An Investment with Eternal Returns
Children’s ministry is our life! Yes, I know that may sound like an odd and peculiar thing to say given that we have spent the past 14 years of our lives serving as youth ministers. Don’t misunderstand what we are saying, our ministerial calling is to the youth of this generation and currently this organization; however, due to the fact that we are the proud parents of two precious little girls, the orbit of our universe revolves around nurturing and ministering to them.
Like you, we have heard the scripture imploring us to “train up a child in the way he should go” at least a thousand times. Recently, the importance of this Old Testament instruction has become wildly alive to us by a couple of instances that we have experienced with our daughters:
Breleigh, our oldest, attends the local public elementary school just up the road from our neighborhood. While attending a school function, a grandmother of one of our daughter’s classmates approached me (Bridgette) and told me that her grandson had informed her that Breleigh was a Christian. She asked him how he knew that this was the case. So, he proceeded to tell his grandmother that Breleigh always asks the teacher if they can say a blessing before eating lunch. Of course, the teacher is mandated to respond by saying that she can pray quietly if she would like to, but that they cannot pray together as a class. Initially, this appeared to be a negative development and no doubt it is a shame that children are no longer allowed to pray corporately at school. But we tried to take advantage of this teachable moment to talk to Breleigh about who she is as a child of God and what it means to be called a Christian. Another benefit of this situation was that it created an inroad to be able to talk with this family about our relationship with God and invite them to our church.
The second experience occurred during one of our visits to story time at the local library. The librarian opened the session by asking if any of the children would like to request a special song to sing. Blair, our three year old, eagerly raised her little hand and asked if the group could sing “Jesus Loves Me”. The librarian, in an effort to brush her off, told her that they had to sing songs that everyone knew and then quickly moved on to the next request. This happened not just this once, but on three different occasions and she was refused all three times. Before our next visit I thought maybe I should protect Blair and spare her any further disappointment by suggesting that she request a different song, but then I reminded myself, “this is what she has been taught and if she wants to let her little light shine, why not let her?”
Both of these encounters, along with others that occur frequently with our daughters being in non-Christian settings, reinforce the important role that we as parents have to proactively teach and instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. The fact of the matter is that if we aren’t purposeful in instilling Biblical truths in them, there is a village of people who are willing to raise them in a contrary and politically correct fashion. Another related observation is that any investment that we make in the lives of our children will not only have an effect on them, but they can impact other children and their families as well.
One of the highlights of our ministry came while we were serving as Youth Pastors in Atlanta, Georgia. Bro. Darrell Johns, our pastor, challenged us with the responsibility of creating a vibrant children’s ministry to complement the youth ministry that was already in place. Looking back, that investment in the lives of children has resulted in hundreds of them receiving the Holy Ghost and being baptized in Jesus Name! When we launched this ministry, it was not created with our own children in mind. As a matter of fact, Breleigh, our oldest was just an infant at the time. However, last year God rewarded us greatly when on a visit to our home church in Atlanta she was filled with God’s Spirit during the children’s church service. That’s what we call a serious return on investment!
Prior to establishing a children’s ministry, we had also begun a preteen ministry at Atlanta West. The existence of these two vital efforts were eventually an enormous blessing to the youth ministry because a far greater percentage of young people entering the youth group at age twelve were already filled with the Holy Ghost and knew what it meant to pray and worship God in an age-specific setting.
So as you can see just from our experience, any investment in ministering to children is one that will yield a significant return on many different fronts. While Youth Ministry is what we have given a huge portion of our lives to and is what continues to consume us to this day, our commitment to training up children will always be a matter of great importance to us. When our children are grown and others that we have had the opportunity to minister to, our goal is to be able to look back and be filled with the kind of joy mentioned in Ill John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
Though the Mann’s devote most of their time to efforts involving Teens and Young Adults, when there was a vacancy within the children’s ministry at the church they attend in St. Louis (The Sanctuary pastored by Tim Dugas and Scott Graham) they eagerly stepped in and directed the Wednesday evening Children’s Church services for several weeks. They have also made it known that if needed they will be glad to do so again in the future.)
The above article, “An Investment With Eternal Returns,” is written by Shay Mann. The article was excerpted from UPCI.org/resources/instructional-devotionalleadership/58-childrens-ministry-an-investment-with-eternal-returns.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.