Our central mission at Awana is a global prayer that all children and youth will come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. This inspiring vision motivates ministry to kids and families all around the world. Yet, to my recent surprise God has started shifting my perspective on how it’s applied.
Awana leaders recognize the high calling and opportunity associated with ministering to each child God brings our way. We deeply desire that kids will respond to the Gospel, trust and follow Christ faithfully. But peel back the layers of fun and games, teaching, and activities, large and small group experiences, and every children’s ministry is ultimately about one thing – deep disciple-making relationships.
Tweet-able Truth: Kids increasingly come to know, love, and serve Christ when they are deeply known, loved, and served by kid-influencers in their lives.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul emphasizes the importance of sharing both the good news of Christ and our very lives with those in our ministry sphere of influence. When kids enter the room they shouldn’t just tug our shirtsleeves, their presence should tug our heartstrings as well. Our thoughts about and time with them ought to evoke a desire to know, love, and serve these precious kids created by God.
It turns out more than what’s taught gets caught by kids. They can tell what we really think about them by the actions, words, and eye contact we send their way. Our true feelings about them come across too.
Reflect & Redirect: As you think about yourself and the leaders in your ministry, would the kids you’re reaching say you know, love, and serve them deeply? If you’re unsure how to respond, perhaps it’s time to be a bit more intentional on this front.
Three Ways to Share Your Life with Kids
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 ESV
1. Get out of your head
How many times have you struggled for words while working with kids only to find yourself glued to the curriculum page in front of you? Head knowledge is pretty easy to share, but making sure that information travels from head to heart is not. We discover in 2 Timothy 1:3 that Paul remembered Timothy around the clock in his prayers. He spent concerted effort expressing gratitude to God for him. Paul’s mind and heart didn’t remain separated like oil and water. Rather, both were fully engaged in his ministry to young Timothy.
Adults who focus only on facts about faith can keep children at a relational distance. On the other hand, kid-influencers who know Jesus personally and intimately have an opportunity to know kids in the same way.
As you prepare to meet with children in the days or weeks ahead, what can you do differently to keep from getting stuck in your head? How can you express your heart so they know firsthand how deeply you know them?
2. Open your heart
Spend any length of time with kids and you’ll discover quickly that they are generally animated and uninhibited. And they anticipate the kid-influencers in their lives will jump right in. Similar to getting out of your head is taking the intentional step to open up your heart with kids. Sometimes adults can have a hard time discerning how to be appropriately authentic with children. As you get to know your kids more deeply, you’ll be able to share your joys and sorrows, questions and concerns, highs and lows as you follow Jesus.
1 John 4:19 (ESV) says, “We love because he first loved us.” This truth comes right out of God’s Word and His character. Caution: Avoiding emotion stifles community with children. If we want to shower Jesus’ love on kids, we must embrace the fact that we are tapped into the ultimate source of love. When leaders clam up, so do the kids they long to love. However, kid-influencers who have experienced God’s unconditional love can freely and deeply share His unending love with kids.
Which kids in your ministry are easier to love? Which ones are more of a challenge? Take time to ask God for wisdom and courage to love both kinds of kids who cross your path unconditionally. Allow the Lord to open up your heart so you can love children in the way God loved you and them first.
3. Extend your hands
Jesus came to serve. Instead of coming to be served, He willfully chose to sacrifice Himself for the sake of the world. While leading a group of kids at church may feel like giving up your life sometimes, it’s really just a fraction of what Christ was talking about in Mark 10:45. The opportunity to serve kids on a regular basis is a privilege. They may never say thank you for investing your time, resources, and energy, but that doesn’t mean your contribution in their life doesn’t go unnoticed.
Every time you extend your hands to serve a child, they experience Christ’s presence face-to-face. They are influenced and so is the family they represent. Limiting ministry to an hour a week only meets a handful of kids’ needs. Kid-influencers who take Christ’s example seriously can serve kids in significant ways beyond church walls.
Take a moment and get specific about ways you can serve kids in your ministry more significantly. What kinds of physical needs can you meet? How can you meet a relational need for a kid whose parents work late or miss sporting events? How could serving a child in your ministry lead them toward serving Christ because you extended your hands?
Take the K-L-S Challenge: You have more influence on the children in your ministry that you will ever know. That influence will only increase if you take seriously the challenge to share your life with them, to know, love, and serve them toward Christ.
- How well would the kids in your ministry say you and the other leaders know, love, and serve them?
- How would you describe what it means to know, love, and serve kids? How is this similar or different from the way your kids would describe each of these?
- What is one step you will take to know, love, and serve kids more deeply in your ministry this year?