With rare exception, kids ministry has been a constant for the last 15 years. Signing our kids into and picking them up from their classes has been a constant. But this past Sunday,1 represented a milestone for us: It was our family’s first Sunday without a child in one of the kids ministry classes as a participant.
We knew it was going to happen, of course. It’s a consequence of children growing up. Eventually they are ready to move on to the next phase of life in the church. For some churches, that means participating in a youth program. In our church, it means joining the worship gathering.
This week, our oldest and youngest sat with Emily during the message. Our oldest has been pretty consistent with using her journal to help her stay focused on what’s happening. She’ll write notes, sometimes doodle… whatever it takes to stay dialed in. But this was our son’s real first time outside of a few weeks in 2020 when kids ministry wasn’t available. I’ll be honest: I was a little worried about how it was going to go. I half expected him to turn into a noodle, and ooze out of his chair. Instead, he had his Bible open. He was circling words and underlining. He was engaging with what he was hearing in a way that Emily and I haven’t seen before.2
Despite my worry about our son turning into a noodle, I’m excited about this new phase we’re entering. Here’s why:
A different experience with the Bible
The Bible plays a huge role in our kids ministry. Our kids walk through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, seeing the gospel story throughout. All of my children—from the oldest to the youngest—have experienced this in full at least twice. That’s a big deal in and of itself. But because we teach through books of the Bible in our worship gatherings, our kids are experiencing a different kind of engagement opportunity. They’re being encouraged to drill down and think deeply about one book for an extended period of time. That is relatively new for them (more specifically, for my youngest). But it’s good. They all need to see that there are many ways to teach through the Bible, and they get to engage with way more of the text than they ever could in their classes.
More modeled discipleship time
All of our kids get to see how Emily, me, and all the adults in our church worship. This is more “caught” vs “taught” discipleship that is sorely needed. I want them to see me when I’m struggling to stay focused, and to see when I’m entirely dialed in. It’s fantastic that they get to see how different people interact with their Bibles, so that they can learn and figure out what works for them, too. I want them to see—and yes, hear—me singing and realize that it’s a good thing (even when we’re nervous or lack confidence).
To hear and experience the gospel in many ways
And this might be what is most exciting for me. I want our kids, when they’ve professed faith in Jesus and been baptized, to be able to walk up to the table for the Lord’s Supper. To hear me or Steve or David say to them, “This is the body and blood of Christ, broken and shed for you.” To hear the gospel proclaimed in that simple way, and to experience the symbols of it as we wait for Christ’s return.
Discipleship in community
Those are beautiful things—things that we’ve not yet been able to experience until now. But now is the time, not just for our family, but for all the families in our church. They get to be a part of this with us. As they pray, my kids are watching. As they sing, my kids are hearing. As they worship through the Word, my kids as learning from them, as much as they are learning from us. Because discipleship doesn’t simply happen in one-on-one settings. It’s not limited to a class, a small group, or even a family. The whole church plays a part in discipling one another, and I can’t wait to see how that shapes the hearts of my kids.
- August 7th, 2022, if you’re reading this sometime in the future
- One a related note, he was recently diagnosed with ADHD, so his treatment may have contributed to his positive experience.