“Many churches equate discipleship with knowledge … but the essence of discipleship is transformational not informational. Jesus did not merely ask us to teach everything He commanded. He asked us to teach people to obey everything He commanded, and the difference is massive (Matthew 28:19). The end result of discipleship is not merely the knowledge of all Jesus commanded but the obedience to all Jesus commanded.” 1
Greg Baird poses this pivotal question regarding children: “Are you practicing informational discipleship in your ministry, or transformational discipleship?” 2
Baird continues, “Informational discipleship is focused on delivering content to kids. Bible stories, character qualities and spiritual truth. These are all important & even necessary. However, if our ministries stop there, all we are going to be doing is creating informed disciples.
“It’s not enough,” says Greg. “Instead, we need to be focused on transformational discipleship. This is where delivery of content is second to relational investment. You see, relationship allows for content to be observed in real life. We can teach about grace and forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. And I am not questioning that the power of God’s Word is sufficient. However, when a child not only hears it, but sees it in real life (which can only happen through relationship), then the potential for transformation in their own lives is exponentially multiplied.”
Greg provides these four ideas to help take your children’s ministry from informational to transformational:
1. Live a transformed life yourself.
And expect your leaders to do so, as well. Our ministry should flow from a transformed life. A deep & abiding relationship with Jesus should characterize us. A commitment to being in the Word and praying should be non-negotiables. A dependence on the Holy Spirit in our teaching & interactions should be evident. Surely we can’t expect to be used to transform others if we are not first transformed ourselves, can we?
2. Create a culture in your ministry where relationships are central.
This begins with you, the leader, and must be lived out and taught to your team (staff or volunteer). Start with the first “recruiting” conversation and let the idea of “relationship” drip from every conversation. Teach your team to speak the same language and follow up by living it in every interaction.
3. Find ways for every child to receive focus.
This should be a natural part of creating relationships. However, being intentional about meeting the needs of each child is critical. Too often we try to disciple en masse – the kids show up, learn as a group, and go home. But that one child who’s family is falling apart…he doesn’t need to hear the story of Noah today, he needs someone to focus on him and his needs.
4. Equip parents to disciple their own kids.
What we do in church is important, but the investment – or non-investment – by Mom & Dad is critical. Their relationship with the child is the one that really matters more than any other. As church leaders, we need to understand that most parents want to invest in their children, but most feel completely inadequate to do so. But we get so busy planning the next great event, or get bogged down in the details of ministry, or fret over our recruiting challenges, that we forget to invest in the single greatest discipleship opportunity we have – equipping parents.
According to Dr. Thomas Sanders, curriculum is one key component of transformational discipleship: “The purpose of curriculum should be to help boys and girls learn to follow God’s plan for their lives.” 3
DiscipleLand’s family of resources forms a comprehensive Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational discipleship process. Your children can achieve balanced growth in Bible knowledge, Christ-like character, and faithful conduct.
•Nursery curriculum (birth–age 3) includes everything your volunteers need to provide spiritual nourishment for your little lambs.
•Preschool children (ages 3–5) progress through Old and New Testament stories to discover God’s greatness and plan.
•Kindergarten kids (ages 5–6) overview the entire Bible and meet 48 different Bible personalities along the way.
•For the Elementary years (grades 1–6), choose from these options:
—Core Bible challenges children to become victorious disciples via 6 years of sequential Bible curriculum
—Adventure motivates kids to pursue their discipleship journey via essential Bible topics
—DiscipleTown equips kids with vital discipleship skills.
1 Transformational Discipleship. Eric Geiger. Web 2012.
2 Greg Baird. Informational or Transformational. Used with permission. Web 2012.
3 Thomas “Tommy” Sanders. Choosing Curriculum for Children’s Ministry. Web 2012.