James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to speak at chapel at the school my wife teaches kindergarten and first grade. The principal emailed me and told me the layout of the chapel service. He told me I had fifteen to twenty minutes to speak. To be honest, I was nervous as I usually need forty or fifty minutes to unpack a text. So I started thinking about what I was going to speak on. I decided to talk about Jesus as a young boy. After all, it is something that any child could relate to. As I was studying for this message, it struck me how the gospel is for everyone who has ears to hear. We shouldn’t ever think the gospel is limited to a certain ethnic group, social group, or even age group. When I was asked to prepare the chapel message for these children James 3 should’ve been ringing in my heart and eventually, it did. Also, the Great Commission commands us to take the gospel everywhere and to everyone. I then came to the conclusion that preparing to teach these elementary age kids the gospel was not some small task. I beg you to consider that if you ever think sharing the gospel is a small task to consider James 3:1.
Cultivate the Hearts of Children and God May Give Growth
We must not think that sharing the gospel with kids is not needed or that it is something we don’t have to give much thought to. I remember coming through church as a young child being catechized. I grew up in a Reformed Presbyterian church where catechism was taught to all the children. I also remember it being difficult to remember all the answers to the questions we were being asked. But after God made me His own when I was fourteen God allowed these questions and answers to come back to my mind when I was older. The truths that I was taught as a child came alive to me when God placed His Spirit inside my chest. This is one of the reasons why the church’s ministry to children shouldn’t be seen as something we put on the back burner. Now more than at any other time in history do our children need to be fed the Word. When we feed them the Word faithfully, and God moves in their heart, we will have prepared them with something they can recall in their minds and apply with their hearts throughout their whole lives.
Ministry to Children is Not Time Wasted
Children’s ministry can differ depending on the church you’re in. But oftentimes children’s ministry can be time wasted if we do not consider that God can save the little children. Even though they are young and have petite minds, they are within reach of the gospel. It is inexcusable to think that the gospel is powerless to save a young child. It is even sillier for us to think that the gospel shouldn’t be shared with children. The gospel is to be proclaimed to all nations, all tribes, and all peoples even little children. The time the church sets aside for kids shouldn’t be something we prepare for at the last minute because it doesn’t matter. It matters greatly! Teaching kids the gospel shouldn’t be something we overlook. I think perhaps may be guilty of leaning on curriculum as a crutch instead of using it as a guide. When we lean on curriculum and not the Word, we can hinder children’s knowledge of the Word.
Children are the next generation of the church which means we must take our ministry to them seriously. The same Bible, the pastor, opens up to teach and encourage Christians on Sunday morning should not be set aside when we teach our children. I’m talking to the parents in the home as well. Children’s minds are already being immersed in education, sports, and IPAD apps, why can’t we marinate their minds with the Word also? What do we lose if we are intentional with the children in our church with things of the Word and then they don’t seek after God in the end? We are called to be faithful now to what God has given us. The best example we have of protecting those God has given us is Christ (John 17:12)!
A Word to Seminarians
I’m a student in seminary hoping to be a pastor one day. I hope I never overlook opportunities to share the gospel with children even if it seems like I may never get discovered. My Christian Ethics professor once said at a chapel in 2014 that seminary is not American Idol. Many come to seminary with this idea. Seminary or ministry in the church is not the Minor Leagues where we wait to be called up to the “big leagues.” Pastoral ministry is so different than what we’ve made it be in the past. To view ministry to children, youth, or college students as a stepping-stone to “bigger things” is foolish. Ministering to children may seem small, but if that is what God places on your plate be thankful for it. Don’t abuse or sulk over the places God takes you in your ministry. He may be preparing you for bigger responsibilities (Matthew 25:23).
Make His Name Known Among the Children
Lastly, the purpose of sharing the gospel is not for our own gain. We got something we didn’t deserve when someone shared with us. My encouragement for any seminarians reading this is to remember that any opportunity to share the gospel is an opportunity to further God’s kingdom and make His name known. Make His name known to children and don’t ever think it is a small task! God said teachers would be judged with greater strictness. Don’t cause children or yourself to stumble by trying to make your name great. Lean on Christ and trust that He is preparing you for what may seem like a small task. Remember, our presentation of the Word is always to be affected by our preparation in the Word.