Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The secret value of Children's Ministry

Like so many other pastors, I sometimes find myself pondering some of the less than encouraging statistics reported about the Church in America. One that particularly bothers me is that (per Barna) 2 out of 3 teens involved in a local church will graduate from high school and rarely even grace the doors of a church building again until they marry and have children.

How is it possible that we're failing this badly? Surely the local church alone can't bear all of the responsibility, but just as surely we must bear some. We spend gobs of time, effort, and money on Youth Pastors, youth ministries, youth centers, etc... but to seemingly little long-term effect. Is it perhaps time to rethink things...

I have wondered out loud for some time now ... wondered if good CM isn't part of the solution. Hear me out for a moment.

CM is typically handled one of two ways in most American churches. A) It's left as a strictly volunteer ministry, believing that good CM "just happens". B) It's loaded with all the latest bells and whistles; Disney-land meets daycare with a Bible theme.

It's my considered opinion that neither is the right way to go.

Good CM is designed and led to be so. It focuses on both evangelism and discipleship; that is, it leads kids to Jesus and then teaches them how to follow Him. When done right, we're building a foundation for future, further growth and maturity. When done well, we're crafting safeguards against many of the problems common to kids when hormones and peer-pressure really start to weigh in.

It seems to me that the standard mantra about Youth Ministries ("teens these days face so much more difficulty than we ever did") misses the real point: teens these days were generally given no significant foundation by the local church when they were young to cope with and conquer the trials in their lives.

If that's the case - and can anyone really argue otherwise? - then why do we continue to repeat the same flawed formula? Why is it that most churches will hire virtually every other "specialty" pastor before thinking about hiring a Children's Pastor? We keep doing things the same way yet expect different results...

I know, I know ... there are certainly other issues here. For example, what about the time-honoured debate over how to care for the teens with roots in our local churches and the teens that simply show up looking for love and encouragement? Plainly we have an obligation to both.

What about parents? Surely I'm not letting them off the hook! Mom and Dad have the primary responsibility for leading their own children to Jesus and teaching them how to follow Him; the local church works to partner with them. But how are Mom and Dad supposed to know how? If the local church doesn't model and teach these principles, how will Mom and Dad ever stumble across them? Oh, some will for sure. But the majority? We will have failed to serve them and failed to serve their children.

I'm not being too idealistic here - I have no delusions that good CM will vaccinate kids against all the troubles that beset most teens. But it's obvious that what the local churches in America have been doing with regard to making disciples of kids has been an almost universal failure.

Isn't it time to seriously consider rethinking our methods?


Read More......