Children’s ministry can either be something kids and volunteers love, or dread. It can be something they anticipate all week, or something about which they just shrug their shoulders. Children’s ministry can also be a place where the gospel is vibrant and clear, or dull and ambiguous. Most all churches desire an exciting children’s ministry that nurtures the children of members and is appealing to children of guests.
The most common questions about children’s ministry usually regard balance. How can we balance fun with Bible study? How can we teach kids to pray without boring them to death? How can we evaluate whether a kid has truly trusted Christ or just followed their parents’ wishes?
There are countless questions that need to be asked of every children’s ministry. But some of the most important relate to balance. An imbalanced children’s ministry will tip over and crash. A balanced children’s ministry will thrive. A healthy children’s ministry will balance the following things: safety, fun, and discipleship. Really, everything in children’s ministry falls under the broad heading of discipleship. When I speak of discipleship in children’s ministry, I am specifically referring to gospel teaching in large group and small group settings.
Children’s ministry as a whole is the church’s effort to pass the torch of the faith on to the next generation. Children’s ministry is also an intense ministry of the church that is multi-faceted. This is why balance is crucial. Forsaking safety concerns for Bible teaching is self-defeating. But so is forsaking Bible teaching for safety or fun. A balanced children’s ministry, then, can only have one primary goal with a plethora of means to carry out that goal. The goal is the propagation of the gospel. And we should carry out this goal through a safe, fun, and biblically saturated environment.
While children’s ministry is typically under-appreciated and under-valued, this is in large part due to the way it is viewed and implemented. It all goes back to balance. Without balance in children’s ministry, volunteers will be under-appreciated and the ministry as a whole will be all but discredited. This can be so serious in fact that there may be members in the church who are unaware there even is a children’s ministry. The framework with which your children’s ministry is constructed will determine the faithfulness and “success” of the ministry.
In children’s ministry, there are generally four imbalanced frameworks that can be used:
1. The Babysitting Framework
2. The Story-time Framework
3. The Show-time Framework
4. The Ivory-tower Framework
In the coming days I will examine each of these frameworks while reserving the final post for a call to what I will call the balanced, gospel-centered framework. In today’s post I will take up what I call the babysitting framework, and addressing the remaining three frameworks over the next few days.
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.