(an excerpt from Chris’ seminar series The Gospel for Juniors: Not a Junior Gospel)
I’ve never gone to a church and been told “we hate our children”. On the contrary, most churches are very vocal about how important children are to them. And usually the proclamation of the importance of children is backed up by actions. Age-specific Sunday School classes, Wednesday night clubs and special outreach events are planned with much time and effort. Money is allocated through a line item in the annual budget and/or special offerings are taken. Some churches have a children’s pastor who’s primary domain is a whole children’s wing or separate building brightly painted and decorated to house all of the beanbag chairs, foosball tables and projection screens — all in an effort to reach boys and girls with an important message.
But what is that message?
As a children’s worker, I understand the desire that drives one to put out such herculean effort in time, money and resources to reach boys and girls for Jesus. But at the end of the day, all of these things are just tools and none of them can change children’s lives and win them for Christ. It seems like a great thing to turn the spotlight on children and make them the focus of our best efforts. But if you focus the spotlight on children, then all they will be able to see is themselves. As with all things, our focus should be on Christ. The message to boys and girls cannot simply be “you are important”, for while that is true and is a reflection of the importance that God Himself places on children, it misses the why! Why are you important? For what purpose did God reach out to sinners when He is holy and we are not? And how did He accomplish that purpose? The focus and message should be God and His glory! It is this message that will produce a saving faith and spiritual fruit. It is the message found only in God’s Word, the Bible. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The message must have priority over the method, or the method becomes the message!
Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying that the method is of no importance. I am not saying that special outreach programs or classes geared toward children or dedicated kid-friendly spaces are bad or useless. At God’s Helping Hands we spend a tremendous amount of time and effort developing the method through everything from building puppets to deliver the message to the busses to take them there. But it all must begin with God’s Word and a desire for His glorification. If the method takes first place, then we are not being faithful to the message and we miss out on the blessing of giving it! 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” [emphasis added]
[For more information about the live seminar The Gospel for Juniors: Not a Junior Gospel please contact God’s Helping Hands or write to Chris Knobloch at firstname.lastname@example.org]