Book Summary: Seven Things John Wesley Expected Us to Do for Kids
Oh Amazon, you did it to me again. I had a post set to go for this month, but then this little gem appeared on my Amazon feed so I decided to download a copy. And within three days I had read, reread, and highlighted its 80 pages. Author Christopher Miles Ritter highlights seven things we are expected to do for kids according to John Wesley’s preaching. And, spoiler alert, by “we” he means all of us—we all should have the desire to interact with children in some capacity in order to extend the kingdom of God to the next generation. Because friends, if we don’t, the church will eventually die.
In fact, in his introduction to the book, the author states, “the vast majority of us could do more for the rising generation if we jettisoned our excellent excuses.” Ouch. Yes, he said that. Excuses. At one time this was certainly my story. I was the queen of excuses: I already teach Monday through Friday. I go to Sunday school at that time. I go to church at that time. As a stay at home mom I need adult time. Look where that got me—promoted to the role of children’s director. God’s funny that way! In the last few years He has given me such clarity and passion for the purpose He designed for me— no more excuses. Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to come to the children’s area to finger paint, sing, and play with us. But I am saying that if we open our eyes to the children God places right in front of us, we may just find the Holy Spirit working in our hearts to introduce the future generation to Jesus. Here are the seven ways we can make an impact on children.
- Teach Them Intentionally. Kids are important to God. Their souls are eternal and precious. And in our world today, there is a constant war for their souls. TV, social media, and their peers bombard them with ideas about values, beauty, and worth. It is our responsibility to make the voice of truth the dominant voice they hear. Jesus loves you no matter what. He died so your sins would be forgiven. He knows you better than you know yourself. He is alive and always there. And the good news is, the childhood years are the most fruitful years for sharing the gospel and building relationships. Somewhere in your life there is a child ready and eager to learn these truths. Find them. Teach them.
- Know Them Personally. God desires a relationship with each of us. Relationship is the foundation of ministry. If we want to successfully minister to children (and adults) we must get to know them. Sure, we need to know their name, their age, what they like and dislike, but true relationship goes deeper: knowing their hopes, their fears, their feelings, and their faith. This requires trust and time. Jesus compared making disciples to catching fish—it’s an exercise in patience. It takes time and the conditions must be right. Sometimes you go home empty handed. But sometimes you catch a fish. Somewhere in your life there is a child that needs you to invest in getting to know their heart and help them discern the voice of God.
- Pray for Them Intensely. Pray not only for their safety, health, and comfort, but also for their character and calling in life. Pray openly in their presence. And realize that praying for someone often leads to praying with them. Jesus did not push the crowds of children away. He blessed them and told them the kingdom of God belonged to them. Be aware of the child God has placed on your heart. Pray for them intensely. It may take years to see the fruits of your effort, but God will hear each and every prayer and use them to glorify his kingdom.
- Mentor Families Meaningfully. According to the author, who we are at home is who we truly are. We could have the world’s greatest children’s ministry, but if we are not connecting with families and giving them a firm spiritual foundation, church and family will constantly be working against one another. We need to work together. In a world of countless extra activities that compete for our Sunday mornings we need to have honest conversations about our spiritual priorities (ouch.) One of my favorite quotes is, “you always have time for the things you put first.” Let’s be honest with one another. Look at our calendars—they are a reflection of our hearts. Let’s encourage one another to put God first. And remember, consistency is more important than perfection. Only God is perfect.
- Challenge Ourselves Continually. One of my favorite people, Pastor Judah Smith, led a sermon series titled the truth about following Jesus. Guess what? Following Jesus is not meant to be comfortable and safe. If we are going to minister to children (to anyone really) we need to stretch ourselves. We need to move past our comfort, overcome our fears, and stop making excuses. Yep, there’s that word again, excuses. Jesus called us to be fishers of men. We need a church-wide culture of bringing children to Christ. Let’s get out into the community. Let’s invite children and families to church and our special events. What would happen if each of us invited just one child to church? Imagine the possibilities with God.
- Shape our Ministries Appropriately. Our world is constantly changing. The latest and greatest thing today is obsolete by next week. Our children are in a constant state of change called growing up. As a church we need to help our children stay in love with God. Authentic children’s ministry is not simply a program on Sunday mornings—it is a lifestyle. It is relational. It is multi-generational. We need to be strong Christian examples to our children. Let them hear our testimonies. Let them see us pray openly. Let them see us reading our Bibles. Let them serve along with us. Kids are not just the church of tomorrow. They are the church of today, but without them, the church doesn’t have a tomorrow.
- Care for Them Practically. A child’s spiritual well-being is connected to their physical and social well-being. We cannot make disciples if we ignore the basic needs of our children. Clean water, food, clothing, education, and health care are some of the needs both globally and right in our own communities. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Hope Church—our children’s ministry included– currently supports global missions and projects right here in our community. Get involved. Share what you do. Invite others to join you. Be attentive to the needs placed right in front of you.
We, each and every one of us, needs to make an investment in our children. Maybe that investment is through prayer. Maybe it’s donating items we can use to help teach the gospel in Sunday school. Maybe it’s volunteering to teach or help with a community event that reaches beyond the walls of our church. Whatever it is, may we be obedient to Him and passionate in our ministry to children.