The following is an article which I wrote for our newsletter for July at Farmdale Baptist Church. This article outlines the vision behind a new approach to children’s ministry for us. This vision has best been articulated by John and Noel Piper in their article “The Family: Together in God’s Presence”.
It has often been said that the most segregated hour in America is 11am on Sunday morning. This should not be! If there is one place where differences of skin color should not matter it should be in the church of the living God. But what is true in regard to segregation due to skin color is also true many times in our churches in regard to age. The church often divides families into various age groups on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. The result is that there is no time during the week when the families of the church come together to worship God. This also should not be!
We believe there is a better way. This better way will allow us to continue to minister to children on their level by providing a listener’s guide to the sermon and allowing the children’s sermon to prepare the young ones to better understand the message to follow. We will still be providing the same age-geared teaching during our Sunday School hour, as well as on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. Indeed, one of the great benefits of this new approach will be that the Sunday evening time will be more focused and efficient at providing an opportunity for outreach into the community and fun, interactive learning on the part of our children.
There are a couple of core convictions which motivate our thinking on this subject. First, we believe in the priority of the Word of God preached. When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Ephesus, a letter to be read to the entire congregation when they gathered for public worship, he did not hesitate to address the children whom he knew would be present in that assembly: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1). In the Old Testament when the people of Judah gathered to hear Ezra read the Law of God the congregation was made up all the men and women, but also all “those who could understand.” We are not given precise ages, but clearly children were present at this assembly. God has promised and been proven to bless His Word by imparting spiritual life to its hearers (see 1 Peter 1:23). God’s Word is also the primary means by which believers are sanctified (see John 17:17). Therefore, we want as many people possible to be under the sound of the preached Word. This includes those children who can hear with understanding, as well as the children workers who are often cut off from the benefit of hearing God’s Word preached.
Second, we believe that families should worship together. We believe that this is a healthy practice for children to learn to worship God by observing their parents, grandparents, other family members, and the entire body worshiping God. We further believe that by giving the families of our church the opportunity to worship together, their families will be strengthened spiritually as they interact with each other regarding the listener’s guide to each Sunday’s sermon.
We realize that some children attend our church by riding the van without any accompanying parents. Our goal is to reach their entire families with the message of the gospel. But in the mean time, we will be asking volunteers in the congregation to allow a child to set with them during the morning worship and assist them in learning to worship the one true living God through their example and encouragement with the listener’s guide.
In short, we believe that there are many benefits to our new direction in our children’s ministry. It is not flawless. There will be adjustments that will have to be made. But we are excited that everyone will have the opportunity to attend and participate in our Sunday morning worship, that families will be strengthened spiritually through the tools that are provided them, that our children’s workers will be encouraged and equipped for greater and more effective ministry because of their opportunity to hear God’s Word preached regularly, and that our church will now be better focused and more efficient at providing a Sunday night learning opportunity for our children and evangelistic outreach to our community.