If Jesus said,”Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (Luke 18:17): Then surely you have chosen the most fruitful field in which to labor. A healthy children’s ministry is critical not only to the well being of the present church, but also of the church yet to come. The enemy knows this better than the average church goer and focuses much of his energy in this particular area. Therefore, because you are laboring in the most fruitful field you will also fight against the devil’s best laid plans just to be there. Hopefully, by recognizing the enemy’s viscious hatred of children, and by being aware of his schemes, you will not become discouraged in taking up your battle gear and fighting against him daily. I hope that you will ask many different prayerful people for their thoughts on children’s ministry. Please don’t settle for my opinion: Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).
I believe that the devil is clever but not particularly creative. Creativity is a supernatural bolstering of intelligence. For humans, intelligence is merely a genetically alloted trait which can be strengthened by God-given virtues like love, joy, peace, patience etc. For the devil, he only has what was given to him in creation, since he falls outside of grace he has no ability to tap into God-given traits like creativity. The devil attacks children in the same way he attacks adults. He wants them to believe life is meaningless, and so he brings the religion of evolution into the classroom. He wants them to believe they are isolated, and so he erodes the family. But most of all – the high center of demonic attack- he wants them to believe that God is not worthy of glory, and so he presents them with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). I believe that the most effective children’s ministry roars into battle against the devil’s most ferocious attack point: The glory of God.
So why is the glory of God so important? According to the Westminster Shortest Catechism, Psalm 86, and Romans 11:36 the purpose of a man is “to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” This is what we are created for, and all unhappiness, sorrow, and discord in the universe is due to the bent sinful nature of man going against his original design. Man turns away from that which would be most satisfying to his soul, and strives after things that are deeply unsatisfying. This causes the whole universe to reel in horror against the sheer insanity. Only when man is first and foremost satisfied in the glory of God is his life set to right. If children, with hearts full of plantable soil (Matthew 13:8), whose angels always see the face of God (Matthew 18:10), are trained in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6), namely to value the glory of God above all else in their lives, then their souls will be won as a solid victory, and not just as souls barely escaping a fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). There is no other theme so prevalent in the scripture as the zeal of God for His glory. The theme of an effective children’s ministry should be the glory of God.
How do we demonstrate the glory of God to children? One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness (Psalm 145:4-7). An effective children’s ministry should go beyond teaching morals. Children receive a nauseating dose of moral teachings on television and in school. They do not need it all repeated at Sunday school. At best, this teaches them that Jesus was a “good teacher” – a claim which He refuted to the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:18- and at the worse teaches them that all religions are morally equivalent. For example, the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousands gets dumbed down to a lesson on sharing, or the story of Mary and Martha turns into Jesus’ official statement on feminism and why women should seek higher education. I believe that children are more capable of comprehending deeper doctrine and theology than most adults. “How can a good God judge and justify sinners and still be considered a righteous judge?” This is the kind of question we should be proposing to children while they are young and have the ability to easily comprehend that Jesus was a perfect sacrifice, infinitely worthy to satisfy the infinite wrath of God. How could God seeming sweep David’s sin under the rug? What about Bathsheba? Where is her justice? David essentially raped her and murdered her husband! He’s considered a man after God’s own heart? If Christ was not the perfect sacrifice, then religion is truly meaningless to those who have been outrageously wronged. How about the Christmas story? Mary was most likely lying down and wailing in pain in the streets of Bethlehem and Joseph was ready to punch some stupid inn keeper in the face before before they got shuffled off to a barn. The simple fact that she did not die of an infection in her uterus from bacteria in the livestock feces is astounding! Sunday school stories are remarkable, not for their ability to communicate the same morality as Saturday morning television, but for their ability to demonstrate that the glory, sovereignty, and holiness of God is more comforting and pleasurable than the comforts and pleasures of this earth.
What will be the anticipated results of children believing that God is more glorious than anything else? Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Christ did not suffer and die so that children could grow up to be basically good people. He wants brave little warriors, unashamed of the gospel of peace and ready to give an answer for the hope that they have even at gunpoint. He want a creative and flourishing people clamoring to take the gospel to the end of the earth to find someone who has not heard.
Children’s ministry in America will not be as easy as Russia, or Nepal. You will be laboring against complacency. You may feel that you are trying to rouse sleeping people to a battle that is upon them. Telling them, “Wake up and fight the enemy is here and trying to kill you!!!” but they yawn and drowsily tell you they will get up in an hour or so. Please don’t loose heart. God picked you on purpose. You will be a witness to His glory in the work He has given you. Find an older woman in the church who is faithful in coming and have her lay her hands on you and pray every week. Don’t be anxious, after all it’s the Lord’s work, back off and give Him some space to get busy.
On a practical note, I think it would be beneficial to include information about famous missionaries and martyrs in the curriculum. Children Desiring God and the Voice of the Martyrs have excellent resources. My children have enjoyed the Comic Book Bible, and they learned many good Bible verses using the Hermie and Friends Sing-a-long CDs.