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Connecting with kids
Preschool and children ministry leaders can count on encountering three types of kids walking through the church doors, said Shane Garrison, an assistant professor of educational ministries at Campbellsville University. He based each classification on the level of spiritual support a child is receiving at home.
• Spiritual orphans.
• Children of believing parents.
Spiritual orphans are as the name implies, Garrison said. “This is a boy or girl that just shows up somehow. They don’t know how to behave. They don’t know the songs or the stories. All they know is there will be food, games and maybe a craft. They are blank slates.”
Spiritual orphans are children who come from families that do not know Christ. Garrison said that because these children are not receiving spiritual training at home, the responsibility for their eternal souls falls to the church.
Garrison said he was 9 years old when he first heard the name of Jesus. He did not hear about Christ from his father, or his mother—instead, Garrison said he learned about what Jesus did for him at vacation Bible school. He accepted Christ as his Savior and was given the promise found in Galatians 4:7. “I got a new lineage that day at VBS,” Garrison said. “I got a new family.”
“Jesus will grab hold” of the hearts of children and not let go,” Garrison said. “But first, they have to hear His voice and that is where children’s ministry leaders step in.”
Preschool and children’s ministry leaders should also step in to help nurture the parent of a 50-50 child, he added. A kid who comes from a family consisting of one parent who is a believer and one who is a non-believer falls into this category.
Garrison told ministry leaders and volunteers it is their responsibility to stand alongside the believing parent and provide strength and encouragement.
For children of believing parents, Garrison said the responsibility of a child’s soul shifts back home, but there still is a role for churches to play.
Garrison noted that modern parents are accustomed to “outsourcing.” The everyday education of children has been outsourced to professional educators. Similarly, if a child excels in a particular sport, Dad signs the child up for athletic camps.
“So, when it comes to the matter of the soul of a child, they outsource to the professionals—you,” Garrison said. “Parents think, ‘As long as I just get them to church, you will take care of their spiritual needs.’ They are completely blind that the child’s soul is their responsibility.”
Children’s ministry leaders should consider a language change when it comes to children of believing parents, Garrison said. Be a resource rather than the source. Educate parents how to lead their children to Christ—and fuel the way for parents to experience the blessing of being an integral part in their child’s walk with God.
Compiled from reporting by News Director Drew Nichter and Partnerships Editions Director Robin Bass. Western Recorder issue date: February 22, 2011.