Fist Bumps and High Fives
By Mike Bryant
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a cold in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it”. This is probably the most common verse I have seen used in regards to Children’s Ministry. I have also had a number of conversations with parents who claimed this verse as a promise and was hurt when things went differently in their child’s life. Conversations where moms and dads were confused as to why their child was not currently walking with the Lord and then would point to this verse. Some were even bold enough to ask if the Lord had lied to them. This verse was never meant to be a promise, but rather a general truth. Generally, when you raise a child to love Jesus, even if they go through a rebellious season, they will return to the Lord. However, this is not always true. As humans, we love formulas: A+B+C=D. However, life doesn’t work that way. Parents tend to take too much credit for their children’s successes and too much blame for their children’s failures. Children’s Ministry is much more relational than a simple formula. Children’s Ministry is much more about investment of time than results from doing the right things.
I was a Student Pastor for 16 years and for most of those years, I was afraid of ministering to children. When I went to children’s camp, I always came home thinking, “There is a reason God did not call me to Children’s ministry!” However, as I transitioned to being a lead pastor and now as family pastor, I see things differently. When it came to children’s ministry, I always worried about teaching something that would confuse children more than help them. I taught a lot of abstract concepts with students, and I knew kids were concrete thinkers rather than abstract. I sat through children’s camp sermons that had to be nearly completely undone in church group time because the abstract concepts confused them. I was afraid of being that preacher.
What I have learned is that ministering to children is not about content delivery. Like any ministry, it is more about relationships. The first step in ministering to children is just being visible to them. Be intentional about being where they are at church, if even for a couple of minutes, consistently week after week. Fist bumps and high fives are the bread and butter of children’s ministry. Being around children and earning the trust to get a fist bump or high five is a huge milestone for kids. Even more so is when they see you outside of that children’s hallway or classroom and seek you out for the fist bump. Equally important as building trust with children is building trust with their parents. In your time around the children’s ministry, try and notice things that the children are doing and encourage the parents with those things. If it was something funny, encourage the parents by sharing the funny story that reveals the child’s personality. If it was a question they answered or a kind deed for another child, share how you are seeing Christ-like behavior in them. Generally, the only time a parent hears something about their child is when they have misbehaved. Therefore, when they get positive feedback, it creates trust with the parents. When you have trust with parents, they will come to you when struggles arise down the road.
Finally, the best thing you can do in children’s ministry is help equip parents to be the primary disciplers of their children. This is a scary idea for most parents. The first thing parents fear is that they don’t know the Bible well enough for this task. While that could be true, we don’t have to focus on Bible knowledge. I think there are 3 simple steps any family can take to lead their kids to love Jesus more.
- Pray as a family three times a week. Ideally, this is an opportunity to pray for the needs of the church, pray for the needs of each other, and pray for the needs of the people each family member is around at work or school. However, any type of prayer is a good place to start. If a family is not praying at dinner time, at bedtime, etc… start there!
- Read the Bible together as a family two times a week. This is not a prepared Bible study, but rather, just read a small section of the Bible together. Then ask and answer these questions:
- What is this passage about? You are looking for content comprehension – what happened?
- What does this passage say about God? You are looking for what it teaches us about God’s character.
- What does this passage say I should obey? Is there something I need to do or change in my life?
If a family does not know where to start, the gospels are a great starting point.
- Have one faith conversation a week. A simple way to do this is to ask, “How did you see God at work this week?” This question forces us to think about how God might be growing us and giving us opportunities to serve Him or love others. This question helps our families to see God at work outside of the church building. Once we see God at work outside of the church building, we can begin to see our whole lives as an opportunity to glorify God.
These questions don’t focus on Bible knowledge, but rather give the family an opportunity to grow in their walk with Jesus together.
Ministering to Children can be boiled down to Fist Bumps, High Fives, and Equipping Parents. May God bless your ministry, your church, the families of your church, and most importantly, your own family.
*The views expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pastor’s Common