Children’s ministry leader, you have the most opportunity of any leader in the Church to shape what her future will look like. You lead the Church of today, but you also lead the Church of tomorrow. This is a weighty responsibility. We see all throughout Scripture that the spiritual formation and discipleship of children has always been of utmost importance to the heart of God.
Jesus often spoke in parables and asked questions. He was the Master Teacher, and delighted to create spaces where people had to deeply consider His teaching. But Matthew 18 was quite a direct moment… unique and poignant and without ambiguity. To put it bluntly, Jesus articulated that to cause any of these little children to stumble… well, it would be better for that person to be put to death. This is not a matter to trifle with. It is truly serious. It is life or death in more ways than one.
There are many sins of humanity that cause our little ones to stumble. Abuse, anger, bullying, denying their needs, failure to share the truth in love, slavery, trafficking, spiritual manipulation, negligence, and the list goes on… but for this post, we need to talk about racism.
Dear friends, racism has been with us from the moment sin entered the world because it is a sin. It is evil because it comes from the evil one. It flies in opposition to the heart of God and it has no place in His Kingdom. The only hope we have against the sin of racism is Jesus and the sanctifying work of His Spirit in our hearts and lives. He is the only one who can redeem this sin, the only One Who can conquer this evil.
As His children, we have a great responsibility to reflect the heart of our Father in this world. So what is the role of the children’s ministry leader when it comes to racism?
1. Be a Disciple
As a disciple, our most important job is to replicate the ways of our Rabbi. We are to be reflections of His ways and His teachings. It is critical that we as disciples develop a robust theological foundation around His response and teachings about racism because we have to be convinced about His heart on this. We have a responsibility, also, as disciples to deal with our sin. Prejudice is in all of us, and we have a responsibility to invite His searching, to repent over what He reveals, to reflect the mercy and humility of our Savior, and to represent His Kingdom in this world. To do justice as an ambassador of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).
- Questions for reflection: How can you make space today to sit honestly before the Lord and invite His searching? What next step do you need to take today as a disciple to humbly embody your role as an ambassador of reconciliation?
2. Be a Listener
Listening is one of the greatest ways we can embody love and humility- especially around the way racism has been experienced by people in our church and community. Leaders are listeners. The truth is, we love to listen to what we want to listen to and tune out anything different. We have so many opportunities today to live in an echo chamber. We don’t have to agree with everything we hear, but we do need to hear. As those who lead the next generation, we are responsible to listen to what our community is saying and then listen to how the Holy Spirit is directing us to respond. And then, we obey His direction… no matter the cost.
- Questions for reflection: How have you been listening this week? In what ways have you invited the stories and perspectives of those who are different from you? Is there someone you can reach out to today and ask to listen to their story?
3. Be a shepherd
As a shepherd, the Lord has entrusted the care of the hearts, minds, and souls of our kids/families to our leadership and guidance. In this shepherding role, we are to model His shepherding heart. We are to mourn with those who mourn, we are to guide our flock to truth in love, and we are to not allow injustice or prejudice to go unaddressed in our ministries.
This requires wisdom and intentionality in areas like:
- Humbly considering the way your church and your ministry reflects or does not reflect the diverse family of God. Take time with the Lord, and seek out wisdom for what needs to change. Moving towards a just and diverse representation of the family of God happens one step at a time. Just keep stepping.
- Ensuring our co-laborers (team, volunteers, etc.) are personally committed to creating environments that are diverse, inclusive, and reflective of the Kingdom. This means they are willing to do the work of rooting out prejudice in their own lives, and are eager to grow in practicing mercy and justice.
- Providing space for families in your church to come to you for pastoral care and support as they process through the impact of racism in their lives and their children’s lives.
- Considering the ways your curriculum/worship/environments help develop a theologically rich foundation about racism, empathy, and unity for the children and families you lead.
- Questions for reflection: How is God moving in you to intentionally care for your community and do justice as a shepherd for kids and families? What insecurities are you feeling about that? What truth from Scripture can you hold on to as you obey in spite of insecurity or fear?
4. Be a teacher
As a teacher, you have a responsibility to be depositing truth into the people you lead. Providing training, tools, and resources that help your team to grow and become more aware of what racism is, how pervasive it is in our world, and what they can personally do to take a stand against it is one of the ways we can deposit truth that combats justification for racism in big and small ways. As you learn and grow, do not hoard what has been taught to you. Pass it on. Remember, teaching doesn’t always happen in Large Group or in volunteer training meetings – although those are great environments to teach a biblical and just perspective on racism; often the greatest teaching moments happen in one-on-one conversations.
- Questions for reflection: What have you done in the past to nurture a just and biblical perspective on racism with your team? What is one thing you can do in the coming days to help your staff and volunteers grow in this area? Who do you need to call today to engage in a conversation about this?
5. Be an advocate
Different pictures come to mind when we think of the word advocate. I hope the picture that comes to our mind together as a community of leaders is Jesus. 1 John 2:1 tells us that our advocate before the Father is Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. An advocate is one who pleads the cause of another or defends someone and actively desires their good. At CPC19, Pastor Choco said, “With revelation comes responsibility.” Our responsibility EVERY TIME we encounter the sin of racism is to stand actively opposed to it. We are, with our very lives, to advocate for our brothers and sisters because it is our responsibility as fellow image-bearers and ambassadors of the message of reconciliation. There is no neutral response on racism in the Kingdom of God. It is a sin, and when it is revealed to us, we have a responsibility to act.
- Questions for reflection: How is God leading you to act? Have you resisted responsibility around this issue in the past? What can you do today to actively work for the good of those who have been impacted by racism?
Dear ones, I love you. I truly do. My heart has longed to sit with each of you and hear how your heart is. These months have been hard- like giving birth hard – but I do believe God is doing a new thing among us. In the midst of our grief, our questions, our exhaustion, our anxiety, and our labor… I want to leave you with hope.
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” 1 Peter 1:13
He is coming. That is grace and hope for today. And as we anticipate His return, we run our race the way He has showed us and don’t give up.