Have you ever heard the expression, the days are long but the years are short? If you are a leader or volunteer in children's ministry, you can relate to the truthfulness of this expression.
I can vividly remember a young boy named Kevin, who was always moving as though he had a battery pack of endless energy. Maybe you have a little guy like this: actively listening and excited by the seemingly lesser details of the Bible story being presented; intense and preoccupied by whichever particular tangent he found himself on. Sometimes it would seem as though Kevin was in his own little world.
I can recall volunteers asking me as they ruefully cleaned up their classrooms one Sunday:
“What’s the point?"
“Does it make a difference what we do Sunday after Sunday?”
“If the kids aren’t listening or getting anything out of the Sunday morning experience, then why are we doing this?”
Parents will ask, "Why do I need to worship with my kids? Could that just be an hour to myself—me and God? I need it so badly. The weeks are so stressful!” Maybe as you read this you too are wondering about this.
Oftentimes our families’ lives are incredibly busy, with many families trying everything they can to eke out one hour a week for church. Asking them to sit and worship with their kids, to teach their kids to worship, and to dig into God’s Word in their daily family routine can seem daunting and overwhelming.
Every now and then, however, Kevin would completely floor me. I would ask a question or look for a volunteer during a children’s message or Sunday lesson, and Kevin would jump up excitedly and blow me away with his salient knowledge of the particular story we were discussing, or ask a question that cut right to the heart of the message. One time, I remember discussing the Jacob and Esau narrative. I had just finished asking all of the students to play different parts in the part of the story that discussed the stolen blessing and inheritance. Kevin, interrupting, shouted out, “God doesn’t show any favorites, so why did these parents!?” I was blown away!
As the years went by, I had a chance to have Kevin in my confirmation class. While not as loud or disruptive, he still had wonderful God-moments. I can remember we were discussing Jesus’ sermon about being salt and light and losing saltiness. Kevin asked, “Do you think that the modern church is dying because it’s lost its saltiness?” Again, I was blown away!
This year Kevin graduated from high school. I didn’t have the opportunity to be his leader as I have moved to a different church, but we still keep in touch through social media. As he prepares to make the move to college, he sent me a private message recently with these three questions:
- “What if I lose my saltiness?”
- “How do I know I’m ready to have a faith all on my own?”
- “Where do I find a church to connect to in my college town?”
Friends, it doesn’t seem very long ago that Kevin was running and jumping and distracted and crazy! There were so many more moments where I didn’t think Kevin was even engaged with us than those I described above! I had many opportunities to talk and pray and encourage Kevin‘s parents, who honestly struggled to sit with him in church and still focus on worship. It may be the same in your setting. Encouraging parents to worship with their kids seems like a losing argument. We struggle to find the point in having our kids go to Sunday school or worship alongside us. Confirmation is a battle because the time simply isn’t there when compiled with homework and extracurriculars and sports and . . . and . . . and . . .
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)
As you transition from one school year to the next, my prayer for you, your students, and their parents is a partnership with the Holy Spirit as He guides and informs the faith and life of the precious kids you are privileged to oversee. Actively partner with your parents. Remind them that there is so little time and every single week is precious. Develop a culture of acceptance for families who are brave enough to sit and teach their kids to worship. You might ask,
- Is it noisy? Yes!
- Is it inconvenient for people sitting behind or in front? Probably.
- Will it make any difference? DEFINITELY. You may not notice positive growth from week to week, but God is watering the deep roots of faith He is planting in your children.
That's what the people of God have been called to do. Parents need the support and partnering of their church in order to raise godly children, students, and young adults who will not give up the faith they have been given, but walk in it through their confirmation, in high school, and into college. Isn’t our goal lifelong discipleship? If we work with that end in mind, we grow to love the wiggly learners, we love the outlandish questions, and we are encouraged by those "blown away" moments.
I was thrilled to encourage Kevin to look for the church in the town where his college is. I’m praying right now, and I’ve asked him to pray, for a family that might be his connection, a home away from home. While this is a difficult transition for Kevin and for his family, I’m confident that God has never lost sight of where Kevin is, where he will be, or where Kevin is going. I am confident God will bless him immensely as he continues to walk in faith.
I pray the same blessing for you as you read this right now. I ask you to trust the Lord with each of your precious children. By proactively partnering with parents and keeping the end (lifelong learner) always in mind, we can begin to encourage a faith that won’t stop at normal milestones such as confirmation or high school graduation.
Remember friends, the days can be long, but the years are so very short!