When I was a pastor, I had the opportunity (and privilege) once in a while to preach in “Big Church,” and I always enjoyed it very much. With a degree in Bible theology and a love for the Word of God, it was always fun to get to communicate with and challenge adults in ways that I couldn’t in children’s church. Afterward, it was customary for the preacher to stand at the back and greet people as they left, and in the course of doing so, people were kind to express thoughts on the message and often compliments, which was always nice. Who doesn’t enjoy a “good sermon,” or “great job?” – even when the goal wasn’t to impress folks with my delivery but to challenge and change lives. But compliments should always be received with a thankful heart and with grace and humility. The compliment that always got me though, was when people (meaning well) said,
“You know, you should consider becoming a real pastor someday…you know, to adults. You’re good.”
The intention was an extra big compliment, but the message was clear. My talents were being wasted down there in the boiler room preachin’ at the kids week in and week out, when I could really be changing the world by ministering to adults. Adults who, most likely, would compliment me on a sermon well delivered yet change little in their lives as a result.
So why have I thrown my life away for ministry to children?
There are a number of reasons people suggest.
As a Moody Bible Institute student, I read that the great Dwight Lyman Moody (the Billy Graham of his era) said at the end of his life, “If I had my life to live over, I would devote all my time to children.” Why would he say this?
It is reported that Moody once displayed two lit candles, one tall and the other short. He asked the audience which represented the child and which the adult. A member of the audience guessed that the tall one was the adult and the short one was a child. Dwight responded that the gentleman had it backward. The tall one represented the child who had his entire life yet before him to live, and the short one was an adult whose life was all burned up and who had only a short amount of time left to burn. He then asked, which has greater potential to impact the world for Christ? The child, of course. Reach the children and change the world! Whether this story truly beckons from Moody we will never know, but I have used this illustration many times to demonstrate why devoting my life to children is strategic. If you change the course of a person’s life in their childhood, you change the entire course of their life!
Another reason often stated for reaching children is that through children you can reach the entire family. This is indeed true! I have seen it happen in my own ministry time and time again. However, I caution against this motivation, for it makes children the bait with which we get the real prize, the tithe paying adults! I don’t reach kids that I might reach their parents. I reach kids because kids need Christ. If their parents come along, that is a BONUS! Praise God!
Others have said they reach kids because they are so teachable. This motivation scares some, and it is one reason the secular world attacks us. “You are ‘brain washing’ children before they have time to think for themselves,” is the cry of the secular humanists who would rather children grow up believing nothing – despite the fact that “believing nothing” is actually believing something. It is a world view that deprives children of value, purpose, identity, and an understanding of the world around them. The time will come when they will be able to evaluate what they have been taught and weigh it against what the world proposes. If we have taught them well, they will be able to see the strength of the Christian world view against the hopelessness of a world without God. They will see that life requires faith one way or another – either faith in a living, loving God, or faith in chance and chaos, and they will make their choice. There is no need to postpone the foundation they need to make that decision wisely.
So have I devoted my life to children because it is strategic? Or because they are a bridge to families? Or because it is when they are young that they are most teachable – “wet cement” as some have described them?
No. It is none of these.
My reason for a life devoted to children is much simpler. Since I was nineteen years old and determined my Call for life and ministry, I have signed my name under a closing statement that sums up the motivation for my ministry, and it is no more complicated than this:
Because Jesus Loves Children,
THAT is why I minister to children. Because Jesus loves them. I don’t need any other reason. Any other reason is merely a benefit. Jesus commanded us to love children. He said if we were to come to Him, we needed to come as a children. He told us not to hinder them. He warned us against harming them or keeping them away from Him. Bottom Line: He loves them. And that is all the reason I need.
So I’ll speak to adults and preach whenever I’m given the opportunity, but I’m happy to ‘waste’ my life reaching kids. I love them. For He loved them first.