by Ruth Block
A number of years ago a friend of mine was leading a workshop with a group of children’s ministry workers when he was asked this question: “Why should we teach the gospel to children? They won’t understand it anyways.”
Just typing that now my heart breaks and my blood boils.
Why do we minister to kids? Why do we corral small children once or twice a week and try to get them to sit still and listen to stories even adults have difficulty understanding? Are we simply the babysitters so that the parents can listen to the pastor’s sermon?
If you stand at the front of a room filled with Christians and ask them how many of them became believers before the age of 18, statistics say nearly 80 percent will raise their hand. Before the age of 12? Half of those hands will stay up!
These formative years are when deep seated beliefs are formed about faith and life. What children hear, and even more so what children observe, will shape who they are, what they believe and even where they might struggle with faith as teenagers and adults.
What an opportunity we have!
As we serve our kids and families, let’s show them Jesus. We love them, welcome them, get to know them and do our best to create a space where they feel safe. Think back to your time in Sunday School—what do you remember the clearest? Chances are it is your teacher. Not a lesson, not a cool illustration, not a fun game, but the person that welcomed you in.
Then we teach them the gospel.
We remember that they are kids, but we teach them what Scripture says. We teach them about sin, and how sin messed up this world and our hearts. We teach them about the people that tried to do it their own way, and we teach them that ‘their own way’ didn’t work! We teach them that bad stuff happens (and they may be kids but they know this already!); and we teach them about the good God who has a plan to fix it all. And all along the way we show them Jesus—what this story teaches us about him, and what this gospel means to us, how it affects our lives, how it changes how we respond to whatever circumstance life throws at us.
And through this all, we remember that children are the church too. They are not the church of tomorrow; they are the church here and now. They come to worship and learn together in a community of faith, no different than their parents. They can serve. They can pray. They can witness. And they can teach us what it means to do those things, because often they do them so much better!
Ruth Block, BA, is the Missions and Finance Assistant within the EMC national office. She has a long history of being involved with children’s ministry, including at Emmanuel E. F. Church in Steinbach, Man., where she is involved in the Awana program. She attends Blumenort Community Church.
 Ryan Frank, ed. Give Me Jesus: Gospel-Centered Children’s Ministry That Changes Lives. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2013, 34.