This summer approximately 140,000 kids and students will attend one of our student or kids camps or mission trips. We hire 1,000 amazing summer staff who run the events, invest in kids and students, and work extremely hard to serve the kids and student ministries well. Each summer I speak at one of our camps, and this year I was honored to be a camp pastor for CentriKid—our kids camp. The following week we hosted a backyard kids club at our house. So, two straight weeks of our family being surrounded by a lot of kids reminded me of two things:
1. Kids can understand more than we often realize.
One night I explained how Christ not only erases the bad grades on our report cards but He also puts His perfection on them. A fourth grade boy came to me after the service, and with tears in his eyes, he said, “So He took away my sin and gave me forgiveness. He traded records with me.” This ten-year-old boy had beautifully described what theologians have called “the great exchange” for centuries. It was an amazing moment. We don’t need to hide the best stuff from kids! Kids can understand the essential messages of the Christian faith because God is the One who gives us understanding anyway.
Because of this, kids ministry must not be minimized to teaching kids to use manners, eat healthy, and try harder in school. As we faithfully give children the Word of God, He does His transforming work in their hearts.
2. Kids remind us how we are to respond to God.
When the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in His kingdom, Jesus called for a child to come to Him. “‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:3). Jesus affirmed the humility and the trust of the child, not the innocence of the child, for we are all guilty and ruined in our sin. Yet Jesus pursues us and invites us to come humbly to Him.
Children remind us what a trusting response to our good and gracious Father looks like. Watching kids worship and interact with the Scripture can be pretty convicting. If you pay attention, you may find yourself asking questions like:
- Why don’t I sing as boldly and loudly as these kids?
- When was the last time I said “Wow” to one of the stories in the Bible?
- Am I as eager to tell people about Jesus as these kids are?
- Why don’t I smile and laugh as much as I did when I was a kid?
When we walk in humility and trust, as a child, we are continually filled with thankfulness for His grace. We know we only walk and stand before Him because of it. There is a deep connection between gratitude for His grace and humility. When pride increases, awe for Him decreases. Pride destroys our joy, destroys our boldness and loudness and our desire to tell all our friends about the forgiveness we have received in Christ. We must continually go back, over and over again, to being like a child.
Maybe that is why some of the most joyful, fun, gracious, and forgiving people I have ever met serve in kids ministry. They are continually reminded of the childlike faith we are commanded to have.