I do, however, remember the effects of turning 25. Something shifted in me when I realized the word century could now be linked to my age. Granted, I was a mere quarter of the way there—but hey, 100 years is a long time, no matter how you slice and dice it. And being a quarter of a century old certainly got me thinking more long term. What kind of man was I becoming? Was I being a good steward of the gifts and talents God had given me? Was I spending my time and energy on things that truly mattered?
My dad had died earlier that year, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of godliness. Naturally, that prompted me to wonder if I'd follow suit with my own children. Would I pass on the Christ-like characteristics displayed by my father, who gleaned them from his own father?
Simply put, I was growing up.
It's official: Ministry Today has grown up. This issue launches a yearlong celebration of 25 years in print. Normally, silver anniversaries are spent reflecting on wonderful memories, reminiscing now-laughable mishaps and essentially congratulating those involved for being part of something with a degree of longevity. And throughout this year, we'll do all those things.
Yet I can't think of a better way to begin the celebration than by turning the spotlight on those who matter most to every legacy-minded grown-up: children. As hokey as it now sounds, children are our future. But they're also the church's future. For all the progress the global church is making, it will mean nothing if kingdom advance is not furthered by those who will lead 20 and 30 years from now. True leaders not only impart their lifework to the next generation, they also propel those successors to even greater things.
I believe we're on the brink of such a kingdom transition, one in which children will "do even greater things than these" (John 14:12, NIV). I'm joined in that belief by every contributor to this special issue, starting with the International Network of Children's Ministry (INCM), which plays the key role of equipping those who currently lead the church's future leaders. We've partnered with INCM (read more about this trendsetter on p. 26) to echo through every page of this issue the clarion call that children matter.
Need proof? Research guru George Barna pulls no punches in proving why your church must make kids a priority (p. 30). Senior pastor Jerry Dirmann, while launching a new season of various contributors to our "Pastor's Heart" column, also explains how to find spiritual giant-slayers among the smallest and unlikeliest group in your church (p. 100). In addition to those and other can't-miss articles from the likes of veteran children's pastors Becky Fischer and Jim Wideman, our cover story highlighs six churches that are doing kids' ministry differently—and seeing radical kingdom results (p. 58).
After all, isn't that the point? Forget the puppet shows, skits and sing-a-longs, as great and helpful as those may be. At its core, children's ministry is about kingdom matters. It's about nurturing the least of these who will one day grow up to become giants in the faith. Excuse me for being a bit self-congratulatory, but 25 years in the making, Ministry Today continues to be about the very same things.