“Children’s Ministry is the most important ministry in the church”. I had heard that said but until I became a Kid’s Director, I didn’t believe it. Let’s face it – we ALL believe that our ministry is the MOST important! But after being directly involved in the running of the children’s ministry, I saw the potential for reaching hundreds of children, and along with that, attracting their parents to Jesus as well.
KidMin might not be the MOST important but it’s definitely up there, and for good reason!
Statistics tell us that at least half of believers trusted Christ between the ages of 3 and 12. Why is that? What is it about children that makes them so receptive to the gospel? Many possible reasons exist, but history has shown it to be true. Many parents and church leaders fail to realize that a child's moral development is set by the age of nine. George Barna states, “More often than not, what a person decides about truth, sin, forgiveness and eternal consequences during their pre-teen years is the same perspective they carry with them to their grave ...” If that is true, the ministry to children is critical.
As Kid’s Directors, we all strive to develop our ministries to be the best they can be. We want our programs to be exciting and biblically educational. We diligently search for the greatest curriculum, the most creative and extensive mid-week program and whatever other resources we need. We work to recruit the most qualified volunteers and decorate our rooms to look colorful and inviting. But the most critical aspect is actually reaching our kids for Christ. These are the crucial years when children are most receptive to the gospel. If we fail at our gospel presentation, we fail!
How much time do we spend developing our evangelistic materials? One of the biggest frustrations I faced during my tenure as a Children’s Ministry Director was a lack of outreach resources which presented the gospel in an unambiguous, consistent, theologically sound manner. Significant editing was required for even the most basic materials. Otherwise high quality curriculum lacked in this area and very few gospel tracts or brochures were available for purchase. All the bells and whistles of fancy curriculum and amazing activities might attract families and entice the children to listen, but what use is it if our gospel message is vague and unclear.
After contacting most of the major companies, it became clear to me that their presentation of the gospel was, at best, inconsistent, and at worst, abstract and unclear. Many of the curriculum developers were unable to point me to an example in their curriculum where the gospel was taught. Some deliberately omitted any gospel reference so that their materials would be attractive to a wide range of theological perspectives. Vague theological phrases and confusing abstract concepts were used, which could only result in a warped understanding of the gospel. The last straw was overhearing one of our teacher’s attempts at presenting the gospel. I became convinced that my volunteers needed some substantial training and my goal was to train my volunteers how to share the gospel with their class in a clear, concrete and consistent manner. Our annual training that year took on a different format. My goal was threefold.
1. Be Clear
If you were to sit down, spend a few minutes, and write out your gospel presentation, what would it say? How would you explain the gospel to a child? I have heard many variations, including “Give your life to Jesus”, “Repent and believe”, “Confess with your mouth”.
But do we really give something to God? What does the word “repent” mean to a child?
Is “confession” needed for salvation? Who do we have to confess to? Does the gospel really include the requirement of having to “tell someone” in order to be saved? So much theological debate exists with regards to these terms and phrases. Wouldn’t it be better to avoid controversial expressions and verses and stick to the clear and simple?
2. Be Concrete
Children are concrete thinkers. They don’t have the ability to think abstractly until the preteen years. Yet we often use abstract phrases when sharing the gospel with kids. The most common gospel outline is probably the ABC’s (Ask Jesus into your heart, Believe, Confess your sin).
What do their little brains think when we tell them to “ask Jesus into their heart”? Some no doubt, wonder, “Will He fit?” “Will my heart still work if He is in there?” Why use a phrase which at best, creates a visual picture which is not consistent with the gospel message and at worst, isn’t theologically accurate? Jesus doesn’t come to live in our hearts when we trust Him – the Holy Spirit indwells us. Why add confusion by using a phrase which is drawn from a verse that is not even gospel related. Revelation 3:20 was written to a church, encouraging them to restore their fellowship with God, not a verse speaking about trusting Christ for salvation. Why not appeal to their concrete minds with a message that they can understand?
3. Be Consistent
Once we’ve decided on the best way to share Christ with our children, why not have a consistent message throughout your entire children’s ministry. At our church, we adopted a modified version of the Bad News, Good News approach which was made popular by Larry Moyer from Evantell. It is simple, clear and concise.
Bad news: I am a sinner (Romans 3:23); The Penalty for Sin is Death (Romans 6:23)
Good News: Jesus died to pay my sin debt (Romans 5:8); Do I believe? (John 3:16)
You can’t get much simpler and clearer than that. Four points, four verses.
Each year, our annual teacher training includes a refresher on our outline, and each teacher used this outline ANY time the gospel is taught, regardless of the curriculum or resource. Posters outlining the Bad News and Good News are plastered on every wall in every classroom as a reminder. That way, every child, from Nursery to Preschool to the Elementary years hears the same message over and over, year after year. Every teacher, every classroom, every year!
The verses are taught as memory verses and the outline is rehearsed by every child. In Nursery, they learn that Jesus loves them. Preschool develops the idea of sin and our need for forgiveness. In the early elementary years, they learn about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us by dying on the cross. Each teacher uses the same phrases and verses to teach age-appropriate concepts. The goal is that each child knows and clearly understands the gospel by the time they reach the preteen years.
It’s great that we develop excellence in our programing. Eye catching visuals, attention grabbing videos and digital media, and fun activities and games. But if we miss the boat on our gospel presentation, what is the point? We should be making our gospel content understandable and accurate so that the Holy spirit can move in the hearts of our kids, and they can trust Him while they are young. Jesus Himself taught that we must become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Surely our message should be clear, concrete and consistent so that our children have the greatest chance of knowing Jesus during their early years.
 “Evangelism Is Most Effective Among Kids.” Barna Group, 2009. https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/ (accessed December 15, 2021). Also “Kids and Salvation Survey.” Ministry-To-Children, 2019. https://forms.gle/yz6FkME67Py1qSqf7 (accessed December 15, 2021).  George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, page. 63.