Most of the setup in a new portable church arrangement revolves around children’s ministry. There are portable cribs and playpens in the nursery and often some rocking chairs. There are bright colorful toys and probably some clean carpet pieces for preschoolers. Some larger and equally colorful props for elementary kids and maybe even a bounce house on occasion. Why all the fuss for kids?
I’ve recently been reminded that children are the future of the church and the hope of transforming our world. Not tomorrow—but today. You know the statistics. If a person decides to follow Christ, it will most likely be a decision made before age 18. The characteristics of God are most easily grasped by children. The stories of the Bible learned in childhood become life guiding principles permanently.
While visiting new churches Stadia has helped launch in Ecuador, I’ve met some of the most amazing church planters ever. One leader we met has planted 30 churches during his ministry of 23 years. Another couple has been instrumental in starting 61 churches in about the same time frame. The common factor? Both are focused on serving children and helping them grow physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually strong. Both movements have vast leadership resources which make it possible for their pace of planting to increase every year. They’ve effectively raised up an entire generation of church leaders that are hungry for opportunities to share the Gospel and see their society transformed by God’s power.
Churches which are in the sunset years of their life cycle have few children involved in their ministry. Churches poised to impact their communities for decades to come have lots of noisy, energetic, laughing, running, clapping, singing, shouting, messy kids. They come every week because the adults that work with them give them unconditional love, interesting and fun lessons, lots of hugs and “good jobs” for their efforts. Even parents who are only moderately interested in the adult ministries of the church will come back every week because their kids insist.
There are many more leaders available these days for adult worship ministry because kids have grown up over the last two decades in worshipping churches. There is a wave of church planters pursuing new church launches today because kids have grown up in church plants started in the 90s and 00s. There is a growing number of marketplace leaders who intend to fulfill their God-given purpose in their careers because their children’s ministry leaders invested in them during their childhood.
So keep setting up the cribs, playpens and rocking chairs. Keep rolling out the carpet remnants and blowing up the bounce houses. Keep teaching the stories of Jesus and keep hugging, cheering and wiping the occasional runny nose. This is so important it eclipses just about everything else we do in church planting. Don’t ever let it become optional or drudgery or less important than anything else. The fuss is not only worth it, it’s critical to the transformation of the world.