Good Kids or Godly Kids?

What are we really working toward?

by John Hailes/ January 22, 2015

There has been a growing trend in children’s ministry towards values-based ministry. As a result of this trend, I believe we have weakened our pursuit of spiritual transformation and have settled for measuring our children’s growth through behavior modification. Although modified behavior can be an indicator, I don’t believe we can assume it equates to heart transformation.

A few months back I was having a conversation with a volunteer about “dysfunctional kids.” We all know them: the unruly, untamed, hyper, angry, rebellious, or just ill-behaved kids.

After discussing the struggles of raising and reaching these kids with the gospel, I finally remarked, “The truth is though, ALL kids are broken.” The person I said this to seemed surprised. It seems easy to consider “dysfunctional kids” broken, but where are the signs of brokenness in the middle class, well-mannered children?

The truth is we are ALL broken by sin, and we are ALL in need of Christ’s restoration and redemption—in spite of how we may act or behave. Although some kids may seem more broken, they all need an encounter with God that reaches beyond behavior modification.

It seems to me that we are too quick to view behavior as the chief marker of spiritual transformation. We too easily assume that good kids equate to godly kids.

Of course behavior can be an identifier of heart transformation, but it worries me that we often aim for behavior modification over spiritual transformation. Our “values and virtues” approach to children’s ministry, along with the curriculums we choose, often show that we care about producing good kids, but aren’t necessarily focused on developing God-centered kids.

We learn in the New Testament that true and lasting spiritual transformation can only occur through the work and person of the Holy Spirit. We can tell our kids to be better behaved; but only the Holy Spirit at work in them will make that change a reality.

I recently became fed up with teaching kids virtues and instructing them to be better behaved. Instead I have started to focus on teaching spiritual truths and the story of God’s interaction with the world. Rather than aiming for behavior modification, I am creating space in our service for the Holy Spirit to speak to kids and work in their hearts. I’m encouraging and teaching kids to pray and hear from God themselves, because only He can truly transform their hearts.

I encourage you today to begin this journey with me by asking yourself these questions:

? What does true spiritual transformation in the life of a child look like to you?

? What approach are you taking to children’s ministry?

? Are you finding that kids are better behaved or are they moving deeper in their relationship with God?

What are you really aiming for?