After writing about Developing a Biblical Worldview in Children, I haven’t been able to get this question out of my head: If our job as children’s ministers is to do what Matthew 28:19 tells us to do (and I believe it is), “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” then what does a discipled child look like?
How can we tell where we’re hitting the mark if we haven’t defined and determined what a discipled child is in the first place? Mr. Webster says a disciple is a follower. Alan Root in his book Disciplification! defines it in three ways:
- The travels of a disciple
- The practiced habit of “following”
- A made-up word that simply means the life changes made to become more and more like Jesus each day
So if our job is to make followers who, through life changes and good choices, become more like Jesus, then what actions, habits and character traits should be evident in the life of a discipled young Christ-follower ?
For years, we’ve been guilty of using faithfulness as the major evaluation of discipleship. If kids attended faithfully and participated in loads of activities and programming, we’d send them to the youth ministry and claim success. In a few years, we’d look them up in the youth group, notice they weren’t there, and wonder, “What did the youth pastor do to make this child lose interest?”
Children’s ministers should think of ourselves as foundation specialists. Anyone who’s ever constructed any kind of building knows that the type of foundation has everything to do with the type of structure you can build.
In construction, you start with the building plans and then determine what kind of foundation it requires. In children’s ministry, many of us have been guilty of designing the foundation, then saying to the youth ministry, “Now go fit your building on the foundation we have built.” Not once do we sit down and work together toward the end result.
Discipled and Devoted
Sometimes, the problem starts long before we promote kids to the youth ministry, or even from one kidmin department to another. In churches, we can be so territorial; we often don’t work as a true team and prepare children for the “now.”
Instead of looking ahead, we focus on the present, which centers on and around our own ministry responsibilities. When we help other departments and ministries succeed, however, then we’ll be successful too. We’re all on the same team working toward the same Great Commission goal.
Our mission at World Outreach Church is to help people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Our mission for the children’s ministry as well as for student ministries is to help young people and parents become fully devoted followers of Christ now and forever. You can’t hit the church’s mission without every ministry that makes up the church working on that same mission statement for their age groups.
Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said it this way, “Habit number one is to start with the end in mind.” Why don’t we as church staff and ministers sit down together with our next-generation ministries and our lead pastors and just plan backward? We must ask, “What do we want a young adult to know as part of this congregation?”
Then let’s back up and look at the college ministry to see what those students need to learn. We must then continue, looking at the senior high ministry, then the middle school ministry, then the elementary ministries. Working backward, we also evaluate our preschool and nursery ministries to see what discipled kids should learn. (Notice I don’t use the word taught. Just because teaching takes place doesn’t mean learning occurs!)
Determining Our Discipled Results
To create discipled children, we must get in the habit of defining and evaluating what we do and the results those actions yield. This is just the first step in making this process a way of life at your church. Years ago, I sat down with my youth pastor and asked, “What do you want the sixth-graders I promote into your youth ministry to know and be?” That question took some time to develop.
This list may differ from church to church. The bottom line: Make a list. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Make it a matter of prayer, and work on your list as a team.
Discipleship is more than getting children “saved.” It’s time we all focus on helping children live saved. Disciplification is all about how a saved person lives each day.