As a father and a church planter, one of my ongoing concerns are the needs and welfare of the children of our church. I’ve always struggled with the fact that at this point we cannot offer all of the programs and activities available at larger churches. It’s also distressing to see good families pass us by because we can’t offer the activities they want for their kids. So, with that bit of preface and full disclosure, I want to offer some thoughts on why I think participation in church planting is better for the spiritual growth and development of children than just being involved in the average children’s ministry programs churches offer.
Before I get too far, however, I had better offer a disclaimer: As you read these thoughts you may be tempted to believe that I am simply criticizing the efforts of other churches in order to justify our church, or that I am saying that our church will never offer similar ministries to other churches. I am not saying either. My goal is not to discredit well-intentioned, well-thought, and effective ministries of other churches. I wish only to offer some insights and observations about the benfits of church planting to children which I believe compensate if not acutally outweigh the benefits of the average children’s ministry. So, with that little caveat, here we go.
1. Children in church plants get to see missions first hand rather than just read about it in book or see it in a video. I’m a hands on kind of guy. I learn well and I learn fast through reading and observing, but I learn best by actually doing. I’m also naive enough to believe that most people learn best by actually doing. It’s one thing to read about an adventure; it’s a completely other thing to live one. When children are involved in a church plant they get to be a part of the mission adventure and live through the spiritual growth and development of a church that will inspire and influence them for the rest of their lives.
I’ve met several MK’s (Missionary Kids) over the years, and I have often found them to have a unique passion and perspective when it comes to the church and her missional work. They are often impatient and discouraged by the self-centeredness of many American Christians. Having our children directly involved with misions will do more to protect them from spritural stagnancy and laziness than all of the Sunday School classess, VBS’s, missions programs ever developed. Don’t sell your children short; don’t merely entertain them and put them in places to make them “happy.” Labor for their eternal joy; be jealous and zealous for their spiritual happiness and ultimate satisfaction in God.
2. Children in church plants learn the joy of serving. Let’s face it. Selflessness is a learned behavior. We’re all naturally self-centered and want to be served. We have to train our children to be self-sacrificing and servant-hearted. If we are not careful we will cater to our children’s natural selfish desires all in the name of providing them the best opportunities to be ministered to. If “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28) should we not disciple our children to serve others? I’ve watched the children of our church get excited about serving. While they all love to go outside and play, they will also join in setting up for church and tearing down after church. They all seem to enjoy the oppourtunity and appreciate being a part of something big and important. They believe that what they are doing makes a difference because we as parents believe it makes a difference.
3. Children in church plants learn to believe in a big God. I have not encountered any better way to grow faith than to exercise faith. Planting a church requires faith in a big God to provide and empower so that lives will be transformed. Children who grow up in an environment where God is actively at work and lives are transformed grow to believe in a God who delivers and shows up. They learn to trust God as their church trusts and follows God. They learn to pray for their church and it’s misison and they participate in the celebration of the church when God answers prayer.
Now, granted, everyone of these things can be learned an any church that strives to be missional and endeavors to connect with its community. All I am suggesting here, is that a missional church plant offers the best opportunities for children to grow spiritually and learn about a big missional God who changes lives. Don’t discount churches that can’t or don’t cater to your kids. Be careful not to make your church decisions on the basis of the best programatic offerings. Instead, ask yourself, “Where will my kids best learn to be missional, serve others, and trust in a big God?” Get involved in a missional church and bring your kids along for the adventure. They will be forever grateful for the eternal investment in their lives that results.