3 Tips for Effective Teaching in Children’s Ministry


kids-handprint-clipart-dTrLRBbT9Children’s ministry can be one of the most frustrating ministries in the church. If you serve in children’s ministry there will be times when you will feel unappreciated. It is likely you are overworked. And people probably see your role as little more than glorified babysitting. On top of all of this mostly negative reaction from adults in the church, teaching and leading children is a monster all on its own. Children can be frustrating. Some weeks it doesn’t seem like they understand anything you are saying. Some weeks it seems their primary goal is to disobey you, or just get under your skin.

The goal of children’s ministry is for the church to come alongside parents and complement them in the discipleship of their children. Children’s ministers and ministry volunteers are not the primary disciple-makers in the children’s lives. But their role is crucial to the spiritual development and growth of children in the local church. So, I find it terribly sad that so many in children’s ministry feel unappreciated, overworked, and undervalued.

What makes all of this worse is when children’s ministry volunteers also feel ill-equipped to teach children in the church. With that in mind, I want to offer three crucial, fundamental tips for effective teaching in children’s ministry.

1. Show the Kids You Love Them

Man, this is crucial. Ask any teacher in a public or private school and they will tell you that until you show children that you truly care about them they will not listen to you. You have to earn their ears. Show the kids you aren’t just there to pass along information. Talk to them about their lives. Ask questions about family and school. By asking questions and getting to know them better, your prayers for them will be much more personal and intimate. And when you teach them the Bible your words will have weight behind them.

2. Show the Kids You Love the Bible

I want to be very specific here. The kids in your ministry need to see you run to the Bible for guidance, answers, and instruction for doctrine and godliness. When kids ask questions of a theological nature, let them hear you say, “Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this,” rather than “Well, here’s what I think about this.” They need to see not only the supremacy of the Bible, but also the sufficiency of the Bible in your life. Augustine once said, “Where the Bible speaks, God speaks.” Teach this. But let it also be true, “Where the Bible speaks, I speak” in the sense that when it comes to thinking through things about God, salvation, and life in general the Bible is our guide. We speak where the Bible speaks.

3. Show the Kids You Love the Gospel

Most importantly, show the gospel to kids through your words and actions. Let your words be seasoned with grace. Take sin seriously. Extend grace extravagantly. Teach forgiveness. Ask forgiveness when necessary. All roads in the Bible lead to Jesus. The key is learning how to navigate through the historical and literary contexts without abandoning the original intent of the biblical authors. But it doesn’t take a biblical scholar to see Jesus all over Scripture. It only takes eyes to see. See the gospel throughout Scripture and show the kids the multifaceted wonder of God’s saving grace. Show the gospel in your actions. Show that it isn’t just a message of empty words, but a message of power from a holy and gracious God.

Effective teaching in children’s ministry is not limited to these three tips, but they are foundational. Without them, you can use as many methods as you like, but you will not capture their minds or pierce their hearts. To accomplish this, we need to show them these three loves: kids, the Bible, and the gospel.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

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Simple Devotion: 3 Keys to Vibrant Family Devotions


FamilyDevotions1-1024x733There is a gap between the desire most Christian parents have to disciple their children and practically carrying out this desire. Timothy Paul Jones has extensively written on this gap and how we can close it. I have not spoken with one parent who has said they do not want to disciple their children. Every parent, without fail, has a desire to disciple their children. But when I ask these same parents how they are carrying out discipleship in the home, they, without fail, begin their answer with a sigh and say, “Well…”

Why is it that we are unable to put our desires for family discipleship into practice? Why do we struggle to initiate family devotions? Why is it so hard for us to discuss a Person who we claim we are staking our lives on? Why is talking about the gospel so awkward for many families?

Family discipleship is not legalistic, nor flippant. We don’t want to go through the motions and we don’t want to be insignificant or irrelevant. Children and teens can quickly determine whether you truly believe what you are talking about. They have a sixth sense for identifying sincerity. We are not after check-list Christianity in implementing discipleship in the home. We are after biblical obedience through a vibrant and gospel-centered discipleship culture in the home. We want our children to see us as their parents as their primary disciple-makers.

But how can we bridge this gap between desire and practice? How can we implement such vibrant family devotions in the home? I believe bridging the gap between desire and practice in family devotions is found in initiative, simplicity, and discipline.

1. Vibrant family devotions require initiative

Simply put, in order for family discipleship to exist there has to come a breaking point in your desires when you finally say, “Enough is enough. Let’s do this.” Fathers, let’s resolve to no longer let our families be spiritually bankrupt and lacking in the home. We can do this by simply sitting with our families, opening the Bible, and reading. You have no idea how much your wife and children will appreciate your initiative to lead them in Christ. Just turn off the TV, open the Bible, and read. It doesn’t matter where you begin. You could begin with one of the gospels, such as Mark or John. Read one chapter each night. Read five verses! The length could not matter less. What matters is that you take the bull by the horns and end the spiritual hunger by feeding your family the sufficient and satisfying Word of God. Without your initiative, family discipleship will remain a waning desire in your heart.

2. Vibrant family devotions require simplicity

This is where the family discipleship train begins to derail. Dads think they need seminary degrees in order to disciple their families. When dads think of family devotions or family worship, they think of children sitting attentively at their feet or in mom’s lap by the fireplace. Dad will read a chapter of the Bible and then give a robust three point devotion. Then spontaneously the children will start singing a glorious hymn. Dad will close with a theologically rich prayer and the Cleavers will then head to bed.

This fanciful and New Earthy idea of family devotions is what leads to a hit and miss family devotion time in the home. When dads realize how impossible a perfect family devotion time really is, many become discouraged and fail to follow through with the initiative they began. But the good news for dads is that there is no such thing as a perfect family devotion time. Jesus died for all your failed family devotions. And he is sufficient in them as well.

One way to move forward through messy family devotions is simplicity in practice. Dads, you don’t need a seminary degree to disciple your families. No one is more qualified to train your children in the fear of God than you because you have been entrusted as the primary disciple-maker in their lives. So, keep your devotions simple. There is no need to complicate things. Read a passage. Read a verse. Make a brief comment about the text and explain the gospel. Pray for your family. If your family devotion time barely lasts five minutes, good! Family devotions do not require 30 minutes of exegetical expertise. By all means, if your family is suited to go deep and far, don’t hold back. But if formality and time are issues that are keeping you from leading a family devotion, just keep it simple. Read. Comment. Explain the gospel. Pray.

3. Vibrant family devotions require discipline

Like sticking to a diet, implementing vibrant family devotions requires discipline. Like a prize fighter who spends countless hours sweating and bleeding in the ring, dads must gather their families around the table or in the living room or bedroom to fight the good fight of the faith through simple devotions. But we must show up for the fight every single morning or night. Set a time to lead a devotion and meet that time every day. If you have to miss your morning devotion, do it in the evening. But don’t unintentionally miss a day. I encourage the families I minister to to lead family devotions five days per week, leaving the weekends off. As necessary as breakfast and dinner are in your home, make family devotions just as necessary. Let your attitude be: No matter what we do, we are going to read the Bible, pray, and discuss the gospel today. Even when you blow it; even when the kids aren’t paying attention; even when your toddler is playing in his food or pulling his sister’s hair, the practice of devoting time and energy to read the Bible, pray, and proclaim the gospel to your family with discipline will speak volumes to your kids. Even if they don’t understand everything, they will understand that this Jesus guy is super important and must be pretty awesome!


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram.

Quick Quotes: 10 Quotes from “Show Them Jesus” by Jack Klumpenhower


Q-train-logoEvery Friday, I plan to share select quotes from a book I am either currently reading or have previously read. Few things have impacted my faith and life as much as reading has. This will be just one way I promote books and reading. These articles will be for the dedicated reader who loves to gain insight from as many books as possible. They will also be for the Christian looking for new books to read. I am always on the lookout for new books to read. Hopefully some things I share will lead you to pick up a new book. Finally, these articles will be for those of you too busy to read. Hopefully these quick quotes will provide you with easy access to books you would otherwise not have time to read. Each article will include a brief discussion of the author and his work followed by ten (or more) pertinent quotes from the book.


As I was looking through the books on a shelf in my study, I came across one of the best books I read in 2014. Show Them Jesus is one of those books you read quickly the first time because the content and writing style is so good. But the second time through you take time to draw out every principle and learn from each concrete example. My simple conclusion after reading this book twice over: If you teach the gospel to kids, be ashamed if you don’t have this book. Pastors should require every staff or lay leader in the church who teaches kids. Even if you only teach kids for one semester, you would immensely benefit from this book. All pastors to children or children’s ministry directors should be required to read this book.

Do I agree with every example given? No. Do I think the author could have provided a better illustration here or there? Sure. But most points of disagreement were in the realm of personal preference. The principles given for teaching the gospel to kids are biblically and theologically rich. Klumpenhower, a veteran children’s ministry curriculum writer, knows the struggles and inadequacies in most children’s curriculums. He also knows the struggle in teaching the tough parts of the Bible to kids, as well as the issue of discussing personal sin with kids. He is honest and open about the struggle, but offers no excuses for refusing to habitually lay the gospel before our kids.

Show Them Jesus is instructive. One could easily take the author’s principles and concrete examples and immediately put them to use in a children’s ministry or family devotion time. You will immediately feel the benefit of this book. I dare you to pick up a copy and not see improvement in your teaching and children’s ministry.

41YDWctSBDLIf my embellishing doesn’t lead you to Amazon, hopefully these ten quotes will send you to pick up and benefit from Show Them Jesus.

1. The message of Jesus’ death and resurrection is a tool of the Spirit to change hearts. Nagging is not. Rather than coax the kids into temporarily acting better, Joe told about Jesus and trusted God to use that message to make the kids become better.

2. When it comes to teaching the gospel, all of us are clumsy.

3. If you feel uncomfortable talking with your kids about how Jesus died for us, start changing that right now by building a habit of mentioning the cross.

4. A good-news teacher must not sugarcoat God’s demands.

5. The good news does not let Christianity become a guidebook by which kids adjust their lives.

6. The gospel-day trap happens when we think of the good news as very important—critical to salvation!—but as something that only some kids need to hear some of the time.

7. Kids will always choose according to their nature, and the conversion from a sinful nature to a reborn-by-the-Spirit one seldom comes by pressing for an external decision. It comes from being convicted of sin, hearing of God’s saving love, and finding delight in the matchless person of Jesus,

8. We should teach the good news with an urgency and expectation that its payoff is good behavior, or else our doctrine will be served cold. And we must teach good behavior only when we show it flowing from the good news, or else kids will choke on moralism.

9. Jesus isn’t anything like the moody, distant God many kids imagine. In Jesus, God’s absolute authority and his utter love come together—and the result is “Wow!”

10. In lesson after lesson kids need to see a thousand wonder-filled details that make up the character of Jesus, until they realize, with a gasp, that they have seen the face of God. And God is so, so good.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Morning Mashup 09/14


coffee-newspaper

Don’t Let the Media Control Your Experience of Election 2016 – Trevin Wax: “When Christians fall captive to clickbait and jump from candidate to candidate depending on the polls, we abandon our responsibility as thoughtful and convictional people.”

5 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Dating Relationship – Tim Challies: “Dating has become the most difficult thing in the world, probably because they’ve got a million books and web pages telling them how. They can’t just do it—they’ve got to do it by the book. And along the way they are ruining their dating relationships.”

Greetings from Heaven – A very helpful infographic detailing the recent phenomena of near-death experiences.

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children about Death – As a children’s pastor, I’m always looking for helpful advice in speaking to children about difficult issues. This is great.

On the Viral Rise of Divorce Selfies – Tragic.

Planned Failure – Jim DeMint: “The fight to end taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood will be just that: a fight. And like all the struggles to return sanity and respect for human life and decency to our government, it will be a tough one.  But conservatives should fight to win, not plan to fail.”

Keeping the Spotlight on Planned Parenthood – Stephen Heaney: “Do not be distracted by misdirection. Do not let the horror of abortion be the main issue. Stick to the pertinent facts: Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of fetal parts. Planned Parenthood is routinely violating federal law. Planned Parenthood does not care about women.”

A Calvinist Evangelist? – Keith Mathison: “The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods.”

Djokovic Clinches 2nd US Open Title – This was a great match for a couple sets. Federer lost momentum. A thing you just can’t lose against Djokovic.

NFL Scores (Week 1) – Scores from Week 1 NFL action.

Before the throne absolved we stand / Your love has met your law’s demands –Edith Margaret Clarkson

Four Imbalanced Frameworks for Children’s Ministry: The Game-Time Framework


knowledge_insurance_frameworkThis post is part 4 in a five part series on four imbalanced children’s ministry frameworks. In children’s ministry, balance is crucial. An imbalanced children’s ministry will lead to collapse. What is the purpose of children’s ministry? Much of what we will look at this week flows from thoughts on that very question. The next imbalanced framework often employed in children’s ministry we will examine is what I will call “The Game-Time Framework.”

This framework views children’s ministry like recess. Volunteers lead children through various games and create an atmosphere that is vibrant and exciting. This framework is more common in more modern churches. Typically, leaders and volunteers are most concerned with the environment and the primary goal is fun. Attract them with things they like, and the kids will come; that is the motto.

The Game-Time Framework

Picture in your mind a dark room with streaming lights, multi-colored walls creatively painted with loud music blasting from the speakers. Imagine an energetic and loudly dressed leader standing on a stage in front of a group of kids. Within minutes, a few games are played, followed by a short message, which leads into the group of kids dividing into small groups to play more games. After about 30 minutes, the kids gather back together and play even more games. By the time the parents pick the kids up at the end of the service, their kids are excited and exhausted.

If you have ever been to a summer camp for kids, you have a good idea what I mean by the “Game-Time Framework.” I almost called this the “Show-Time Framework” because the end of this framework is fun and the means is energizing lights, sounds, music, and games. If you are a part of a smaller church, this framework will seem foreign to you. But for those in bigger churches, the game-time or show-time framework is all but expected. This framework is appealing to me. I am very competitive and love games. I am also all for anything in children’s ministry that keeps kids’ attention, and these elements do that.

As you have probably noticed in each installment of this series: if the things we are discussing, like childcare, stories, and games, are used as elements they can be helpful. But, when any one of those individual elements roots out the others and becomes a framework on which the whole ministry is based, we have a problem that often leaves out the gospel.

In this framework, your children’s ministry better have a creative name, theme, and way to attract kids. In fact, I believe this framework is one of the crucial reasons why churches grow. Big churches grow bigger when they have an energetic and fun children’s ministry. This reality can play out in two ways. It can be an element within a balanced children’s ministry. Or, and this is the danger, it can be the framework on which the children’s ministry is built in which a children’s ministry can grow without Jesus.

The danger in focusing primarily on games, music, and excitement in children’s ministry is that kids love games, music, and excitement. It sounds counterintuitive, but think about it. If you put your primary energies and focus on things like games, music, fun, and excitement, you will be attracting kids with those things, to those things. They are not just means, they are an end. When God is not the grand end of our ministry efforts, we will not be leading kids into true and lasting satisfaction. We will be offering them fleeting joys—salt water in a glass mug.

In the introduction to his book Gospel Wakefulness, author Jared Wilson writes,

“Have you ever heard the statement ‘what you win them with is what you win them to’? I think quality music, powerful videos, strategic lighting, well-performed dramas, and interesting set pieces and architecture can be helpful tools in service to reaching for Christ people who are dying and going to hell. But if these things are what we are winning people with, we are only distracting them from their numbness for a while, entertaining them in a break from their restlessness, before they stall out spiritually or move on to other ‘experiences’” (16-17).

This perfectly communicates my concerns with the Game-Time Framework. The elements employed are in and of themselves helpful, and can be used to help better communicate the gospel. But when these things are what we are using to attract people, kids included, we are using these things as ultimate ends rather than helpful means.

The fear in churches and children’s ministries who employ the Game-Time Framework is that kids will be bored, that the ministry will stall and fizzle out because kids are just not as easily entertained. Like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, if we build an energetic and entertaining children’s ministry, they will come. But what I fear is that they are right. It is possible to grow a large children’s ministry without the gospel. When we attract kids with the festivities or with events, we are attracting them to festivities and events. We had better keep them coming. The Game-Time Framework is unashamed of this. It spends its resources, energies, and monies to have more games and skits, and better lights and sound.

But there is a better way. We should deeply care about the passions and desires of kids. We should even use games, engaging music, and create a fun and exciting environment in children’s ministry. But we should use them as a means to point children to the greatest End. We should attract kids with the gospel, to the God of the gospel!

When we show excitement and joy over games and activities, and then seem bored with the gospel, it should not surprise us when our kids follow suit. Our presentation of the gospel should be engaging. It should be thrilling. It should show that the cross of Christ is not just the most important new in the world, but the most exciting news in the world. In your presentation of the gospel, communicate with your words and demeanor that it actually is good news.

Wilson says,

“But! Oh man. If we are regularly and excitedly engaging people in the good news of the finished saving work of the sacrificing, dying, rising, exalted, sovereign Jesus Christ who is the death-proof, fail-proof King of kings before all things and in all things and holding all things together as he sustains the world by the mere word of his power, the ones whose hearts are opened by the Spirit to be won to Christ will be irrevocably changed. Numbness will be the exception, rather than the norm. We will not have to lead them through hoops of creative entertainment, constantly hamstrung by the limits of our artistic brainstorming sessions, seeking to keep their attentions stirred by a well-composed aesthetic this or that” (17).

Wow. Wilson nails it. The Game-Time Framework communicates that other things are more exciting than Jesus, and we need them to attract kids and families to him. Friends, Jesus doesn’t need our creativities to draw people to himself. And when we show that games are more thrilling than the gospel of Jesus, we shoot ourselves and our ministry efforts in the foot. Games can be useful. But they must not be ultimate in children’s ministry. Attract kids with Jesus to Jesus. And then trust in the power of the gospel and Spirit of God to resurrect little hearts, so that they may be forever changed and ushered in to a joyous experience that will never end.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew 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.

Four Imbalanced Frameworks for Children’s Ministry: The Story-Time Framework


knowledge_insurance_frameworkThis post is part 3 in a five part series on four imbalanced children’s ministry frameworks. In children’s ministry, balance is crucial. An imbalanced children’s ministry will lead to collapse. What is the purpose of children’s ministry? Much of what we will look at this week flows from thoughts on that very question. One imbalanced framework often employed in children’s ministry is what I will call “The Story-Time Framework.” This framework views children’s ministry like a family reading night at a local library. Volunteers read children various stories from the Bible. This is one of the most common frameworks used in children’s ministry, and one of the most detrimental for a child’s understanding of the Big Story of Scripture.

The Story-Time Framework

I can see it now. The teacher gathers the kids around the storyboard and begins by saying, “A long time ago, people were doing really bad things on the earth. God decided to send a big flood to destroy the earth. But he chose one righteous man to save. This man’s name was Noah and God told him to build a really, really big boat…” And then out come the story characters. A big boat. An awkwardly smiling man with a beard. And of course, all those creepy smiling giraffes, elephants, tigers, and bears waving from inside the ark as if they are going on the cruise of a lifetime.

There is an appropriate time and place for storytelling in children’s ministry. I would even say that storytelling should be a common element in children’s ministry, particularly in ministry to preschoolers. The Bible is in fact one big story. Gospel-centered storytelling is a healthy way to teach the Bible. In fact, I use The Jesus Storybook Bible with the preschoolers on Sunday nights in the children’s ministry I lead. Capturing the imaginations of children through stories is a way I truly look forward to using with my son as I teach him the Christian faith. However, storytelling in children’s ministry that is devoid of the gospel is dangerous and can damage a child’s understanding of and confidence in the Bible for years.

The Story-time Framework is particularly dangerous for the biblical literacy of children. Typically, this framework flows from the idea that children have shorter attention spans and love stories. Because of these facts, the Story-time Framework limits biblical teaching to the reading of stories. Storybook Bibles are usually employed. And while some storybook Bibles are absolutely fantastic at weaving together the main stories of Scripture within the Big Story of God’s redemption, many of them present disconnected stories designed to entertain children.

In the Story-time Framework, most of the time the actual account from Scripture is chopped down to the point that you may not even be able to find it in an actual Bible. Contextualization is necessary in children’s ministry, but when the message of Scripture is lost in the process, we are missing the point of discipleship. Stories are told in ways that overemphasize certain details while the overall message of the story or how the story fits in the metanarrative of Scripture is overlooked.

When children’s ministry is viewed as story time, leaders will take a few stories from the Bible and read them to the kids. There are three big problems with this method when it is employed on its own.

1. Children view the Bible as a book of disconnected stories with moralistic lessons

The problem here is kids begin to view the Bible as just a book of disconnected stories, like Aesop’s Fables. Under the Story-time Framework, children’s ministry leaders teach moral lessons from Bible stories to help kids make better choices or better follow the rules at home and in school.

2. Children view the Bible as a source for “hero worship”

Under this pitfall we find the danger of “hero worship.” When we only teach our children stories in a random and disconnected manner, we typically over-glorify a biblical character. Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, Ruth, Esther, and others are put forward as heroes we should emulate. We see how they responded in certain situations and then place them on a pedestal for kids to look to when they live their lives. This misses the gospel. There is only one true Hero of the Bible, and all of the characters in all of the stories are in need of his work on the cross.

3. Children view the Bible as an unrealistic fairy tale

The more we emphasize the story-time framework, the more kids will associate Bible stories with other fairy tales they hear. Most of them are being taught at home that Santa Claus is real, so the lines between reality and fantasy in their education and upbringing are blurred enough as things are. When we show unrealistic images and present chopped up stories, over time kids begin to view the world of the Bible like the world of Narnia–maybe just too good to be true.

When we forget that every story whispers his name we fall into the Story-time Framework for children’s ministry. Under this framework, we tell stories for entertainment as we unintentionally distort the reality of the biblical accounts. We tell stories for emulation as we set biblical heroes up on pedestals. And we tell stories for moral education as we aim at the actions while shooting past the heart.

May our storytelling be more balanced. May our storytelling be more about Christ. May our storytelling always point to the reality of the greatest story ever told. Children love stories. So, let’s take care how we tell them.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew 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.

Four Imbalanced Frameworks for Children’s Ministry: The Babysitting Framework


knowledge_insurance_framework

This post is part 2 in a five part series on four imbalanced children’s ministry frameworks. In children’s ministry, balance is crucial. An imbalanced children’s ministry will lead to collapse. What is the purpose of children’s ministry? Much of what we will look at this week flows from thoughts on that very question. One imbalanced framework often employed in children’s ministry is what I will call “The Babysitting Framework.” This framework views children’s ministry like daycare. Volunteers supervise children while their parents worship. As you will see, there are many dangerous pitfalls in this imbalanced approach.

The Babysitting Framework

The problem with the history of children’s ministry is that it has often been viewed as a glorified babysitting service. And while this may simply be a disingenuous description of nursery ministry, many children’s ministries can aptly be described as little more than babysitting.

But before I begin, I want to say that there is indeed an element of “babysitting” involved in children’s ministry. In fact, when this aspect is belittled, safety is not prioritized. It is difficult or downright impossible for parents to enjoy the community of small group if they must bring their children with them. Even small groups in the home work best when the children are not calling, “Mommy, mommy!” every five minutes. Babysitting is incredibly important. It is the care and protection of a child. And this can never be taken lightly. My wife and I cherish anyone willing to care for our son so we can spend the occasional night out to ourselves. But we don’t let just anyone babysit. This is one reason why background checks should be encouraged or mandatory for volunteers in children’s ministry.

But, even though the babysitting element should not be ignored or belittled in children’s ministry for the sake of safety and service to parents, if this is all we offer, we are doing our children and volunteers a disservice. In a babysitting framework, volunteers are simply charged with the task of supervising a group of kids for an hour or so. These volunteers are often not equipped with resources or plans. They are usually left to fill the time on their own. This almost always leads to a chaotic and truly miserable hour. In my opinion, this is the chief reason most children’s ministries are devoid of volunteers. No one wants to provide free babysitting for an hour or more. No one.

I guarantee, if you use a babysitting framework in your children’s ministry, you will have a small group of frustrated volunteers who view service in the church as a begrudging duty–something to get through. But what’s worse, there are three damaging effects of the babysitting framework.

1. Most likely, your volunteers will develop a legalistic attitude toward service in the church.

They will view service as a way to earn favor with God. They will view service as a painful means to an end–like lying back in the dentist’s chair. They will not enjoy serving in children’s ministry, but they will most likely never admit it. The babysitting framework is detrimental for the spiritual health of your volunteers.

2. Definitely, your kids will miss the gospel.

In the babysitting framework, kids may be given a snack, they may play a game, and they may hear general things like, “Jesus loves you,” but they will most likely not hear the gospel and they will definitely not see the gospel displayed. Your only hope for kids being exposed to the gospel is a phenomenal volunteer pouring his or her life into the kids. But the system is set up against a gospel-soaked environment. In the babysitting framework, children’s ministry soon becomes the lazy parent who loves to say, “Here…” as he hands over the iPad. “Anything to keep them occupied,” is the motto of the babysitting framework. Volunteers are in survival mode. When this happens, I guarantee that the kids will miss the gospel. We should definitely provide childcare, but not at the expense of missing the gospel.

3. Probably, parents will be lazy with gospel teaching at home.

The goal of children’s ministry is to come alongside parents and aid them in their God-given responsibility to train their children in the way of the Lord. When the children’s ministry in a church is built around the idea of babysitting, parents will receive the subtle message that the gospel is not for kids. And beyond maybe getting their kids to repeat a “prayer of salvation,” parents in this framework will follow the cues of the church–occupy their kids with churchy things, but refrain from teaching the gospel to their little hearts.

The Babysitting Framework is detrimental on a churchwide scale. It damages volunteers, kids, and parents. If you want to see families cherishing the gospel and living their lives by it, we must do better than merely babysit their children. We must provide a safe environment where we do allow parents to worship or participate in small groups. But in the process, blow their kids away with the amazing truth of the gospel.

The church is not a babysitting service. It is a bastion and pillar of truth. It is an earthly outpost of a heavenly kingdom. We can do better than the local childcare service. We can do better than daycares. We have the truth that sets sinners free, even little sinners. For the sake of our volunteers, kids, parents, and the glory of Christ in the church, let’s not be content to supervise and be intentional about the propagation of the gospel to the next generation.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew 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.

Four Imbalanced Frameworks for Children’s Ministry: Intro


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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.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew 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.

Gospel Clarity in Children’s Ministry


At the end of this great week, I want to take a few moments to reflect on the absolute necessity for gospel clarity in children’s ministry. This has been my first full summer leading a children’s ministry. That means I have experienced my first “summer slump” in ministry.

The “summer slump” is a phrase pastors and church staff use to refer to the drop in attendance and service from members in the summer. This is primarily due to the fact that most people take family vacations in the summer. This means that week after week in the summer, the number of volunteers drops. Children’s ministry is greatly affected by the summer slump. First of all, kids go where their parents go. If parents are going on vacation or spending the Sunday out in the sun, so are the kids. Kids that attend through our bus ministry often have spotty attendance because, hey, it’s summer! Sometimes playing in the water hose or going to the park is just too good to pass up. So, attendance from kids and volunteers plummets in the summer. Most children’s ministries across the country are summer slumping.

What does this mean for us? How should this reality change our approach?

It means very little and it changes nothing about our approach.

The greatest summer temptation for volunteers and adult leaders is to just go through the motions. It’s easy to get excited when there is a huge group of kids in attendance. But what about when the average number plummets? What about when it is only your son and a few of his friends showing up? Some children’s ministries wisely take some time off in the summer. They may only meet half of the time in the summer, or meet every other week. These are fine adjustments. But when it comes to the approach, mentality, and framework that is used week in and week out, nothing should be adjusted. Gospel clarity is essential when the room is full or thin.

In children’s ministry, it is not only important that you communicate the gospel, but also that you demonstrate the gospel.

Both the eyes and ears of kids function as sponges that absorb the message of our lips and life, which floods into their little hearts. In my three years in children’s ministry I have learned that you can’t take a day off. The moment I decide to be lazy with my preparation or presentation of the gospel is the an incredibly impactful moment in the life of a kid. Kids will not remember every thing you say or do. But they will remember certain things.

Kids who are regularly brought to church are across the board being taught that God is good and true and right. He is being presented as someone they should want to know. They hear it over and over again. They hear it week after week, and hopefully, day after day. So, the day they see their children’s ministry leaders talk about grace, but refuse to show grace can be a life-shaping day. If they only hear you talk about repentance, but never see you repent, slowly but surely the reality of Christianity begins to fade into fantasy. If they hear you talk about how awesome God is and how much joy there is to be found in Christ, but only see you excited and joyous over games, activities, or your job, then at least they will be confused, and at most the seeds of doubt and lack of desire for God will be planted in their hearts.

It is my sincere conviction that children’s ministry must be infused with grace. It must bleed gospel. From the time the kids walk in the room, each adult leader must do all they can to point to Christ. We clearly teach the gospel with our words and our actions. This means we must take sin seriously. Sinful behaviors should be wisely and appropriately punished in children’s ministry. It means we must show grace in all that we do. We are not after behavior modification. We are after heart change–a reality only God can create. It means we must use biblical words when we communicate the gospel. Jesus didn’t die for our mistakes. He died for our sins. Use words like “reconcile,” “mediator,” and “justified.” It means we demonstrate our passion for Jesus by using personal examples from our own lives about how he has changed us.

Whether we are in the dog days of June and July or starting fresh in August, gospel clarity is a non-negotiable necessity in children’s ministry. Leaders and all adult volunteers must prepare their hearts every week to clearly show the gospel with their words and actions with the full realization that the kids we lead absorb every word, idea, and action they receive from us. This task is daunting. But God’s grace is sufficient. If you don’t feel sufficient to take on this task, good! You are in a perfect place to join in on the greatest mission in the world–passing the torch of the gospel to the next generation.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew 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.