As KidMin leaders, children’s pastors, youth leaders and child influencers, we have our hearts set on discipling kids, but our ministry programming may not be set up to accomplish this vision. So how do we move from where we are, today, to a more effective future that will produce the resilient disciples to lead the church of the future? We’re going to walk through a pathway to implementation marked with five practical steps.
This is part 4 in a series on the five practical steps to apply resilient child discipleship to your ministry.
Step #4: Inspire Fully Engaged Child Disciple Makers
The seismic shifts in our culture, although painful, are no surprise. These shifts have resulted in an epidemic of isolation in North America that is overwhelming: fatherlessness, abandonment, divorce, device addiction, neglect, opioid crisis, and financial crisis. We could go on. The effects of these epidemics on children are unprecedented—perhaps the most significant crisis of our time.
Yet, we are reminded of this hope: One loving, caring adult engaged in the life of a child can dramatically increase a child’s long-term probability for success.
I remember when my daughter and I walked out of church and I asked her about her time at kids’ church. She said, “Dad, I don’t want to go there anymore?” What? What happened? Immediately, I began interrogating her. She said, “Dad, next week take a look—nobody smiles.” WOW! That floored me. Sure enough, we went back the next week and not a single leader was smiling. Everyone was efficient and performing his or her job well, but there was no joy or passion. There was no life. It was as if this ministry was breathing, but wasn’t alive.
I’ve heard these same types of stories as I connect with church leaders and facilitate roundtable discussions nationwide. As a community, we face our own crisis—volunteers. So much of what we do is through the minds, hearts, hands and feet of volunteers. Because of this we are so incredibly thankful for those who serve on our teams! Yet, as KidMin leaders and pastors, Jesus words weigh heavy on our hearts when he said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37, NIV). We cry out, “May it not be so!” But far too often it is.
And this is precisely what we learned from you in our 2019 research as well:
- When asked, “Specifically, why don’t you view your children’s ministry as more successful?” the leading response was “lack of volunteers” as 38.6% of the respondents gave this as their top response.
- When asked, “Specifically, why do you view your children’s ministry so successfully?” the second highest response was “volunteers” as 26.7% of the respondents gave this as the number two response.
- When asked, “How much do you think each of the following potential challenges/problems is adversely impacting the children’s ministry at your church, if at all?” the leading response was “lack of volunteers/workers” out of 17 options.
What we heard from you in our research is clear: Loving, caring adults make the difference. Through these loving, caring adults, kids hear the good news of Jesus, they understand what love is, they experience the truth of the Bible and the message of Jesus comes alive.
When you see more success in ministry, it’s because volunteers are engaging. When you see less success, it’s because fewer loving, caring adults are involved. So if effective disciple making takes a disciple maker, and if as a community the research says that our #1 challenge is “we need more disciple makers” than what are we to do about this conundrum? We need to cast the vision.
As I look back on my own local church experience, I remember not only recruiting volunteers, but also at times even begging for volunteers. Perhaps you’ve been there? I found myself thinking, “A volunteer has a role to fill, but a child disciple maker has a calling. How can we get more disciple makers?”
What if they fully knew the power that just one loving, caring adult could have on the long-term development of a child? Part of the rub that we experience as KidMin leaders, is that our programming puts us in a “week-to-week” mentality, but child discipleship is about the long game. We need to cast a new vision for resilient child disciple makers that moves our mindset into our new reality.
As we move toward the year 2050, what will happen if we change nothing? Volunteers will rotate in and rotate out spending time fighting against the constraints of a busy life with short-lived commitments. Might I suggest that being a child disciple maker may cause us to embrace a more selfless culture in the children’s wing? This won’t be easy, but for future generations to thrive in a modern-day Babylon, it’s going to take a different kind of discipleship resilience. One that will gather fully engaged child disciple makers. We need to cast a better, long-view vision.