This is the first post in a series of reflections on a Children’s Ministry White Paper written by Doug Paul from Eikon Community (you can view the original document here).
Ultimately, we want the same things for our kids that we want for ourselves: We want them to be disciples of Jesus. To help us know what we are aiming for (both for ourselves and for our kids), we offer these definitions of a “disciple” to help us wrap our minds around the goal:
- A disciple is someone whose life looks very much like the life and ministry of Jesus.
- A disciple is someone who does the things that Jesus did for the same reasons that Jesus did them.
- A disciple is someone who learns (the Greek work mathetes means learner) to do all of the things that Jesus taught his disciples in the Gospels.
Jesus’ aim was to produce disciples. After all, that is embedded in the Great Commission in Matthew 28: “Go and make disciples.” It is our charge as Jesus people, Christians, to not only grow ourselves, but also to grow others. When we are deeply embedded into the life of Christ, then we can teach and model that life into others.
Disciples and disciplers can use how Jesus did things as a template for how to, in turn, disciple others. But not only how, but also why. It’s not enough just to look at his methods, but why those methods not only worked, but were used in the first place.. What’s the heart behind it? Why did Jesus do the things he did? What did he have in mind as he discipled, challenged, taught, healed, and led?
A disciple is someone who knows WHO they are (God’s kid, loved, and nothing can ever change that) and then WHAT to do (representing their Father, the King, by acting on his behalf and putting the world back together). It starts with the interior reality of Identity overflowing to the external reality of acting on behalf of the King (their dad).
Jesus did not have social upheaval in mind as the sole reason for the introduction of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He desperately encouraged and modeled a vital interior life. For sure the kingdom of God is the yeast that works itself through the whole loaf and the small mustard seed that starts small and grows into a large tree that covers the whole earth. Jesus exemplified a thriving interior life that, as it spread and grew, would inform and challenge the whole order of things in our world.
Jesus stayed in step with the Spirit. Jesus sought the will of the Father as greater than his own. Jesus prayed for his disciples.
As parents, we have the privilege of teaching our kids to ground their Identities in their loving, heavenly Father (who urges us to call him daddy) and to live out of that Identity by what we do. It’s about BEING and DOING. It’s about RELATIONSHIP and RESPONSIBILITY. It’s about the INTERIOR world and EXTERIOR overflow.
How are we, as parents, doing with teaching and modeling to our children these important realities? Do we believe this? Are our lives being radically changed and challenged by the words, practices and overarching intent of Jesus?
Everything that we do in Children’s Ministry is geared around shaping our kids to be disciples of Jesus and living into the unbelievable adventure of taking part in their dad’s work.
It’s interesting to think that a children’s ministry should start from the angle of discipleship, not babysitting so adults can focus on hearing the sermon in big church. It’s also not about enduring an hour of children’s ministry programming, but intentionally infusing a whole hour with teaching and modeling discipleship practices from the interior and exterior, being and doing, relationship and responsibility.
What can a children’s ministry do differently to raise model disciples instead of just, again, enduring an hour? Or, at the very least, thinking through programming for an hour. Giving churches and children’s ministry leaders the benefit of the doubt, how are our practices and programs informing the discipleship process in the lives of the kids they minister to. And, thinking of parents… do we think through our charge to disciple our children? Or do we just discipline when they either annoy or embarrass us?