Does Your Church Have Prodigal Children?

Reviewing notes from a children’s workers conference I attended, I came across this question:

Why do we wait until our children go prodigal before we put the effort in to lead them to Christ?

Many children’s pastors and workers struggle to get their senior pastors and church members to understand why they see children’s ministry as perhaps the most important ministry in the church.  We see the seasons of the soul and understand the heart of a child is most open to learning who Christ is in the grand scheme of life and who He is to them, individually.

Up to age 5 – Children get their first impression of who God is. They are like little sponges that absorb the knowledge while still accepting with the innocence only children hold.

Ages 6-13 – Children are active, energetic, curious. They are most sensitive and receptive to the knowledge, grace and love of Christ.

If we speak only statistically, we have learned:

  • More than half the people who will accept Christ do so by age 12.
  • Less than 6 percent of people receive Christ after the age of 12.
  • By age 9 a child has already formed his or her basic moral foundation.
  • By age 13, the majority of beliefs have been irrevocably formed about:
  • The nature of God
  • The existence of Satan
  • The reliability of the Bible
  • The Holiness of Jesus
  • Whether one can be saved from sin
  • The importance of the Holy spirit in our lives

Those statistics are staggering. They tell part of the story. But, as a kid’s pastor, I need to make it more personal and ask myself the following questions:

Does my church value children’s ministry, or do they allow other things to take precedent over it?

Are resources channeled into other things that have less spiritual significance for the future?

Do I effectively convey to the church the importance of reaching kids when they are young?

Too many times the church does not place the importance it should on reaching kids at an early age. Too often, talk is about them being the church of the future. They are ONLY the church of the future when we, the church, make them the priority of today. Too many times the resources focus almost entirely on the adults or the teens, and, while we know we need to reach the lost at any age,

Why do we wait until our children go prodigal before we put the effort in to lead them to Christ?

Our preschoolers become elementary kids, the elementary kids become teenagers and the teenagers wander away from the church because we have not fully grounded them in their faith. Parents wonder why those kids no longer want to come to church when they have, through their actions, taught their kids sports, or dance or drama are more important than church by choosing, or allowing their children to choose, those activities over church activity. The church becomes less of a priority than anything “fun.” When we make those decisions, we have taught our children a lesson in value, and God and the church lose.

How can we as children’s pastors and workers change the culture?

  • Build a relationship with your church kids. Let them know they are important to you.
  • Teach them God knows no boundaries of age to serve Him or to place a calling on their lives.
  • Live your life in a way they can see Christ in you and will translate to them seeing their importance to Him.
  • Persist in reminding your pastor and your church the importance of reaching kids. Work toward an understanding that we need to win our kid’s today, so they will be strong and prepared to BE the church of tomorrow …
  • Educate parents to think about the lessons their actions, and decisions, teach their children
  • Pray, pray and pray some more.

We all have a part in preparing our children to be strong in Christ so we don’t have to ask … Where are our prodigal children?

Cathy Detherage is in her 36th year of children’s ministry.  She returned to Faith Chapel in Louisburg, KS as children’s pastor 6 years ago after serving several years in other positions and now teaches a second generation, the children of former students.  Cathy’s experience is in working through the challenges of children’s ministry in a smaller church environment. This article is a guest post from  

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