Don’t Forget the Kids
Carlton L. Coon
My earliest memory of evangelism training involves Vesta Mangun and a team from the church in Alexandria, LA presenting sessions on Child Evangelism/Bus Ministry to a sectional meeting at my home church. A fellow showed how he’d walk through a neighborhood with a little gizmo that when treated a certain way would spin. He’d call out to children, “Hey, ever seen anything like this?” When the kids came around he’d show off the gizmo, making quite a deal of it and letting the children know that if they’d ride his bus to church on Sunday, they could have one of those gizmos for themselves.
The lesson stuck. When our church would lose momentum in evangelism, we’d circle back to re-emphasizing the need to evangelize children. Lest any misunderstand, I’m not talking about some grand effort with huge funding. In the early years, Norma was the bus route worker who did her thing while I stayed home with Lane and Chris. On Sunday mornings, long before I got a chance to preach, that was me in the old passenger van driving down into Ridge-crest to gather up children for Sunday School. Meanwhile, Norma was getting class ready with Corrine, Debby, and some other ladies there to help. The classrooms were not elaborate—there were no funds for elaborate. The main thing was those little kids of different cultural backgrounds, most living below the poverty line, knew we loved them. Today, nearly thirty years later, children who were a part of that children’s ministry serve Jesus.
Jesus told Peter, “Feed my lambs . .. feed my sheep … feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Lambs is a different Greek word than what is later translated “sheep.” Jesus, giving last instructions to Simon Peter, the first evangel of a new gospel age; there is much to be said and Jesus said, “Feed the baby sheep.” “Lambs,” and how they are treated was a matter of priority for evangelism, discipleship and kingdom growth. For Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper churches, kids matter a lot. They matter because when you cannot seem to get a break through to minister to anybody else, children who have become Satan’s playground are actually the doorway through which breakthrough comes.
You can have stealth revival, revival in a plain brown wrapper, by putting an emphasis on kids. I believe in the impact of children’s ministry so much that for a year in Springfield, MO someone else did the midweek service while I worked with a team creating a discipleship program for children.
Few things compare to being there when kids are offloaded in the church parking lot. Children with the brutal scars of life already showing in their behavior and mannerisms. Children like the little boy we had to take home early because, as his sister put it, “He forgot to take his good-boy medicine.” Churches that have continuous harvest seem to be intent on evangelizing kids, discipling kids, and actually involving kids in ministry.
Jesus is high on kids and kids are high on Him!
When the disciples asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus simply called a child and sat him in the midst. Jesus said that those who offend a child would be better served by being drowned. (See Matthew 18:1-7.)
* In need, the disciples turned to a boy with loaves and fish. A child facilitated a miracle.
* As Jesus moved toward the bitterness of crucifixion, He said, “Weep not for me but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Matthew 27:28). Any church values the ministry of a prophet and the company of a righteous man. Jesus affirmed this:
* Receive a prophet; receive a prophet’s reward.
* Receive a righteous man; receive a righteous man’s reward (Matthew 10:41).
What is the prophet’s reward? It is the word of the prophet or perhaps the outcome of his prophetic word.
What is the righteous man’s reward? It might be the righteous man’s tithes or that his just way of living influences others.
Who among us would not then want a prophet or the righteous in our company? To receive either is to be assured significant benefit.
In our desire to have prophetic and righteous man benefits have we missed something? “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me” (Matthew 18:5).
Receive a prophet, and you have a prophet along with the reward of having a prophet in your company; receive righteous man and receive the reward of his company; receive a child—one little child—and you receive Jesus into your company.
Churches that receive children—children whose parents don’t come to church; kids who must have choir robes to sing in the kids choir because their clothing would be improper on any platform; children of poverty; children of social outcasts; children alone; children acting out because it’s all they’ve ever seen; children whose parents are in prison, children who don’t know who Dad is; children of drug addicts—receive them! “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”
DO NOT TELL ME YOU CANNOT IMPACT YOUR COMMUNITY IF THERE IS A CHILD LIVING IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES JUST DESCRIBED! I know “all caps” is considered shouting—if it is rude, forgive me—I mean to be shouting. The ploy of both Pharaoh and Herod was to get rid of the kids. We are in a continuous battle for the minds and souls of children.
Churches seeking revival in a plain brown wrapper must strategically position themselves to impact the children of the community. The care for and interest in those kids is the way to get a church moving. Allow the church to become a place where the lifting of a hand does not merit the child’s flinch, but is the precursor to a hug. (Or perhaps a high-five or fist bump, since hugging now can have liabilities.)
Let’s not join the count ’em and send ’em home bunch; providing entertainment alone. Churches with revival in plain brown wrapper do not give children 90 minutes of weak fun. The objective is to bring those kids into contact with the power of Jesus Christ.
There will be plenty of physical things: cups of cool water, breakfasts to provide, clothes to repair, noses to wipe (quite often your own eyes and nose as you weep at the hurts visited on the “lambs”).
Having trouble getting things unstuck and nobody to help? You’ve tried lots of things in your city and nothing is working; how about trying this? What have you got to lose? Kids make good ushers—every Sunday! Kids make a good praise team — every Sunday! Kids would love to be trained to provide music—every Sunday! Teenagers make good Sunday school teachers — every Sunday! Kids are a receptive audience to evangelistic preaching—every Sunday
Ahab and Jezebel were one of the wickedest couples ever. Their daughter Athaliah was also cruel and heartless. To solidify her power, when her husband and son died, Athaliah killed the heirs to the throne including her own grand-kids (II Kings 11:1-3). A single child, Joash, escaped the carnage. Joash survived because a priest’s wife named Jehosheba intervened.
Jehosheba dug tiny Joash from among bloodied bodies and hid him. Her commitment to Joash’s security and well¬being lasted six years.
Oh, that every child in North America could have a Jehosheba as part of his/her life! Lessons from Jehosheba for your revival in a plain brown wrapper include:
* You cannot help all the children, but you must help the one you can!
* Continuity matters! Ministering to Joash was not simply a weekend Children’s Crusade.
* It costs—comfort, security, sleeping in on Saturday, money.
Fine Sunday School classes with no bloody kids are like hospital emergency rooms that are kept in pristine brilliance, “We don’t want any germs in here! This is too nice for kids like that!”
I am concerned that we treat lightly those who are not part of the comfortable usual. The little ones with head lice and running sores, those who smell and who come dirty. If there is not a Jehosheba … then Athaliah.
Cover your ears, I’m about to shout again: YOU CAN DO THIS! Adjust your approach. What you are doing isn’t working well anyway. YOU CAN SAVE A JOASH!
I’m puzzled at those who seem to sit outside the gates of hell declaring nobody wants the gospel. If you don’t get into the slaughter house to look for kids to save, Athaliah will finish them off.
Get new children to church, but don’t try to gather in more children than you can handle effectively. You want to provide Bible knowledge, fellowship, friendship, and good fun.
RIPBW is not about numbers alone. Don’t try to out-glitz someone else. Loving the children is more meaningful than having a light show every Sunday. Here is how to implement this in a church plant or church that is “stuck”:
1. Start slow and small, inviting unchurched children to attend.
2. Work to involve children in the service itself (ushers, praise team, drums, door-keepers, greeters, church cleaning, etc.) This involvement will provide many hilarious experiences and opportunities to laugh. Relax, God has a sense of humor. Love those “non-church kids” with an active love.
3. Show up at their school play or some other event. Be sure they know you are there.
4. Brag on a child who does anything positive. Send a personal note. When a child does anything to help around the church, or even if he/she hands you a picture of how you looked preaching, send a hand-written card. The kudos you give will be the only affirmation many of them get.
5. Every 3-4 months have a service where the children do a simple play. It can be as simple as John holding up the letter “J” and saying “J is for Jesus—Tried and True.” And Rhonda holding up an “S” and saying, “S is for a Savior to me and you!” Again, we “Type A” personalities struggle with this sort of thing—join me in trying to relax, there are bigger objectives than everything always being perfect.
6. Invite the parents and grandparents to the little play. Pastor, your job is to get acquainted with the family members who attend. It helps if you can connect each kid to their family member. Use your phone to take pictures of the kids and memorize their names. Relax, make new friends, you are in a process.
7. Connect with those who visited during the following week. Keep the focus on the child and how much you enjoy having him/her at church. Plant the seed for the future.
8. Three or four months later repeat numbers 3-7.
9. The third time you do it, either be your own children’s evangelist or have one there. His/her simple evangelistic message will connect to more than the children.
10. Kids choirs work and quickly become a youth choir that becomes an adult choir. If you are going to have a four-person adult praise team or a ten-person kids choir—invest in the future—have a kids choir! Spend some money on a nine-year-old learning to play the keyboard and another to learn to play the drums.
Jesus was serious about the “little lambs.” If you want a harvest that has the least chance of burning out, start it in the children’s department. Never forget the kids!
The above article, “Don’t Forget the Kids,” is written by Carlton L. Coon. The article was excerpted from the May-June 2013 issue of North American Missions Magazine.
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.