by Mark Entzminger/ September 23, 2019
In my previous post, I introduced four anchors essential for any children’s ministry to stand the test of time. These might be considered basic and “no-brainers,” but the truth is, sometimes the most basic items are overlooked because they seem too simple to invest much time in.
Consider the anchor of “Growth Centered.” It could be assumed that because we are using the Bible as the text for the lesson, a child’s faith is growing. However, the Bible does not even support this notion.
Luke 8 provides the record of the sower, the seed, and the soil. Jesus is sharing this theological insight with His disciples: The seed is the same, the function of the sower is the same, but the condition of the soil changes.
That tells me we cannot assume that just because a child is present during our lesson, that the child’s faith is growing. If we make this assumption for too long in our children’s ministries, we will end up with nothing more than a social club. Children today are embracing the theology and worldview being presented each week, and it will become the baseline for how they shape the children yet to be born.
Consider the four key ingredients below to ensure the “soil” is rich for growing the seeds of faith.
By this we mean we need to move beyond telling the facts of the story in Scripture and begin to help the children see their Heavenly Father and the relationship He desires with them. Recently I was teaching on the Good Samaritan. The lesson had us recap all the things the Good Samaritan did to help the man who was beaten and bruised. The action step was then to remind the children: This is what it means to be a good friend.
There is no problem with this theology, but there’s a way the soil could become richer.
We compiled the list of all the actions of the Good Samaritan for the man. We then asked the question: “How many of these actions has God taken for us?”
In that moment the child began to see that being a good neighbor started with what Jesus did for us. To follow His example, we are showing our friends who Jesus is when we are good friends to them.
As a ministry grows it has a natural tendency to become more a “spiritual factory” than a “custom shop” for spiritual growth. It becomes far easier to create an environment where kids are spectators of the presentation on the stage than it is to fully engage every child in the learning process.
This takes some time and practice, but it’s not impossible to achieve. By utilizing classroom or small group experiences as part of your overall ministry strategy, kids are given the opportunity to be involved in personalized growth.
To learn more about how to help kids grow in this way, consider Howard Gardner’s “Seven Styles of Learning,” Edgar Dale’s “Dales Cone of Experience.” There’s also a growing body of work on the impact gender has on the modern children’s ministry, which will help leaders in a big way.
Some of my favorite ways to help kids grow individually can be found here.
In today’s information overload kids don’t need access to more information. They need the ability to think critically about the information they already have, and ask questions such as: What does it say? What is being left out? Can I trust the author? Are there different points of view? How does this translate to the Word of God?
In order to help kids to become critical thinkers we must also have a solid understanding of a biblical worldview. This helps in moving from knowledge to understanding.
Edgar Bloom’s “Taxonomy” gives a picture of how this works in each level of knowledge transformation:
This is quite a bit to comprehend, so let me break it down for you with some sample questions based on the Good Samaritan story from above. You can see how each level causes a deeper level of thinking and processing.
The questions we ask make a huge difference in helping to establish critical thinking skills in children.
The final part of watching kids grow is:
This challenge grows significantly as the size of the ministry grows and as more and more of the programming must fit within specific time constraints.
More will be said about this in the article about the anchor “TEAM.”