Outcomes: Faith

July 11, 2013

FAITH – Beyond Knowledge

I went to church for 16 years before I made a decision to follow Jesus a Christian.  Every week, there I was.  Our family took up an entire row, or so it seemed.  We sat in the same pew (row) every week.  We got there early so we could get our spot.  In front of us sat the same family.  Every week.  I don’ know how it was I managed to sit through over 800 weekly services without coming to grips with the choice I had to make.   Well, yes, I do.  I was never given  a choice.

I don’t blame my parents.  They worked hard to instill in my siblings and me Christian character and holy habits.  We prayed together and learned to pray alone; we studied creeds and commandments.  But we were never given the chance to choose.  Christianity was an assumption, a given.

I know of lots of churches, and lots of denominations that offer more rituals than opportunities, so I am not writing this to condemn the faith of my parents.  But I hope that it serves as a strong reminder to anyone with children, or who works with children that we cannot, we must not automatically assume that we only need to share the Good News with visitors to our church. We need to provide the opportunity to follow Christ frequently, and we need to allow kids to not only known about the faith, but to make it their own.

We can (and must) do many things with children and families.  And there may even be some things we might do for children and families.  We can have the most engaging environments and most compelling messages.  We can be fun!  We can provide the best music, the best story tellers, and the best small group leaders. Okay, we may or may not have the best of all (or any) those things.  We may be stuck in a tough situation.  We may be forced to be content with pale green cement block walls in an 1850’s church basement, and we may have the same three sisters teaching Sunday school that  taught your parents.  But you can always strive to make less than perfect  physical environments better, and we can always strive to teach, train and otherwise lead your leaders towards excellence. We do have the responsibility to do the best and offer the best available to us.  Each church has different resources, gifts and graces, we must do the best with what we have been given. More important than the things we offer is the FAITH  that we can share with each person, regardless of our outward circumstances.

We may have obstacles on every avenue, or we may have every resource just fall into our laps.  Whether we have the best or the worst environment, the best or the worst team, what we are called to do it in the name of Jesus, is to share the Love of God and the joy of following Christ.

If kids don’t have frequent, meaningful opportunities to put their faith in God, to hear, believe and respond to the message of the Gospel, we are just spending money and making noise.

 

I don’t particularly like counting raised hands, especially in children’s ministries. I know enough charismatic communicators who can get kids to agree with them on any number of subjects.  So I am sometimes a bit skeptical about announcing “How many kids got saved.” I say that, yet know full well the number of times I have said we had 300+ kids make a decision for Christ at Vacation Bible School.  One of the measures of success in any ministry is how many “decisions” were made. It is a wrestling match to balance counting (and recounting, and counting again) kids who choose to follow Christ.  Yet it really is the reason we do ministry in the first place.  Getting kids, leaders, and parents to a place where they choose to become a Christ-follower.  That’s the call on my life.  So everything we do is designed to help a child reach that point with openness, honesty, and joy. And yes, some will get counted every year.  I know kids who choose to follow Christ at an event and choose again during a kids’ worship time on Sunday morning.  I don’t always know how to count them or keep track of them.  But I do know that as an adult there have been times in my own life where I have surrendered a new area of my life to God.  A friend once said it is all about, “giving everything I know about myself to everything I know about God.”

Today.  As an adult, my knowledge has changed.  Certainly as a child changes are more rapid, so I have no problem with a child accepting Christ as their Savior one year, choosing Jesus as their Forever Friend the next year, and six months later deciding to become a Christ-Follower.  I love it!  I just don’t always know how to count or report it. But if we are building a ministry around helping kids and families travel along on their Faith Journey, there will be lots of opportunities to collect souvenirs.  There must be.

A two or three-year-old can understand that Jesus loves them and takes care of them.  A four or five-year-old can grasp the meaning of obedience, and further understands God’s love for them.  A six-or seven-year-old starts to grasp God’s power and majesty, and gets an even better glimpse of the love God has for us and the sacrifice He made on our behalf.  An eight or nine-year-old can start to understand wisdom and consequences, the continual presences of God in our lives and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Their thinking becomes less concrete, but at the same time it gets more personal.   At ten and eleven a child can start to walk in obedience and trust, they can begin to grasp the Trinity (though none of us ever truly “gets” The Trinity on this side.) and they can see the trust-obey connection. 

And on and on it goes.  God has designed us to know, love, and understand in new and wonderful ways as we get to know him better.  Helping kids take the first, the next, and then the next steps on that journey, is what it’s all about. And then we need to help them get past the Sunday-only mentality to the point where they actually do go everywhere with Christ.  A place where they don’t simply know about Jesus, they know Jesus.

 

 

Do you have a system in place to regularly share the salvation message with your kids?  

Are they scheduled?

 

 

 

If this post has blessed or encouraged you, it would bless and encourage me if you shared it with your circle of influence.

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