The One Thing

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JOANNA TOWNSEND

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Johanna Townsend has been an educator of children for 35 years as
a public school teacher, a children’s pastor, and a trainer of
ministry leaders nationally. She co-authored the original
curriculum for Royal Family Kids Camps, which has established camps
nationally for abused and neglected children. She was the recipient
of the International Network of Children’s Ministry’s Excellence in
Ministry to Children award in 1990. She’s the founder and president
of For Kids Only, an organization currently providing grant funding
for ministries that dare to dream of new gospel ministry
opportunities within their local communities.

A key issue that can derail a child’s faith is the lack of
awareness children’s ministers have regarding the impact modern
culture has upon the way children relate and respond to the gospel
message. As a whole, the church hasn’t kept up with cultural
changes. And that continually strips away the relevance of current
gospel delivery methods. Message presentations tend to be too
heavy-handed or too shallow.

Twenty-first century children are globally astute and
technologically savvy. Yet they need interpretation of ancient
biblical manuscripts so the truth is applicable to the issues
facing them today. They’re growing up in a world that’s so
different from the one we grew up in. However, the fact that the
Bible is the living Word of God- relevant for any generation — is
the good news we must remain focused upon. For those who teach
children, there’s a biblical mandate regarding accuracy of messages
given. We must remain current regarding the happenings in the world
yet deliver the truth of biblical text.

We need to help children become critical thinkers so they can
learn to interpret and apply biblical truths. Ministering to them
should be done with no less zeal or passion than that of a senior
pastor ministering to his congregation. Those working with children
are called to work with them for such a time as this. It’s no
accident where you’ve been assigned.

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So for those who minister to children, do so with excellence,
always striving for relevant ways to provide modern applications of
the ageless gospel message. May the lessons taught never look like
they did 10 years ago, and may they be powerful rather than watered
down.

In an era of virtual reality, where images of elephants can be
superimposed on snow-covered mountains instead of the grassy plains
upon which they do live, children aren’t always able to decipher
truth. Who must remain responsible for keeping them sound
spiritually? All who mentor or disciple them.

Such persons must not neglect teaching them to persevere as they
hold on to the promises of God when life is hard and trials and
struggles face or overwhelm them. Too often North American culture
paints a false picture that life should be filled with happy times,
and children become protected from the realities of life. They’re
rarely confronted with hardships that coincide with the disciplines
necessary for Christian growth and maturity. Truth regarding the
hardships that befall those who follow Christ shouldn’t be watered
down. Preparing children for spiritual maturity will include
teaching them to walk in faith and sacrifice their time, their
gifts, and their money at a young age. Encourage them with the
testimonies of those who’ve courageously and faithfully gone before
them. The task seems overwhelming, but we never do it alone, for
we’re only helpers in God’s vineyard.
     

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