Why a Pastor Should Care about Children’s Ministry
I invented “Party Water.” “Party Water” is just water, and the kids all know that. Nonetheless, I use it as a gimmick to advertise “Pastor Ed’s After-School Kids Class.”
For the past two decades, I’ve met every Tuesday during the school year at 4 p.m. in my office with the elementary school students of our church. The 90-minute event draws about 15 children each week. We eat unhealthy snacks, play dodgeball in the basement, learn vocabulary words like “soteriology,” study a passage of Scripture, color a picture, drink “Party Water,” and dismiss. It’s a pretty simple operation, but it constantly ranks as my favorite ministry activity of the week.
I don’t have any deep philosophical underpinnings that support my rationale for doing it. Their parents are members of our church. I am their pastor. They are souls that will spend eternity somewhere, and this is an opportunity to give them the gospel.
As I search my heart, I honestly don’t have anything profound to say about the necessity of the senior pastor being involved in ministering directly to children like this. It’s pretty simple. They are people who need the Word of God. My schedule allows me to do it, and I desire to do it. That’s pretty much all there is to it. I’m aware that my contribution is merely a supplement to their overall spiritual education.
Their primary source for learning about God and his Word must come from home. With that foundational understanding of children’s ministry in place, I stand ready to reinforce what their parents teach them on a daily basis.
I recall being deeply impacted as a child by the deep concern my pastor showed for my soul. Even though I was unconverted and disinterested in spiritual things, I knew my pastor was invested in my salvation. Like all children, I didn’t fully appreciate his commitment to my spiritual well-being until many years later. God only knows what the children of North Shore Baptist Church will remember half a century from now about our after-school class. One cannot do ministry with a crystal ball.
The Lord has ordained his desired end for each of these young people. I pray that he, by his gospel, will save them. I also know that the same God who ordained the end has also ordained the means by which that end will be accomplished. As pastors, we are to employ the means of preaching the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. This we do on Sunday mornings in front of the entire congregation. But it’s also something we can do throughout the week with people of all ages God brings into our path.
In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.” Much can be said about what this verse does not mean.
Admittedly, it’s a somewhat challenging verse to understand and apply. However, when all the faithful exegesis has been completed, there is no doubt that children were precious in his sight. And they remain precious.
As pastors, we must follow the command of our Chief Shepherd, the one who said, “See that you do not despise these little ones” (Matt. 18:10). He was, of course, referring to all believers as the “little ones,” but this certainly includes little believers.
As our Lord entered the temple in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he accepted the praise of the children who cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Christ then defended their right to extol him as King by quoting David in Psalm 8: “Have you never read, ’Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matt. 21:15–16)
Jesus, in the days of his flesh, had an awareness of and a love for the little children. We should love the little children, too.
Perhaps your schedule doesn’t allow you to hold a weekly after-school class. Perhaps your church is too big or too little to hold such a gathering. The time, venue, and format are flexible. What’s important is that we as pastors intentionally make an effort to show concern for the little ones in our midst. This is not to say there’s no place for a “Director of Children’s Ministries” in a church. Thank God for those who have expertise and gifting in this area! They serve the Kingdom greatly.
It is to say, however, that we as pastors should never fall into the trap of thinking we are above caring for the souls of young children.
Your context is likely different than mine. You’ll need to responsibly assess your availability. But regardless of your weekly calendar demands, I would urge you to prayerfully consider making a genuine effort to know, to love, to spend time with, and to give the gospel to the children in your church.
Also, should you opt to employ the “Party Water” refreshment option, I’ll expect royalties lest you violate the trademark.