God has given parents primary responsibility for the spiritual training of their children. But many parents don’t know where to begin. They feel overwhelmed with this responsibility. So, parents often entrust this task to the Church or to chance.
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus Christ commissioned the Church with the task to “make disciples.” Regarding children, many churches today are doing a poor job discharging that responsibility. If Jesus paid us a surprise visit, we could show Him our nice classrooms and resource centers. We might introduce Him to our teaching staff, invite Him to share snacks with preschoolers, and ask Him to teach the older kids. Afterwards, my guess is that Jesus might say: “Thank you for the tour. I can see that you’re having a good time together. You’ve invested in resources and environments. But I came today for another reason. Remember the one thing I commanded you to do? Now, please show Me your disciples.” What will you and I say when Jesus asks us that question?
Disciplemaking is the most pivotal ministry that churches can provide. It’s time for churches to encourage and equip parents to carry out their responsibility. The vitality of the next generation of Christians pivots on its willingness to do so. Churches must plan purposeful ministries to disciple parents and children. As your church considers the needs of children, please remember Jesus’ highest priority. Discipleship is the one thing we cannot neglect.
How can we motivate kids?
Many kids in America have lost interest in spiritual matters. They are discouraged about trying to please God. From their perspective, it is not “cool” to be godly. So they focus on their own desires and let the world guide them. The number one challenge in churches today is to overcome apathy, Christian kids who are satisfied with lukewarmness.
To counteract this trend, some churches have replaced content-rich children’s ministries with high-energy programs. This may keep kids from being bored and it may reduce the need to recruit volunteers, but it also severs teacher-learner relationships that foster discipleship. If we routinely motivate kids with flashy events, we are doomed to the “bigger and better” cycle. Each new program must offer more energy, excitement, and “wow” than the previous one.
Instead, we must move kids from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation. Throughout the Bible, God uses a variety of cause-effect techniques to motivate His people. Some are positive and some are punitive; some are fascinating and some are frightening; some are earthly and some are eternal. Remind children that every human being will someday meet the Creator face-to-face and give an account to Him.
Every child can be motivated, though not every child responds to the same stimuli. Find ways to lift your child’s eyes from self to God. Help him or her realize that our omnipresent God is both loving and just. Establish an appropriate system of rules and rewards. Reinforce attitudes and behaviors that honor God. Show how faith is relevant to life. Always encourage. Always affirm. Always model. Always pray.
Unless a force greater than the influence of gravity is exerted on an object, it will fall to the earth. Unless Christianity exerts a stronger influence than the world, the enemy’s persuasive tactics will pull our kids from the truth and ultimately cause them to fall away. The Great Commission hinges on the effectiveness of the church’s educational ministries.
Discipleship is the one thing that kids REALLY need. To navigate the turbulent seas and reach the spiritual harbors that God intends, kids need a firm foundation in God’s Word. They need help to grow into solid disciples of Jesus Christ. They need our help. Children’s discipleship is the hope of the world!
Mark Steiner is the CEO and founder of Through the Bible Publishing.