During busy ministry seasons (like the summer when we're all trying to balance volunteer vacation schedules, stay sane through VBS, and get ready for the new school year) it's easy to get caught up in all the details of ministry and everything that must be done. And, it's easy to forget why we do what we do and what Children's Ministry is all about. So, let's all take a step away from the long to-do lists and answer the question, what does the Bible says about children's ministry?
I know what you're thinking, children's ministry isn't in the Bible. And you're right. But there are lots of passages we can consider as our motivation and inspiration for serving in children's ministry. We'll see that the Bible speaks specifically to parents training their children and to one generation teaching the next. What a joy and privilege it is to be part of the legacy of passing the good news on from one generation to the next.
Let's start with what many consider to be the most popular passage involving the teaching of children, Deuteronomy 6, starting with verses 1-3.
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey."
In these verses, we see that the teaching first went to the parents. Parents were told to remember all that God had done for them. They were instructed to fear God and follow His instructions and commandments and the result is that it would go well with them in the land God is giving them.
Let's move on and read verses 4-5.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
In these verses, parents would be reminded of the character if God and instructed to Love God. We see the personal responsibility of devotion to the Lord given to parents. We see that before any command to teach is given that parents are instructed to know and remember the word. Before a parents can teach they need to know the Word and know the God of the Word. And we can apply that same truth to anyone who is proclaiming God's Word to the next generation. If you're going to teach the Bible, you need to know the Bible and know God.
Verse 6 says,
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
The theme of knowing God's Word continues with the call for the commands to be on your heart. Matthew 12:34 b says, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." What's on your heart is going to come out of your mouth, and that's where Moses goes next in these instructions.
Now, look at verses 7-9:
"You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
Moses' instruction here calls for 24/7 Biblical instruction of children. This teaching should take place morning and night, in the home and out of the home and God's Word should always be in front of your children.
Verses 10-19 review the promise of the land and commandments to follow God and then, in verse 20-21 we read...
"When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son,"
Moses is reminding parents that by keeping the law, by following God, by living a life that's obedient to God your children will ask why you're doing what you're doing. When kids ask, we need to always be prepared to give them an answer. We need to always be prepared to point children to Christ. They will ask when they seeing us live lives of worship and obedience.
The Bible also speaks a lot in generalities about one generation teaching the next. These are some of the verses that can really impact our ministry on a Sunday morning in our classrooms. Let's look at a couple of verses.
Psalm 102:18 - Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.
What an amazing thing to think about. In Psalm 102, the psalmist gives a reason why the truths about God and his character and His salvation of his people should be recorded and told to the next generations. One goal in telling this generation the goodness of God is that generations not even born yet will praise the Lord. We teach kids today in hope that their kids and grandkids will praise the Lord because they have known God and told of him to their kids.
Psalm 145:4 - One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
The psalmist calls us to tell the next generation of God's mighty works.
And now let's look at one of my favorite passages regarding teaching the next generation... Psalm 78:1-8
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Some takeaways from these verses for Children's Ministry Leaders and Volunteers are:
- Listen to the truth and don’t hide it from the next generation. You have to know it and be actively learning it to proclaim it.
- Tell children who God is and what He has done. The what of our teaching is God himself - who He is and what He has done.
- Teaching this generation impacts generations yet to be born. Once again we see the generational benefit of teaching children. The children sitting around our tables this Sunday in children's ministry will one day be mothers and fathers sitting around dining tables proclaiming these same truths to their kids and grandkids.
- We have the privilege of laying a foundation of biblical truth in the lives of children.