By Anna Sargeant
This post is part two of a three-part series about what makes a gospel-centered ministry: gospel-centered teaching, gospel-centered values, and gospel-centered interactions. I covered gospel-centered teaching in Part 1, which you can find here. In it, we discovered that a gospel-centered ministry is more of a mindset than anything else. The second thing that forms and shapes that mindset is your ministry’s values.
Values are essential for any organization. They say, ‘This is who we are and what we care about.” They establish purpose and priorities and guide the group in making significant decisions, like developing programs and policies, and in small decisions, like what brand of pencils to buy. Because values are so foundational for your children’s ministry, your volunteers must hear them repeatedly, parents must know them, and kids must sense them. Ultimately, your values will communicate what you think is a “win” in ministry, and that’s why they must be rooted in the gospel.
During the end of my time on staff in children’s ministry, we lived and breathed three core values: Truth, Fun, and Love. Everything was measured against these values. If whatever it was didn’t fit under one of these, we didn’t do it. I’ll summarize them here.
Truth: We sought to teach the Word of God clearly and boldly, presenting difficult truths in child-friendly ways and not watering down the gospel. We sought to hold the Word of God in the highest esteem by loving our Bibles personally and teaching Scripture with precision and care.
Fun: We wanted the kids to laugh, play, be silly, and dance. We sought to break down walls through games and levity so that the kids might see that life in Christ is an abundant and joyful life, not a rigid or legalistic one.
Love: We wanted kids to sense the supernatural, grace-filled, and unlimited love of God through us. By following researched-based approaches to discipline and teaching, we sought to care for every child, including those with special needs, in ways that were best for their development. We wanted kids to feel God’s love so that they could turn around and love others!
These three values played off of one another. We believed children could not learn the truth unless they felt loved and were having fun. But that didn’t mean the value of truth played second fiddle! Our goal was always to introduce kids to the Truth (Jesus) so that, through a relationship with Him and trust in His Word, they might love a more joyful, love-filled life.
As a practical example of how these values played out in decision-making, our worship team created a children’s worship album that reflected these values. The musicians wrote doctrinally rich children’s songs (truth), choreographed dance moves for them (fun), and recorded the albums and videos to sing along to at church, at home, or with friends as an outreach tool (love). Our values informed our plans. There are lots of children’s ministries who would have never done this. But with the resources at our disposal and the values in place, it was a no-brainer to us!
Ultimately, whatever your ministry values, you will talk about and be excited about. Whatever you value, you will put your time and energy toward it. And whatever you value, you will spend money on. This is why you need to know what you value and make sure it’s rooted in the gospel.
To be clear, Truth, Fun, and Love are not the only gospel-centered values a ministry might have! Your ministry values might be Hospitality, Diversity, and Worship. Or maybe Pursue Wisdom, Show Grace, and Seek Outreach. There are dozens of words or phrases that you could choose that would give your ministry direction. The point is that it’s vital to choose gospel-centered values intentionally and stick to them. Otherwise, parents won’t know what to expect, volunteers will end up operating according to their own sets of values, and your ministry to the kids will be less effective overall.
So as a leader, ask these questions about your values regularly:
- Do I know the ministry’s values and the heart behind them?
- Do my volunteers know the values and the heart behind them?
- Do these values reflect the gospel? In what ways?
- In what areas are we upholding our values?
- In what areas are we deviating from our values?
- Are there any values we need to let go of or change?
Having strong, gospel-centered values will help everyone involved in your ministry maintain a gospel-centered mindset. And with the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit, this will cultivate a more gospel-centered ministry.
Anna served on the children’s ministry team at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas from 2009-2017, first as a volunteer, then as full-time staff. She also wrote for six years for The Gospel Project for Kids curriculum. Anna currently works as an acquisitions editor for B&H Kids in Nashville. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her reading a book, sipping tea, chatting with loved ones, attempting to record a podcast, or walking in the woods.