the student to learn or how you want the student’s life to change and work back from there. In this blog post we will see how this applies to kids ministry too. We need to clarify our end goal, but that isn’t making believers or even making disciples; it’s making disciple-making disciples. That end goal should then drive all that we do.
Imagine taking a pile of lumber and beginning to cut, nail, sand, and paint it without having a plan of what you were building. You could make the most precise of cuts. Your nailing could be out of this world. And your sanding and painting could be meticulous. But in the end, what good would it be if you just had a useless clump of expertly cut, nailed, sanded, and painted wood?
It’s an absurd illustration, right? Who does that? No one! Instead, you start with a plan and then you work that plan. The same is true in the kitchen—you start with a recipe, or at least know what you are making, and then get after it. Or on a road trip, you know your destination before you begin.
But when it comes to kids ministry, we may not always lead this way. We may not always have in mind the end—our goal—as we plan, lead, and conduct ministry. As a result, we may experience great ministry from week-to-week, but that ministry may not be moving our kids toward where they need to go. So what are we after? Where are we going? What is our goal?
The knee-jerk answer might be that we are helping our kids become believers. We help kids trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. John 3:16 would be the mission verse of this ministry. This answer is fantastic because it’s true. What we do in ministry should drive each and every kid toward trusting in Christ. That’s our desire at least. But then what? If that is the goal, we reach it every time a child trusts in Christ … so we would be done. There would be nothing else left to do. But we know that is not the case, so this cannot be the goal of our ministry.
Perhaps, then, our goal is helping kids become disciples. Trusting in Christ is not the end of the journey, but rather the beginning. We want to help kids grow in their faith and become more Christlike. Matthew 28:18-20 would be the mission verse of this ministry. This answer is even better than the first because it is more complete. It gives context to a long-term ministry to kids, one which hands them off to student ministry and then adult ministry to continue that discipleship process. You can see how this end goal frames our ministries differently than the first. The first would focus solely on evangelism; this one might begin with evangelism, but also would include ways the gospel changes us to be more like Christ. But to what purpose? If we are fully forgiven and righteous in Christ, why grow in that faith? So there has to be even more to our goal than this.
This is important. Our goal is not just to make believers or even disciples; our goal is to help our kids become disciple-making disciples. We want our kids to trust in Christ and grow in their relationship with Him so that they might be able to help others trust in Christ and become disciples as well. This ministry is marked by evangelism of our kids, discipleship of our kids, and evangelism and discipleship training for our kids to reach and disciple others. The mission verse for this ministry would be 2 Timothy 2:2. This end goal gives the deepest and broadest context to all we do. It supplies the greater “why”—it’s not about us, it’s ultimately about God’s glory and God is greatly glorified when more people trust in Christ. That is why we exist. That is why we are left on earth after trusting in Christ rather than being whisked to heaven, so that we can do what we will not be able to do in eternity—make disciple-making disciples.
Brian Dembowczyk is the managing editor for The Gospel Project. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to Lifeway. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.