Book Review: Build on Jesus, by Deepak Reju & Marty Machowski
Deepak Reju & Marty Machowski, Build on Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children's Ministry. New Growth Press, 2021. 208 pages.
If my husband Mark Dever were to add a “mark” of a healthy church regarding children’s ministry, the book Build on Jesus could be the practical guide to living it out. This is the children’s ministry book I’ve been waiting for. I have given out hundreds of copies since it was released last year.
To whom have I given them? Some have gone to children’s ministry workers and administrators, as you would expect. But primarily, I try to get this book in the hands of pastors.
Here’s why: Build on Jesus does more than provide good advice on topics you’d expect to find in a children’s ministry book. It also explains the need for pastoral oversight of children’s ministry and how to provide it.
TERRIFIC ON TYPICAL TOPICS
Getting teachers to teach, getting kids to learn—this is where children’s ministry books usually spill ink. These are important topics and Build On Jesus has wonderful sections devoted to them.
Chapter 1 lays an important foundation, defining what God calls us to teach the children: his Word and his gospel. The book gives advice on choosing, creating, and using curriculum in ways that are not only faithful to Scripture, but also enjoyable and memorable to kids.
Chapters 8-10 discuss how to maintain a safe teaching environment. The crucial first step can take place before teaching. These chapters glean highlights about protecting our children and those who work with them from Deepak’s bigger book On Guard. Chapter 11 is rich with practical advice on managing the classroom that can help any teacher. In Chapter 12, Marty writes on the importance of creativity in the teaching environment, which was thought-provoking and unique.
Build On Jesus is a worthwhile read simply for what these men have to say regarding these typical children’s ministry book topics. The concise chapters and evaluation questions might even get your busy, volunteer teachers to read it.
A CALL TO PASTORS
But the reason I’ve given out so many copies of Build on Jesus to pastors isn’t for the topics mentioned above. It’s because this book does something few (if any) other children’s ministry books do; it provides pastors with the healthy, biblical, church-centered framework they need to lead children’s ministry well.
Why should pastors spend their time on children’s ministry? Here are five reasons:
- Pastors will be held accountable for the soundness of the teaching that takes place under their leadership, and surely this includes what is taught in children’s ministry.
- Children’s ministry frequently enlists more members than any other ministry in the church. And often, their volunteering takes place during worship services or adult classes. Someone needs to make sure the volunteers are nourishing their own souls.
- Most members become parents, meaning children’s ministry is a great way to support a large portion of the congregation.
- Ages 4-14 are a fertile time of conversion and, unfortunately, of false conversion. Pastors help discern the difference and keep the gospel clear.
- Everyone in a church is a child or was a child.
A pastor’s ministry is children’s ministry. One way or another, everyone in their church is affected. Pastors are called by God to know, feed, and equip the sheep. Who better than they to oversee this ministry that has such widespread impact!
Yet often, pastors are overwhelmed or unsure how to do so. Build on Jesus does an excellent job of helping pastors understand how to provide this leadership.
A PASTOR’S JOB DESCRIPTION: FAMILY-EQUIPPING
You have probably heard of the family-integrated approach to children’s ministry, which places the responsibility of teaching children largely—if not solely—within the nuclear family. Part of the popularity of that approach is in response to parents wrongly “outsourcing” their God-given responsibility to others. Amen to that!
Build on Jesus is also a response to parents shirking their God-given responsibilities, but it presents a “family-equipping” model. In this approach, parents are equipped and supported as the spiritual nurturers of their children, by the members of their local church, under the leadership and guidance of the pastors.
But their model isn’t only a “family-equipping” model; it is a “nourish-every-soul” model, too, providing advice on how to care for families and provide childcare and children’s Bible classes without burning out teachers, and especially your children’s ministry director (CMD). Did you know that the average CMD lasts in their position only three years before burning out? Reading chapter five and implementing its wisdom can help you care well for your CMD, for the sake of his or her own soul, as well as the sake of your children’s ministry.
If you are a church planting pastor, you have the hardest job of all. There is pressure on you to “build the children’s ministry plane in the air,” and you’re tempted to toss children’s ministry to your wife. This book is filled with the wisdom you need to build your children’s ministry before it takes flight, even when there is pressure on you to hurry up and have kids’ programs. Appendix A is a special section written with you in mind.
I’m telling you, pastors, this book is written for you as much as your children’s ministry workers, if not more so. Buy this book for chapters 4 and 5 and Appendix A alone! And do not simply hand it off to your CMD. Buy two copies and discuss it with them. If there’s no time to read the whole book, focus on Chapters 4 and 5 and Appendix A.
A WHOLE CHURCH AFFAIR
Let me close with a favorite quote from the book:
That’s how the church should work—it’s not just parents, but every adult who walks in the doors of the church building, every adult who talks to a kid after church, every volunteer in childcare, every Sunday school teacher, every hall monitor—each and every one has an opportunity to communicate the glories of our great God to these children. You don’t have to be in a more formal role, like a preacher or a Sunday School teacher, to be a conveyor of truth to church kids. The hope and prayer is that one generation will tell of the Lord to the next generation, and that generation will tell the next. (28)
Pastors, church members, parents: your ministry is children’s ministry. Build on Jesus is a book that can help you build tomorrow’s healthy church today.
I should know. I have spent my life working in children’s ministry under Deepak and the other elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church with the model presented in this book. I have had the blessing of being personally shepherded well by it and watching our church thrive under it.