Kids Take the Lead

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These children’s ministers believe
kids are the church’s ministers and leaders — of today. Here’s how
they’re growing kids’ gifts and skills for power-packed
ministry.

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There’s a great and familiar story in the Bible about a crowd of
5,000 gathered near where Jesus was teaching. You remember –
everyone in the crowd was hungry. As a test, Jesus asked his
disciples how they could help this sea of starving people. The
disciples didn’t know. While they were trying to figure out a
logical way to deal with the crisis, a young boy came forward with
great sincerity and gave them all the food he had — five loaves of
bread and two fish. The disciples, possibly in a fairly patronizing
way, said, “Thanks, kid, but this little bit of food isn’t going to
help.”

Jesus saw things differently. He recognized this little boy’s
trust and childlike faith. He saw that the boy believed his gift of
food would help. And did it ever. Through that boy’s faith and
sacrifice, Jesus performed the famous miracle of feeding thousands
– with 12 basketfuls of food left over. Imagine how that boy
must’ve felt!

Today, some ministries are guilty of treating children as the
disciples did that day. Instead of assuming a child has something
valid to offer Jesus, there’s a tendency to believe that children
should stay seated and observe in church. Our philosophy, though,
is a bit different. We believe kids have an important and welcome
position in ministry. We also believe it’s our role to equip kids
and create opportunities for them to use their unique gifts as they
learn to become leaders in ministry. We have to answer some big
questions.

Can God work through children, even when they’re
small?

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Some may say no. Perhaps they believe that children are too young,
or that they haven’t grown socially mature enough to do ministry
for God. Others may say kids need to learn more about Jesus before
they can do anything on his behalf.

We disagree. God can minister both in and through the life of a
child — and he does regularly. We’ve been involved in children’s
ministry for more than a decade, and we’ve created an atmosphere
where children are encouraged and equipped to minister for God
while being ministered to themselves. The big question we ask isn’t
Can children minister?” but “Why can children
minister for God?” and “How do we provide kids with
opportunities to minister?”

Why can children minister for God?

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul writes that
anyone who’s a follower of Jesus is part of the body of Christ.
That passage focuses on the importance of every part of the body of
Christ-without mentioning special requirements about age, sex,
race, or other differences. Paul says every person has gifts and
talents, which were given by Jesus for the purpose of blessing the
body of Christ and building the kingdom of heaven. In a nutshell,
children are as much a part of the body of Christ as any of
us.

God blessed all children with gifts and talent. And while kids may
not know what their gifts are yet, it’s important to remember that
many adults don’t recognize or understand their own gifts and
talents either. What an awesome privilege it is to provide kids
with a safe environment in our ministries to discover and utilize
their talents at a young age. When children apply what they learn
from God’s Word early, they have a strong, healthy balance of both
head and heart knowledge. When we neglect to offer opportunities
for children to minister for God, we make the body of Christ
dysfunctional, similar to implying that a part of the human body is
useless and unnecessary. That’s not healthy thinking.

By providing children with opportunities, they’ll experience God’s
work in and through them. For anyone — regardless of age — that
experience can be powerful and life changing.

How do we provide children with opportunities to
minister?

Helping children discover and use their gifts and talents for God
is simpler than you might think. Here are practical ways churches
have been successful in this area. 

Discipleship Program-Our church created a program
called Discipleship Factory for Sunday evenings. Children complete
a commitment form, agreeing to be present at all training sessions
and to keep a good attitude throughout the program. If kids can’t
attend a session, they’re expected to call ahead. We also require
parents or guardians to sign this commitment, acknowledging they’ll
get their children to the program for each session. This commitment
instills responsibility in kids, helping them understand that with
commitment comes…commitment.

This program costs virtually nothing to put into practice, and any
size church can implement it. A Discipleship Factory program can
run weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. Our program is for kids ages
7 to 13. During Discipleship Factory evenings, we begin with a
short devotional highlighting leadership traits from a biblical
perspective. Then we do 45 minutes of hands-on training that kids
will implement in our weekly programs. By focusing on a couple of
ministry areas at a time before introducing something new, kids and
leaders don’t feel overwhelmed. The following are ministry areas
children learn so they can partner with adults during weekly church
programs.

• Animal balloons-Make animal balloons at
services or special events.

• Face painting-Learn to paint simple designs for
special events.

• Greeting-Learn to welcome other kids, help them
find seats, and be a buddy to new or shy kids.

• Multimedia-Learn how to run sound and
PowerPoint for multimedia experiences.

• Object lessons-Videotape kids doing object
lessons, or let them practice something they’ll do live during the
service.

• Public prayer-Learn to lead prayer from the
front.

• Puppetry-Do puppet skits or puppet plays to
music.

• Prayer team-Pray during an altar or prayer
time.

• Registration-Help others find their nametags
and sign in for programs.

• Testimony-Talk about what God’s done in their
lives.

• Worship-Demonstrate actions during worship
time. 

Ministry Weekends-We also host an Extreme
Ministry Training Weekend where kids learn what it means to
minister. On Saturday we provide a couple of workshops focusing on
topics from the Discipleship Program list or other areas we’d like
kids to learn about. Then on Sunday morning, we either have a
family service for the entire church or our regular Sunday morning
kids program, and we incorporate the kids and what they learned
right into the service. 

Coaching Classes-Dale Ruttan, children’s pastor
at Essex Gospel Tabernacle in Essex, Ontario, has wonderful success
leading a coaching class for kids. He selects kids who meet with
him monthly for an entire year. The group meets at a restaurant
where they have coaching classes, all designed to teach kids
leadership skills. Ruttan follows up by providing the kids with
specific ministry opportunities in his church’s programs.
 

Service Projects-Service projects are some of the
most powerful and wonderful ways to get kids involved in hands-on
ministry. Whether it’s weeding an elderly person’s yard, painting a
fence, or collecting winter coats for the homeless, kids have
proven time and time again that service projects are some of their
most powerful ministry opportunities. This is a great area to get
kids’ input on the types of projects they’d like to do.

     

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