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.