God is doing amazing things around the world in children’s
ministry. Look, listen, and learn 10 important lessons from our
Christian brothers and sisters who minister to children in other
parts of the globe.
As a young child in Sunday school, the adventure stories of
courageous missionaries serving in foreign, exotic lands thrilled
me. The missionaries were always daring North Americans (with a few
British-born exceptions). Some of the scenarios in my chiIdhood
Sunday school classes stiII take place, but as our world changes,
so do the challenges facing the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Many of the problems
confronting long — established North American churches are now the
same ones faced by our sister churches abroad.
God’s work in children’s ministry throughout the world reveals
that the picture of missions has changed. It’s time for North
American churches to take a look at our sister churches around the
world and learn from them.
A new generation of Singapore Christians has grown up and
brought their children to church, reports May Lim Chong, who’s
currently a graduate student at Dallas Theological Seminary with
her husband Gary.
“Because the church in Singapore is young, vibrant, and willing
to innovate, it has the potential and attraction to draw many young
lives to Christ,” says May. “The church portrays a generally
positive image — disciplined, yet fun; relaxed, yet respectful of
God and individuals.”
Lesson #1: Adapt your curriculum and facilities to meet
your learners’ needs–and not the other way around.
There are congregations with long histories of service, but many
churches are just getting started and use temporary facilities in
public buildings and hotels. Because culturally-relevant curriculum
is hard to find, many teachers must adapt lessons from American
publishers. Although the Singapore classroom is usually very
traditional in its methods, May’s church encourages teachers to use
more active learning.
Lesson #2: Be flexible.
Singapore’s churches are coping with inadequate facilities,
curriculum that must be adapted to meet special needs, and
opposition to new teaching methods. These are all challenges
familiar to most people who minister to children.
Koh Siang Kiang lives and ministers in Jalan Keria, Singapore.
She reports that the educational system in Singapore, which starts
children in school at the age of 3 and encourages private tutoring
during evenings and weekends, leaves little time for children to be
involved in church programs.
“Can you imagine: there are examinations for kindergarten kids!
Talk about stress! And once they reach first grade, they must do a
second language,” writes Koh.
Lesson #3: Go where the kids are.
To accommodate the children’s demanding schedule, Koh’s church
has extended its children’s ministry beyond the traditional Sunday
school time and location. Her church has reached out into
neighborhoods of unchurched children through parachurch programs,
clubs, correspondence courses, and camps.
Lesson #4: Teach to change lives
Philip Co is the pastor of the United Evangelical Church of the
Philippines in Manila. Philip says that his church’s children’s
ministry recently set this goal: “To nurture children to have
assurance of salvation, having an in-depth and holistic knowledge
of God, living a well-balanced Christian life, understanding the
meaning of worship, experiencing the power of prayer, continuously
growing in the family of God, to become a true Christian soldier
manifesting the beauty of Christ for the glory of God.”
Philip’s church employs a traditionaI Sunday schooI format using
Taiwan’s Toh Kuang Sunday school curriculum. This curriculum is
designed to take children through the entire Bible in six years.
Philip’s church is currently innovating by experimenting with a
team-teaching approach. To expand their children’s ministry, his
church uses vacation Bible schools and camps.
“We’re not just going around doing activities,” Philip says.
“We’re hoping and praying that the children will really be reached
and affect our society now as well as in the future.”