By Anna Sargeant
Do you tend to think of the kids in your Sunday School classrooms as missionaries? Most people don’t. We think one day—when our kids are more mature or know more right answers or better understand their spiritual gifts or have learned to sin less—then God will use them.
We think too little of both God and children.
This blog is part of a two-part series on missional Sunday school, an approach to Sunday school which focuses on training kids to openly and eagerly share what they have gained in the gospel with others. There have been dozens of books written on the missional movement, and in sum, the missional mindset says, “As Christians, it’s the church’s job to take the good news to the lost, not for the lost to come to the church to find the good news.”
So in this first post, I’ll highlight three things:
- God likes to use kids in His mission.
- Kids have what they need to be missionaries.
- God cares about mission.
God likes to use kids in His mission.
Look at Josiah, who became king of Judah when he was just 8 years old:
“Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:1-2, emphasis added)
Talk about an important mission: ruling a whole kingdom!
Or how about David, who scholars say was around 15 years old when he killed Goliath? It was the Israelite army’s mission to defeat their enemy, but they were terrified and did not trust the Lord. So David (the teenager) took on the job. He put His full trust in God and accomplished the task.
David responded to Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37).
In other words, when David was even younger than 15 years old, he had been fighting off lions and bears with God’s help. David had developed such a robust faith in God, that he (the teenager) gladly stepped up and slayed the giant when no one in the military would.
This is what the kids in our Sunday schools need to know: a vibrant relationship with God will compel them to step out in faith, to be a witness to God’s power and glory in the world. And they can do this starting now. Josiah did it. David did it. Mary, Jesus’ mother, did it. Countless other kids and teens throughout history have done it. God loves to use kids in His mission.
One way to jumpstart outward-facing, missional thinking in your kids is to ask certain questions following a Bible story. After discussing the facts, you could ask:
- How do you want to be part of what God is doing in the world?
- What needs do you see around you? What do you want to do to meet them?
- How can we work together as a church to meet those needs?
Kids have what they need to be missionaries.
Not only is it possible for God to use kids in His missions, it’s necessary.
According to a study conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals in 2015, 63% of Christians claimed they put their faith in Jesus between the ages of 4 and 14, the age range some have called the 4/14 window. Usually, we interpret this to mean that adults—family members, pastors, coaches, friends of the family, etc.— need to share the gospel with children. And that’s true! I became a Christian when I was five years old when my dad shared the gospel with me.
But Christian children should not be ignored as credible witnesses to the gospel as well. After all, our children have testimonies:
- They can talk about what God is teaching them.
- They can talk about prayers God has answered.
- They can listen to someone’s pains or problems and pray for them.
- They can tell someone the basic gospel message: Our sin separates us and God, but Jesus paid for that sin when He died on the cross and rose again. Now all who believe in Jesus can have a real relationship with God.
- They can talk about how God is helping them and changing their hearts.
A friend once told me even though her kids couldn’t articulate what was different about them after they became Christians, she could. She saw clear evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives when there was no evidence before. Encourage the kids in your classrooms to ask their parents, “How am I different now that I am a Christian?” This information is part of their testimony. It’s part of what they can share the good news with their friends.
Secondly, children have the spiritual qualifications of ambassadors for God. After all, what is God looking for?
- Childlike faith (Matthew 18:2-4)
- People who feel weak (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
- People who are insecure in themselves (1 Chronicles 17:16)
- People who can tell the truth, even when it’s awkward (Acts 4:20)
Still, some of us get worried when we think about our kids being on mission. We fear they will say the wrong thing. We’re afraid they won’t represent Jesus well. We don’t want them to face rejection and not know how to bounce back. But aren’t all of those the same fears we face as adults? And none of that should keep us from sharing our faith! So why should these things keep our children from sharing theirs—especially if the people they would be sharing with are their friends, neighbors, classmates, and teammates, all people in that 4/14 window?
Again, a missional mindset is simply the mindset that says, “My faith isn’t only about me. I want to share the gospel with those around me! I want to be part of God’s mission.” Christian kids can have this mindset, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, they have everything they need to share their faith.
God cares about mission
Lastly, it’s important that we help our kids to think this way so that we’re not giving them a partial gospel. God always intended to use His people to go to new places, to be a blessing wherever they were, and to fill the earth with His glory. Consider the following Scriptures:
The prophet Habakkuk said: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.“ (Matthew 24:14)
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
John says in Revelation: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
This is the end goal—that people from all over the world hear the name of Jesus and believe—and God is inviting us to join Him. Let’s make sure our kids know this and understand that they can be a part of it, starting today!
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.