Children’s ministry (like all ministries) is about two relationships: First, as parents and ministry workers, we seek to have a loving relationship with the children. Second, we seek to help children have a devoted relationship with Jesus. In this second relationship, we have a four-part strategy. First we introduce children to Jesus (seeking the lost). Then we help build them up in Jesus (nurture believers), we equip them to minister with Jesus (equipping workers). And then we equip some to be leaders among their peers (multiplying leaders).
Such equipping is not merely about programs, it is about a relational life-style where we (parents and children’s ministry workers) may walk hand-in-hand with the children through life, focused on participating with Jesus in his ongoing ministry as we go. One might compare this equipping relationship to apprenticeship. The adult in the relationship is the experienced worker, and the child is the enthusiastic apprentice.
Oftentimes, we adults tend to overlook the potential for children to be active in serving God. Likewise, in the Scriptures, we recognize that when David was a young boy, his father Jesse overlooked him when it came time to anoint King Saul’s replacement (1 Samuel 16:5-13). It seemed as though Jesse was blind to David’s potential for this assignment. Luckily, Samuel was open to hear from God on this matter. Perhaps that openness was related to his own experience when God called Samuel to serve him as a young boy (1 Samuel 3:1-21).
My prayer is that when we look at our children, we will see what God sees, hear what God says, and act accordingly to equip our children for God’s calling in their lives. We know, in general, that He calls them to be disciple-making followers of Jesus—working in that calling as an important part of the body of Christ, called to fulfill the Great Commission.
Pastors, you set the pace for this in your congregation. Make it a place that highly values children and actively involves them in the ministry of the congregation. Oftentimes, children are mere spectators in our worship services. It is great that the children have their own classes, but it is vital that they be equipped and then allowed to take an active up-front role in the main worship service. This sends the message to the children, and to the adults watching, that children are an important part of the congregation. They are the future of our churches and we must prepare them to fulfill their role in it. If we do not prepare them, "Who will?"
Youth ministry workers, you are called to be primary equippers of children in your congregations. Invite the children under your care to be your apprentices, and then work to impart to them the ministry skills you have developed. Make young disciples who will, in turn, make other young disciples. We must all show an active concern for every child in our congregations, and even every child in our lives outside the church walls. These children need our gifts, love, time, and equipping.