Whacking at the ‘Roots’ of Children’s Ministry

by Mark Steiner

Yep—I am “seasoned” enough to be an eye-witness to much of what has taken place during the last thirty years of children’s ministry. Nope—this article is not about the history or “roots” of ministry to kids. That is a topic for another day. Instead, I would like to take a whack at the “roots” of “who we are”—our very identity.

Have you ever cut down a tree? Generally, it is very easy to do—and plenty of fun. Just grab a sharp ax or chain saw—and the job is over in a few minutes. Watching a huge oak crash to the ground or splash into a river is thrilling! But have you ever taken the time to dig out the roots of that mighty oak tree? Generally, it is a very difficult job—with plenty of headaches. I strongly suggest that you leave the roots in the ground to rot!

As I see it, the twenty-first century Church is ignoring a “root” problem that dramatically affects families and children’s ministry—we have lost our identity. We are experiencing significant breakdowns at the basic level of defining who we are and why we exist. To get the tree to produce healthy acorns (children) that grow into a flourishing forest, we must first address and solve our identity crisis. It all boils down to three basic definitions.

1. What is the Church?

The universal Church is a worldwide, dynamic, interconnected assembly of regenerate people whom Christ called out from the world to make disciples throughout the world. Local churches are composed of members who agree to live according to a governing covenant, to submit to Christ’s headship, and to carry out His command—all to the glory of God.

Implications & Applications:

•Churches are “in” but not “of” the world. Our lifestyles and worldviews must both differ from and be relevant to our culture (John 17:16-18).

•Local churches are living organisms. Christ’s body is alive and adaptable (Col 1:18).

•Local churches are organizations. All members have responsibilities and accountability (Heb 13:17).

•Church members are co-dependent. We grow to maturity when body members use their gifts cooperatively (Eph 4:11-12).

•Churches have one commission and purpose. Christ calls us to make disciples everywhere (Matt 28:19).

2. What is Discipleship?

Discipleship is a dynamic training process whereby two or more Christians enter a relationship of mutual accountability and service to accomplish the goal of sanctification (growth in Biblical knowledge, Christlike character, and faithful conduct) —to the glory of God.

Implications & Applications:

•Discipleship is relational. Christ spent three years building into the lives of twelve men (Acts 4:13).

•Discipleship is intentional. Jesus demanded total devotion to His cause (Luke 14:26-27).

•Discipleship is transferable. After receiving truths from others, disciples pass them along to those who are faithful (2 Tim 2:2).

•Discipleship is progressive. Believers grow in knowledge, character and obedience to Christ’s commands (Matt 28:19-20).

3. What is a Christian Family?

The Christian family is a dynamic household of people who provide primary nurture and support. In multi-generational families, parents prepare children to embrace and perpetuate their faith and values—to the glory of God.

Implications & Applications:

•God assigns hierarchy within the family unit. The husband is head. Parents direct the children (Eph 5:23).

•Children are a blessing and gift from God (Psa 127:3-5).

•Parents (especially fathers) are responsible to teach children to fear and obey the Lord (Deut 6:1-2).

•Children are responsible to honor and obey their parents (Eph 6:1-2).

•Children gain wisdom when they are exposed to the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:14-17).

Conclusion:

The discipleship process is central to the growth of the church and to the welfare of the home. Discipleship solves “root” problems facing both of these divinely conceived institutions. When discipleship is neglected, local churches get sidetracked. They lose sight of Christ’s one assignment, the Great Commission. When discipleship is neglected, Christian families disintegrate. The next generation misses out on essential Bible training. The results are tragic. When the world comes calling, many children fall prey to dubious activities and deceptive philosophies.

Disciplemaking is the most pivotal ministry that churches can provide. It is time for churches to encourage and equip parents to carry out their responsibility. Churches must plan purposeful ministries to disciple parents and children. The destiny of the Church—and indeed all humanity—hinges upon how successfully Christians disciple this generation of children. Kids can develop into dynamic disciples of Jesus Christ!

Mark is passionate about utilizing God’s Word to train God’s people to transform the planet. He has served as president of Through the Bible Publishers since 1995 and was instrumental in creating DiscipleLand, a Bible curriculum that focuses on children’s discipleship.

Mark grew up in southern Illinois and met Christ through the Billy Graham ministry. He earned a Th.M. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and did doctoral work at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Prior to his publishing experience, Mark served as a Pastor of Christian Education for ten years. He is a seasoned seminar leader and a champion for children’s education.

Mark and his wife, Susan, live in Fort Collins, Colorado and will never stop raising their four delightful children.

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