Jesus says to us in Matthew 18:5-6, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” These words from Jesus are strong ones – he obviously takes ministry to children very seriously. From what I see throughout the Bible, there are at least three vital things we must keep in mind as we interact with children.
First, we must protect children. The dangers to younger generations are much different than they were thirty or forty years ago. More and more churches are doing background checks of all their children’s volunteers, for congregations are easy targets for child molesters. Most churches are desperate for workers, so often there is a lack of diligence in this regard. Food allergies are also becoming more and more commonplace, so careful selection of menus is required. As divorces increase and more homes become broken, child custody disputes and abductions are more frequent. Procedures to register children and to release them must be more stringent. The bottom line is that we must do all we can to protect today’s children in a time that is very different than when we were their age.
Second, we must evangelize children. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” We must minister through the “4-14 window” that is open for us. The 4-14 window refers to the statistic that 80 percent of all Christians made their decision for Jesus between the ages of 4 and 14. If we do not reach people for Christ between these ages, the likelihood of reaching them at all drops dramatically. We must teach them about sin, and about how Jesus offers forgiveness and a clean heart. As the Holy Spirit convicts their young minds of sin, we must be ready to lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Many people have the opinion that children are immature and incapable of accepting Jesus, so we must wait until they are older. Jesus says to us however, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). The pathway to salvation is not through becoming more like an adult, but more like a child.
Third, we must prioritize children. Mark 10:13-14 tells us, “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant….” Children were not a priority to the disciples, but they certainly were to Jesus. Since children have no money and no power, it is tempting to devote to them only the leftovers of our time and energy. When we make them a priority however, we are ministering to the Lord Jesus himself. Jesus said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,” (Matthew 18:5). How can we prioritize children? We can prepare for our ministry to them by receiving periodic teacher training and by reviewing our lessons well ahead of time. We can plan for our ministry to them by regularly evaluating all our efforts and making adjustments as necessary.
Will you pray for the children’s ministry of your local church? Will you get involved as God’s Spirit may lead? Will you realize the importance of reaching these precious lives for Jesus?