On February 20th, a nineteen-year-old man was shot and killed in a hotel room in Brampton. His name was Jahsaviour, and not so long ago he was one of our campers.
This tragedy hit our hearts deeply. It brought the reason for why we do what we do into razor-sharp focus.
There is a desperate need for children to hear the Gospel.
I often hear people say something to the effect of, “Children’s ministry is great because it lays a good foundation for us to minister to them as adults.” And there’s some truth to that- ministering to children does lay a great foundation for them as they grow into adulthood. Children’s ministry does open doors to continue ministering to people throughout the rest of their lives.
But children’s ministry doesn’t have value simply because it lays a foundation for adult ministry. For some children, children’s ministry is it. It’s all the teaching that they will ever receive- it’s all the Gospel they will ever see and hear. They might walk away because they are uninterested and unengaged, distracted by the bright lights of the world around them. Or their life might come to a tragic end sooner than anyone expects.
We hope and pray that the children who walk through our doors will have many years to live and many opportunities to live for Christ- but we have to face the reality that some of them won’t. Some of them will never make it to youth group and adult ministries. Some of them might only have nineteen years.
It is so important that our children’s ministry isn’t just to babysit kids and keep them entertained. Our goal isn’t simply to have children that can rattle off a few pithy statements about God and about morality, “I can be kind to others”, “I can tell the truth”, or “I will read the Bible and pray every day”.
Our goal must be to introduce them to Jesus. To create a place where children have the opportunity to hear the Gospel clearly presented and to see the Gospel lived out before them. Where we don’t just teach them the good actions and behaviours of being a Christian on the outside, but we teach them what it means to be transformed on inside. Where their questions are heard and taken seriously, and where they’re given the opportunity to serve and to put into practice the things that they’re learning.
I’m looking at children’s ministry differently than I did a few months ago. I can get pretty caught up in the programming- planning games and activities and making sure all the creative details are in place. In the end, programming isn’t going to matter. How many years we have with each of these children I don’t know, but I do know that sharing the Gospel and living the Gospel must be our only priority.