The One Thing

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Seasoned children’s ministry experts tell how to keep kids’
faith on track for a lifetime.

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If developing children’s faith is the primary thing we do as
children’s ministers, then we need to ensure that we are on track
with that. Could it be that — even unknowingly — we might derail
children’s faith? Children’s Ministry Magazine asked children’s
ministry experts to answer the question “What is the one thing that
could derail a child’s faith?” and to tell us what we can do to
ensure that children’s faith is on track.

ALAN ROOT

Alan Root has traveled the northern hemisphere ministering the
love of Jesus with rock ‘n’ roll, cartoons, stories, and
spontaneous laughter. He’s been signed as an artist for Word and
Starsong Records, and he did the music behind Sandi Patti’s reading
of the International Children’s Bible. He’s the winner of the 2001
Telly Award, and he co-wrote three musicals for Sony/Tree:
Shortstops, Arkeology, and Hymnology. He’s performed with Psalty,
The Kids’ Touring Company, Barry McGuire, Gerbert, and the Billy
Graham Children’s Crusade. He has five CDs and two videos that zero
in on older kids and their families.

My pastor teaches kindergarten through fourth grade. I’m so proud
of him! He’s not waiting to get the kids after they’ve been through
their formative years. He’s not waiting to undo years of damage the
world can inflict on the unprepared. He’s proactively rolling up
his sleeves in a timely manner. An ounce of prevention beats all
the cures ever miraculously achieved. He can find any number of
willing and gifted people to teach the adults, but he’s not leaving
the kids as an afterthought.

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I think a critical issue in the church today that could hinder a
child’s faith is adults having low expectations of the kids –
unlike my pastor. Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on
you because you are young.” Jesus said, “Let the little children
come to me.” If the kids aren’t getting the best ministry we have
to offer, the church is wasting its time and resources. One hundred
percent of kids are receptive to the love of Jesus and the call to
discipleship. The percentage drops drastically with kids’ increased
age. Kids are not the church of tomorrow. They’re people, albeit
age-challenged, and they’re the church of today. Low expectations
will entertain kids and get them back to their parents in one
piece. A visionary church will equip them and get them back to
their parents ready to take on a world that needs the One they have
come to know.

An adult can derail a child’s faith by being phony. Jesus saved
his anger for the hypocrites, not the inadequates. James said true
religion means helping orphans and widows and keeping oneself
unstained by the world. There’s a price we adults must pay to be
effective with children, and it’s a disciplined life of worship,
prayer, being in the Word, listening for the Shepherd’s voice,
watching, waiting, obeying, and producing fruit by the power of the
Spirit.

When the kids see in us the grace of God at work, there will be no
hindrance to their faith. When they see us mess up and then fess up
and then get back up and keep going, they’ll be encouraged. When
they see us go through hard times with tears and praise, they’ll
catch a glimpse of what’s unshakable and be drawn to Jesus-our
rock. When they see us act as peacemakers, extra-mile goers, fair
dealers, and word keepers, they’ll see the difference Christ really
makes in the life of the believer. But if we fake a life of
following Jesus, we’ll be found out, and we’ll cause great harm to
those kids who are watching us closely.

This past weekend I was running to catch a plane, and five going
on 300 kids wanted autographs. I took time to make sure they
understood why I couldn’t sign anything. I still think their little
hearts were deflated. Instead of using the time to explain my
refusal, I could’ve used the time to speed-scribble my name five
times and give five quick hugs. Jesus brought it to my attention at
30,000 feet, and although I couldn’t fix the situation, I now know
to be more gracious than driven.

I would challenge us all, me included of course, to walk in the
awareness of the fact that Christ is present moment by moment in
our lives. There’s no burden on us to perform, only a call to
participate in the life of Jesus. Juan Carlos Ortiz drilled into my
heart the fact of the indwelling of Jesus. Jesus permeates my whole
existence, not because I’m trying really hard, but because he’s
actually and factually living within me. The constant awareness of
the presence of Jesus is life-changing. To derail a child’s faith
with Jesus present is hard to do because Jesus immediately brings
my transgression to my attention and expects me to own up to
whatever stupid thing I just did or said.

Kids come to faith easier than anyone else on the planet. And kids
need heroes of the faith that are still breathing oxygen and
walking around. The old Bible guys are great, but they can’t
inspire faith better than an on-fire follower of Christ. So, yes,
guard against derailing the faith of a child, remembering with
reverent fear the warning of Jesus that it would be better to be
thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around your neck
than to do that. But at the same time, be encouraged that you can’t
spend your talent, time, and money better than to lavish them all
on a kid. And to be a kid’s hero is the greatest accomplishment
achievable.
     

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