In 1999, I had the privilege of traveling to Haiti for the purpose of helping the First Baptist Church of Cap-Haitien, Haiti develop their children’s ministry program.
All they had was a room (the size of our fellowship hall), a time period (from 9:00-noon on Sunday mornings), about 250 kids, and approximately 10 adults who were willing to work with them.
That’s it. No curriculum, no piano, no sound system, no chalkboard, no overhead projector . . . and only 1 toilet for all those kids. (Oh, and no air conditioning!)
In their minds, an “expert” was coming from the United States to tell them how to do children’s ministry. Talk about being in over my head.
The good thing about being desperate is that it forces you to turn to the Lord (and to the Scriptures), and that’s what I did. In the weeks before my trip, I spent a lot of time in prayer, and diligently searched the Scriptures for God’s direction on what the church’s ministry to children should look like.
It proved to be a wonderful time of discovery for me.
Perhaps the biggest revelation was how little the Bible has to say about raising or training children to know & love God. That’s right . . . how little it says (at least directly).
Virtually the only passage on the subject is Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The first two verses are called the Shema and read: “Here, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” In Bible days, it was the custom of Jewish people to recite the Shema every morning and every evening.
However, it’s the verse that comes after that really spoke to me: “Impress [God’s ways] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
As mentioned, this is basically the only direct thing the Bible says about children’s ministry. Perhaps the Bible says so little else about children’s ministry so we’ll focus like a laser on what it does say.
Having immersed myself in the Deuteronomy 6 passage, here was my opening sentence to the children’s ministry leaders in Haiti:
God’s plan for children is that they come to know Him through their parents and in the normal course of life (or living).
I believe the implications of this are huge – for parents, for children, and for the church. I will discuss some of these implications in my next article.