When I was a kid, I hated broccoli. I always made sure to ask whether my meal was going to have “little trees” in it. I was kind of an annoying picky-eating kid. Just like many of you do with your kids, I was told, “Broccoli is good for you! You need to eat it in order to grow.” Broccoli may have been something I needed, but it was definitely not something I wanted.
I lead a kids ministry of anywhere from 30-50 kids. I prepare content for kids from ages 2-12. This includes writing lessons, sermons, and family devotion guides. When I prepare to teach to kids, I want to prepare both my mind and my heart. What I have found to be most important in the preparation process is to have my affections set ablaze by the truth I am about to teach. Whenever that happens, I teach with vigor and passion. Kids usually do not respond to teachers who do not believe what they are teaching is thrilling. This is why I have changed my language when it comes to presenting Jesus to kids.
I never, ever talk about the Bible, the gospel, or Jesus as being the most important thing for their lives. When kids hear, “this is important for you” they think, “Oh, kinda like broccoli.” Kids often interpret importance as boring, irrelevant, and unsatisfying. Combine this language with an unenthused demeanor, and you will have unintentionally taught that Jesus may be important, but he is not desirable.
Too often, those who serve or lead in kids ministry make Jesus out to be not much more than broccoli for their soul. He may be healthy, but he’s not delicious. He is not worth savoring. When Jesus is taught this way, he will be received this way. Kids may see their need for what Jesus offers, but they will not see that Jesus is worthy of their full desire and can offer full satisfaction. They may desire Jesus’ benefits, but they will not desire Jesus.
When Jesus is presented as broccoli and not a filet mignon, kids will see him as a means to an end. But Jesus is not a means. He is the end. The goal of the gospel is God himself. And the goal of all kids ministry is to direct their gaze into the splendor of God’s grace in the gospel of Christ.
Is Jesus the most important person in the universe? Absolutely. Is the gospel the most important message in the world? Of course. But when we leave it there, we are incomplete. Jesus is not just important. He is important and satisfying. Don’t present Jesus just as someone kids should need. Present him as someone they should want. The gospel is the most thrilling news in the world about the most thrilling Person in the world. When our affections are ignited for Jesus, we will teach with passion and communicate with our words and attitudes that Jesus is not just important, he is better than anything else this world can offer.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.