I had a great time serving at church tonight in our preschool ministry. Our Life Group served and my wife and I kept the toddler class. What a great time of serving and giving ourselves away so parents could enjoy their Life Groups and grow in their walk with the Lord. I am so thankful others do this for us as well! I'm thankful that my Life Group stepped up to the plate, loved those kids and families, and knocked it out of the park! When we serve each other, it is a true picture of Church. Each part does its share. We didn't just keep kids - we ministered to families - we were the Church - we loved on and helped kids get closer to Jesus. Our group had a blast and loved being with all the kids. How could anyone call it simply childcare or nursery - it was fulfilling ministry!
It wasn't without it's challenges - it never is! There is difficulty in anything worth while. There are obstacles and roadblocks you never saw coming. I know not everyone is called to children's ministry, but everyone is called to children. Jesus loved kids. The next time I hear someone complain it is their turn in the nursery I just may throw-up.
I saw the people serve tonight and fulfill 1 Peter 4:10, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." Thank you Harrison Life Group for being faithful stewards of God's grace and serving others with the gifts He has given you!
Let me tell you some things about three convictions I have about children's ministry:
If you want young families and kids in your church, you must make them priority with the money you spend on them. My kids love certain restaurants and certain stores. Why? They are kid-friendly. They spent money on attracting kids. It catches their eyes. It serves us as parents. It provides them a fun environment. We went to Disney World two years ago and are going back this summer. Why? Disney spent tons of money making it a place kids love. I love it that our church spends money making kids ministry fun, relevant, and creative for kids! If you have three things that need money in the church and you can only choose one, you always choose the kids and families. I love it that we have great plans now to expand, refresh, and refurbish a ton of our preschool and children's ministry to make it a place that screams "WE LOVE FAMILIES AND KIDS". Like Jesus said, let the little children come to me (Matthew 19:14). Those kids just didn't show up that day. They came with their parents, possibly their grandparents. These parents didn't put their kids in a room away from Jesus so the real ministry could happen. Jesus didn't say, "get that snotty nosed crying kid out of here." He said "welcome". He placed his hands on them and blessed them. These parents brought them to the very presence of Christ! Parents don't bring us our kids to babysit. They get that all week. They bring them to experience Jesus. We must bring our kids to the presence of Christ each time they step foot inside the church. Bring on the kids!
Speaking of fun, the second thing you need if you want young families and kids in your church is fun. I've always said if all you tell kids to do at church is to be quiet and sit down then that's what they are going to grow up to do - nothing. Church should be fun. Children's ministry should be fun. I loved playing with each new kid who came in tonight. Some were apprehensive and cried at first - it just happens when you are barely 2 years old. But as I got on the floor and played with them with toys or an activity, they moved from crying to smiling. We set the attitude of the room tonight. I love teaching and doing crazy stuff with 4-6th grade Kids Church on Saturday nights. For every object lesson you have, you need a game. Or, why not teach the Bible with a game. "Fun" and "Church" don't go together in some circles. We must do everything possible so kids don't grow up and hate church. Coloring pages and Kool-Aid won't cut it anymore. We must make it a fun place. We must find out what games and actvities they love and do them. We must make church the highlight of their week! My kids love coming to church. We don't drag them, they ask us when they get to go! I pray my kids never lose this. I pray we never lose this as a church.
Lastly, we have to do more than babysit. Kids have to learn something about Christ every time they come to church. Popping in a movie is the easy way out. Here are the two biggest questions parents ask at the end of a service - "Did you have fun?" and "What did you learn?" These two go hand in hand. Kids need to say, "I had fun when we learned this about the Lord." Kids need to learn about how to be disciples on their level. They need the meat of the Word, packaged in a relevant way, in portions they can digest. We don't keep kids - we disciple them! What kind of disciples do we make when we complain about having to serve them! Wouldn't it be silly if we complained when more adults come through the front door on a Sunday morning. Wouldn't it be silly if we as pastors complained about having to prepare services for them? We should desire no less for the kids. Jesus said whoever welcomes one of these kids welcomes Him (Mark 9:37). Did you catch that - when you welcome a kid - you welcome Jesus! Jesus also said you would would not lose your reward if you serve them snacks (Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41).
I challenge other Life Groups to step up and serve in the preschool area on a Life Group night. I challenge others to get involved in AWANA or kids church. You'll join the few who get to say, "What an honor to serve. What a joy! What a difference I made tonight in the lives of kids and families."