The most exciting opportunity I’ve had as a children’s minister is to witness a child who “gets it.” I don’t mean a child who’s memorized a dozen verses or who can answer all my questions with the correct answers. I mean the child who really understands what God’s message is all about.
My mother told me about Tad, a boy she’d taught in Sunday school years ago. For vacation Bible school one night, the kids had memorized Bible verses to recite to the congregation. This group of 4- and 5-year-olds had worked very hard to memorize their verses. And Tad had been given part of Mark 6:50 — “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
When it was Tad’s turn to step forward, he stood tall and spoke so everyone could hear. “Don’t be skeered; it’s just me!” he proclaimed.
Tad got it! No, he didn’t have the words just right, but he understood the message and was able to pass it on.
Then there was Jesse. She showed up at the door of our church one Easter morning; her mother had dropped her off. Jesse wanted to learn about God — with or without her family.
The following week, I visited Jesse’s home and took her a children’s visitor packet. Her delight was evident when I invited her to our children’s activities. As I was leaving, I asked Jesse how she’d found our church.
“It was Easter,” she said. “That’s a special day, and I thought I should be in church. I just looked in the phone book, saw your church, and then called to find out where it was.”
Jesse’s life was far from ideal. In fact, it wasn’t long before Jesse was sent to live with her grandmother because of serious trouble in her home. And although she’s moved away, she reminds me of the many kids who are so hungry for God.
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Jesse understood what the psalmist meant who wrote, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you” (Psalm 118:26).
Alex is a first-grader. He’s also a prayer warrior. He prayed for months for a new brother or sister. He was certain God would hear him. Today, when he talks about his baby brother, he tells people that God answered his prayers. Alex has influenced people much older than him to pray.
One Wednesday evening as Alex’s family was driving to church, they passed a federal penitentiary. Alex asked his parents questions about the people who lived inside. And then he prayed for them, just as he’d prayed for Timothy McVeigh — a prayer request that wasn’t popular with some people.
Alex didn’t want McVeigh to die without knowing Jesus. He prayed for McVeigh’s life to be spared. He prayed for McVeigh to be sorry for bombing the Oklahoma City federal building. And he asked others to pray with him. Although Alex didn’t see his prayer answered the way he wanted, that didn’t stop Alex from praying for the inmates in the federal penitentiary. Alex understands things that many adults still aren’t clued into. He gets it.
Children’s ministry is all too often overlooked as an important opportunity for discipling. Tad, Alex, Jesse, and countless other children prove differently. What better gift can we receive than to see a child putting his or her faith to work? Our kids are getting the message!
Ginny Reding is a children’s minister in Springfield, Missouri.