Children’s ministry can be one of the most frustrating ministries in the church. If you serve in children’s ministry there will be times when you will feel unappreciated. It is likely you are overworked. And people probably see your role as little more than glorified babysitting. On top of all of this mostly negative reaction from adults in the church, teaching and leading children is a monster all on its own. Children can be frustrating. Some weeks it doesn’t seem like they understand anything you are saying. Some weeks it seems their primary goal is to disobey you, or just get under your skin. The goal of children’s ministry is for the church to come alongside parents and complement them in the discipleship of their children. Children’s ministers and ministry volunteers are not the primary disciple-makers in the children’s lives. But their role is crucial to the spiritual development and growth of children in the local church. So, I find it terribly sad that so many in children’s ministry feel unappreciated, overworked, and undervalued.
What makes all of this worse is when children’s ministry volunteers also feel ill-equipped to teach children in the church. With that in mind, I want to offer three crucial, fundamental tips for effective teaching in children’s ministry.
1. Show the Kids You Love Them
Man, this is crucial. Ask any teacher in a public or private school and they will tell you that until you show children that you truly care about them they will not listen to you. You have to earn their ears. Show the kids you aren’t just there to pass along information. Talk to them about their lives. Ask questions about family and school. By asking questions and getting to know them better, your prayers for them will be much more personal and intimate. And when you teach them the Bible your words will have weight behind them.
2. Show the Kids You Love the Bible
I want to be very specific here. The kids in your ministry need to see you run to the Bible for guidance, answers, and instruction for doctrine and godliness. When kids ask questions of a theological nature, let them hear you say, “Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this,” rather than “Well, here’s what I think about this.” They need to see not only the supremacy of the Bible, but also the sufficiency of the Bible in your life. Augustine once said, “Where the Bible speaks, God speaks.” Teach this. But let it also be true, “Where the Bible speaks, I speak” in the sense that when it comes to thinking through things about God, salvation, and life in general the Bible is our guide. We speak where the Bible speaks.
3. Show the Kids You Love the Gospel
Most importantly, show the gospel to kids through your words and actions. Let your words be seasoned with grace. Take sin seriously. Extend grace extravagantly. Teach forgiveness. Ask forgiveness when necessary. All roads in the Bible lead to Jesus. The key is learning how to navigate through the historical and literary contexts without abandoning the original intent of the biblical authors. But it doesn’t take a biblical scholar to see Jesus all over Scripture. It only takes eyes to see. See the gospel throughout Scripture and show the kids the multifaceted wonder of God’s saving grace. Show the gospel in your actions. Show that it isn’t just a message of empty words, but a message of power from a holy and gracious God.
Effective teaching in children’s ministry is not limited to these three tips, but they are foundational. Without them, you can use as many methods as you like, but you will not capture their minds or pierce their hearts. To accomplish this, we need to show them these three loves: kids, the Bible, and the gospel.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.