5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
This is one of the passages the Lord has used to drive our passion for ministry to children and parents. It’s our desire that the children at Heritage would surpass the generation before them in faith and knowledge and love. Like the Psalmist, we hope that the next generation will learn from the mistakes and the rebellion of our generation and firmly set their hope in God. As John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”(3 John 1:4). We must be faithful to nurture the faith of the children who have been entrusted to us.
There is growing concern about the low standards and expectations for ministry to children in many churches today. A popular conviction expressed by many contemporary children’s ministry leaders is that “kids should have fun in church…they should have positive experiences in church so that when they grow older they will continue to enjoy coming to church.” We certainly want children to enjoy their time at church, but ”fun” is not the main objective of our children’s ministry…or any other ministry at Heritage for that matter. As a church we want people to feel welcomed and comfortable but if this becomes our primary goal we will soon find ourselves identifying more with Disneyland than we do with the Disciples. Fun and friendships are significant, but they must remain secondary values.
Our ministry to children and parents seeks to be God-centered rather than man-centered. God, rather than man, is the main character in the Bible. The stories of Noah, Moses, David and Jonah are not about their courage or faith or accuracy with a slingshot. Instead, these stories reveal a personal, trustworthy, gracious, merciful God interacting with fallen man to accomplish His will. He is the giver and He gets the glory. We are blessed to be a part of His story. By God’s grace we are privileged to be called: children of God, ambassador for Christ, a royal priesthood and ministers of reconciliation. While all of this is true, the focus of Scripture is on the glory of God, not man. Our focus therefore must be on God rather than man.
This philosophy of ministry steers everything we do from the curriculum we use, to the programs we plan, to how we communicate with children, parents and leaders. By no means do we have it all figured out, but by God’s grace we are continuously seeking to please the Lord rather than man. In the long run, this is the best thing we can do to influence the next generation.