Jeremy Echols joins the podcast to discuss how camp is going and what to expect!
By Aaron Armstrong
Let me tell you about why I serve in kids ministry. Correction: let me tell you about the one really good reason I serve in kids ministry. I’ve been serving in kids ministry more or less from the time I started following Jesus right to the day I’m typing this, with only a few small breaks in between (so, give or take, about 14 years).
That’s hundreds of lessons taught to hundreds of children, all with particular needs. It’s hundreds of times being asked for a snack or a drink of water. Hundreds of times being asked for a trip to the bathroom. And, of course, hundreds of times being interrupted with a non sequitur about a pet, sibling, or something fun that happened that weekend.
For a lot of us, kids ministry is exhausting. It’s the place where we work the hardest to find volunteers and always come up short. It’s the place where we are never sure if kids are actually getting anything from our teaching. It is so often seen as little more than an add-on, as childcare at best—glorified babysitting where kids do a craft, hear a story, and maybe get a snack, too.
So why do I serve there? Simple: I serve in kids ministry because it is valuable—it matters! Kids ministry matters because it is all about making disciples of Jesus! It’s a place to make sure kids are getting the same things we all need to grow.
THEY MUST BE FED
Spiritually speaking, children need all the same things we do in order to grow: they need to know the Bible, too, and sometimes in even greater abundance! But we must remember the command Jesus gave to Peter, to feed His lambs (John 21:15).
Like Peter, we are commanded to instruct people in the faith. We are to teach them the truth; to “feed” them from God’s inspired Word. And that necessarily includes children.
WHAT KIDS NEED MOST
Kids need the truth in order to grow, just as much as adults do. No truth, no matter how big or small, should be excluded from their understanding. They need to know:
How God judges the world
How He demonstrates His love through the sending of His Son Jesus to die for us
That all stand before God guilty of sin, and only Jesus can take it away
That Jesus is coming back to judge the living and the dead, and bring about the new creation
That God sends His Spirit to live within all who believe, giving them new life and desires that please God
Kids need to know all these truths and many more besides. But whether kids realize this need or not isn’t the point. It also doesn’t matter if they respond right away or not.
And while we should never make the gospel or the Bible seem boring, our goal isn’t to be entertainers when we teach. The children in our ministries aren’t here simply to have a good time—they’re here for good news. Just as children need healthy food in order to grow physically, they need sound teaching to grow spiritually. Teach “the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” as Spurgeon wrote. That’s what kids need most.
And here’s the good news: they can handle it! Taught in an age-appropriate way, they can handle the tough truths of the Bible. They can handle the big story of Scripture. They can handle the passages that sometimes make us adults uncomfortable. What God has revealed, kids are capable of grasping.
But what kids need often challenges what we desire. We are shaped by an instant gratification culture where social media, important leadership wisdom, and, let’s be honest, our own sin, have transformed us into dopamine junkies, itching to get the next hit of temporary satisfaction.
But kids ministry, properly understood, is opposed to the quick hit or the easy win. Kids ministry is intentional, relational evangelism and discipleship. It is a slow burn, with a capital S-L-O-W, where we truly do live in light of the parable of the sower, scattering the seed of the gospel indiscriminately, not knowing what sort of soil it will ultimately fall upon.
GETTING A GLIMPSE
Nevertheless, even though instant gratification isn’t a thing in this ministry, it doesn’t change the goal. And it doesn’t mean we don’t get little glimpses of what God is doing in the hearts and minds of the kids we serve. Sometimes, God, in His kindness, does exactly that.
A few years ago, the Christmas before I moved to the U.S. from Canada, one of the girls I taught stopped me in the hall. She handed me a little card she had made. Inside it simply said, “Thank you for teaching God’s Word to us.” At the time, she hadn’t professed faith in Jesus, but she understood at least one thing: that I cared enough to teach her about Him.
And that’s enough. It has to be.
Aaron Armstrong is the Brand Manager of The Gospel Project, and the author of several books including Epic: The Story that Changed the World, Awaiting a Savior, and the screenwriter of the documentary Luther: the Life and Legacy of the German Reformer. Follow him on Twitter.
Remind your volunteers how much you appreciate them! Download instructions and tags here.
Melita Thomas joins the podcast to discuss the new theme for VBS 2022!
By Kayla Stevens
The families in our ministries are wonderfully diverse, unique, and different, and we celebrate those differences. Yet, as we serve the families in our churches, we may still have some blind-spots in how we interact with the different types of families we serve.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with my good friend, Sara Lansford, a talented editor, Kidmin leader, and foster mom about how church leaders can be encouraged to serve both the non-traditional and traditional families in our ministries. Here are a few insights from that conversation.
What is something you want leaders to know about non-traditional families?
I really would love for church leaders to advocate that non-traditional families can be healthy families, too. Our culture often talks about things in terms of health and brokenness, and oftentimes families that are not traditional are seen as unhealthy because they don’t fit the traditional mold or model. But, what is true according to the gospel is that all families are broken. We are all broken by our sin, and that sin not only affects us and our relationship with God, but also our relationship with others, including our families. Whether our kids belong to a family through foster care, adoption, or biology, all of our families are broken and in need of Jesus. As such, we don’t have healthy families because they are traditional and unhealthy families that are not. We have families of all shapes and sizes that need the redemption and restoration of Jesus.
What is a misconception you see in the church at large in relation to kids from non-traditional families?
I think one of the misconceptions we often operate from is that children from non-traditional families are “bad kids” or will require more energy and patience than kids from traditional families. We don’t always say this aloud, but we may demonstrate this in how we approach behavior issues at church or the conversations we choose to have with that child’s adult. One of the best pieces of advice I heard about children and behavior is that every behavior is a sign of a need. If there is a behavior that is being expressed, there is usually a deeper need behind the behavior that needs to be brought to the surface. No child is the same and no experience is the same, but kids often know when an adult or authority figure sees them differently than the boys and girls around them. As leaders and volunteers, we need to make sure we are viewing each child in our care with equal dignity, respect, love, and expectations.
What can leaders and volunteers do to encourage and support non-traditional families in the local church?
When it comes to supporting and caring for non-traditional families in the local church, there are three things that come to mind that were so helpful for me. First, language matters. Our volunteers have changed terminology in identifying the adults in kids’ lives as “your grown-up” rather than mom and dad. It seems like a nuanced change, but for the families in your ministries whose primary caregiver is not a mom or dad, this shift is seismic. It recognizes and respects the caregivers and helps children feel included in understanding they have grown-ups in their lives like the other kids in their class.
Second, options are important. When certain holidays come about that celebrate family members, be mindful of the kids in your ministry and be ready to provide several options that everyone in the class can choose from. If your class makes a Mother’s Day card for moms or grandmothers, also consider options where kids can participate, such as making a card for a teacher or friend. Create opportunities for kids to feel included rather than singled-out because their family doesn’t include a mom or grandmother.
Lastly, I think it has been so encouraging for me as a mom to be part of a church that fosters community and communication. Having opportunities for kids of single parents to be taken somewhere special to shop for Christmas gifts for their grown-up or dropping off a meal kit basket on Valentine’s Day are small gestures that spoke volumes to me.
Families of all shapes and sizes want to be seen and want to belong. When we take the time to let people know we see them and love them, we open the doors even wider for them to grow deeper in biblical community as the family of God.
Kayla Stevens is a Content Editor for Lifeway Kids. She is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and William Carey University. Kayla lives in Nashville, Tennessee and has served in Kids ministry for over 10 years.
Print out this coloring page for kids to decorate and give to their Dad on Father’s Day this Sunday, June 20th.
Download this fun craft to help kids celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, June 20.
Kimba Campbell joins the podcast to discuss goals we want to when we are relaunching our kids ministry.
By Sarah Humphrey
Summer is a great season to soak up time with your kids or the kids in your ministry circles. With schoolwork out of the picture, kids’ brains are freed up to relax, play, and gather themselves through the art of free time, exploration, deeper conversations, and rest.
Unlike any other time of the year, the summer months can be a sweet offering of connection and can set the pace for a productive and fruitful school year in the Fall. What kids often yearn for is quality time, good creative and physical outlets, and sunshine! As an adult, you can use this time to help cleanse and nourish any exhausted portions of their little minds and bodies and simply give them a good, refreshing break.
Having intentional play dates with friends, scheduled outdoor activities, and a lot of time to explore nature are sure ways to brighten their spirits and help them engage with their five senses through outlets that don’t include a desk, television, or homework. This free time can speak volumes to them in ways that will nourish their creativity, enhance their faith, and give their bodies healthy movement and oxygen!
Some of my favorite summer activities include incorporating conversational lessons with the kids around me. When outside for a walk, make sure to allow the time to stop for ant hills, smell flowers, or step in creeks and streams. Talk about how big and creative God is, how He made everything in nature, and how He loves when we enjoy it!
When emotions run high, let summer be a time that you slow down to connect in authentic communication. Listen well to concerns, boo boos, and relational dilemmas. Sometimes kids need a little more attention in these areas, and it’s easy for adults to pass by them quickly. Take this time to stay with them a little longer, nourishing them with band-aids, kind words, and simple prayers.
Find new books to enjoy together (on a blanket under a tree, perhaps!). Let summer enhance a love for reading Bible stories, fun novels, and whatever genres your kids may like. It’s a wonderful opportunity to offer reward incentives for the time they spend in front of a book, instead of the time they watch the television or a screen.
As summer is upon us, give yourself the grace and joy of slowing down with the littles in your life. Let the sunshine warm you, the fresh breezes revive you, and the simple schedule nourish you. Summers are memory-makers for children, and being able to participate in those memories is a privilege!
Sarah is a wife and homeschool mom to three kids while also working as an artist, author, and voice actor. Her writing and doodling can be found in her devotional, “40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood” and her voice in several commercials, children’s books, and audiobooks. She loves encouraging women and kids to embrace self-care, utilize their gifts, and become leaders in the community around them.
Download this free Summer Road Trip Activity Book! Print it out or use it digitally to document your road trip. Click here to download.