This guest post was written by Gordon West, Founder of Kidz at Heart.
Have you ever stopped to wonder if all of the work that you put into your ministry with children is really making a difference?
After more than forty years as a children’s pastor, I can tell you that I absolutely love Sunday School, midweek clubs, VBS, and especially camp! But I also know how much is taken out of us as we pour our hearts into each of them – year after year. I love recruiting (I know, that’s weird), but I also know how hard you work to get enough volunteers for Sunday school – every weekend. VBS is a ton of fun, but it could also be described as the best one-week program that takes 51 weeks to prepare each year. Midweek programs are great, but they do take more volunteers and another night of the week away from our own homes.
It’s all great, but it’s natural to wonder if all of this work is really impacting the lives of the kids and families we are trying to reach…for eternity. But how would we know?
Unlike leaders in business or industry, we can’t quantify our goal; we can’t really measure our productivity. We can recognize success, but we can’t prescribe it. There aren’t a set number of verses to memorize or events to attend before a child is deemed a disciple of Jesus. Each of us, young or old, is on a unique journey with our Lord, and quite frankly, the path to spiritual maturity and Christlikeness looks completely different in me than it does in you. And that’s how God has designed it!
We can, however, recognize when a child is becoming like Jesus when he is making progress. How? By taking our cue from Jesus. Jesus declared and described our end product in Mark 12:28-31, children who love God completely, with all of themselves, in every part of life. Since Jesus placed the “greatest” value on loving God, we should, too. We need to set objectives and priorities, processes and plans for our work with children in ways that will help them fall deeply in love with Jesus. That’s our goal!
We will know our work and prayers are making a difference when we see a child in the process of falling in love with Jesus…with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength…and learning to love herself and others more consistently. At KidZ at Heart, we call a child who is falling deeply in love with Jesus a “Great Child,” since she is growing in her obedience to the commandments that Jesus called the “greatest.”
But just as I can’t make a child fall in love with his mother or father, I have no power to make a child fall in love with God. Only God can do this work, and even then the child’s response is key. I must remember that the Holy Spirit is the child’s teacher, not me.
I do, however, have a role to play.
At KidZ at Heart, we train, partner with, and mobilize networks of leaders to help children fall deeply in love with Jesus. We do that by helping leaders and teachers learn practical, effective ways to impact the five spheres of a child’s life where love for God can be formed in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
A sphere is defined as “the place or environment within which a person or thing exists.” We need to positively impact the spheres of life around the child so that each heart, soul, mind, strength, and relationship is nurtured to love God.
KIdZ at Heart’s Transforming KidZ Ministry Training
Our website goes into depth on all five spheres, which are:
- We impact the child’s home to nurture the child’s heart.
- We impact the child’s communication with God to nurture the child’s soul.
- We impact the child’s engagement with learning to nurture the child’s mind.
- We impact the child’s physical, emotional and psychological health to nurture the child’s strength.
- We impact the child’s relationships to nurture the child’s love for God, self, and others.
As Christian leaders, teachers, parents, grandparents, and influencers of children, we need to keep asking, “How can I best impact each of the spheres of a child’s life so that it nurtures the child to fall deeply in love with Jesus?”
And we believe that the answer to that question is through Christian spiritual formation, transformative ministry practices that make space for a child to truly encounter and know God, rather than merely know about God. As children have the opportunity to meet God and engage with Him in every sphere of their lives, they become deeply rooted in His love and live out of the overflow of that relationship.
The phrase “spiritual formation” is being used in a lot of different ways these days, so let me give you KidZ at Heart’s definition: Christian spiritual formation is the lifelong process by which the Holy Spirit serves as our teacher, deepening our relationship with God, transforming us into Christlikeness from the inside, and generating an overflow of love toward God, self, and others (Romans 8:27-29, Mark 12:28-31).
I can’t wait to see you in INCM’s upcoming online course Spiritual Formation for Children which launches April 26. I’m privileged to be leading two sessions where we’ll explore the impact we can have on the child’s home, prayer life, and transformational education. As a result of our time together you will be able to define the role of the home in the spiritual formation of children, identify ways to empower household leaders to create formative environments in the home, and plan ways to incorporate formative approaches and activities into your ministry to children.
In cooperation with the Holy Spirit, our work really can make a difference!
Gordon West is a popular conference speaker and author known for his work in kidmin training, missions, and spiritual formation of children. Gordon founded KidZ at Heart International, a global Christian community that trains, partners with, and mobilizes networks of leaders to help children fall deeply in love with Jesus. Learn more about KidZ at Heart here.