Formula-driven children's ministry has dominated the modern church. Often, as a result, many curriculum developers have limited rather than empowered what children are expected to do in ministry.
In many churches today, the emphasis is on teaching adults how to live godly lives. Adults are more developed intellectually, financially and spiritually, and so an adult focus truly becomes the work of a ministry. However, when a church focuses mainly on the success of its adult members, the consequence is a wasteland of children and youth whose spiritual needs are left unfulfilled.
Leaders who use this approach often view children and youth as lost individuals who need to be engaged by programs—programs that will entertain them to prevent them from falling away—rather than as a vital part of the spiritual family who have the opportunity to be released into a ministry calling of their own.
Children's ministry today has a profound impact on the church of tomorrow. I understand the challenges we face today, but I also know that the future of the prayer and worship movement, the future of world missions and the future of justice ministries rely heavily on how we equip children and teens today.
But I have a greater vision than simply equipping children for tomorrow. What if our children could grow in faith for signs and wonders today? What if revival was not just a program or an event in history books, but the spiritual environment our kids were walking in today? What if our children discovered their assignments in the Lord and began making an impact in the kingdom now? It is possible! I've seen it happen. But it's not easy in light of the increasing cultural and spiritual barriers that dull the spirits of children and youth. Effective ministry to the next generation requires a search for divine guidance to contend with generational patterns and empower children and youth to live in wholehearted devotion to Jesus.
We must apply these key foundational points to our own lives when praying for the children we care for, minister to and teach:
Prayer is not a program. Prayer is a relationship with the living God, so it's important to increase your own personal devotion and prayer life. Influencing children comes from your being influenced and impacted by God.
Teach children that prayer is a relationship with God. By praying and listening to God, children are developing their own personal relationship and wholehearted devotion to God. Prayer is the road to a personal relationship with God.
Teach children key biblical values. Children need to be taught the importance of practicing prayer and becoming familiar with the Word of God.
Communicate Jesus' worth and beauty in His identity. Emphasize to children that Jesus is the Lamb of God who forgives sins and gives redemption and eternal life.
Equip children to discern. Give children the tools to distinguish between kingdom truth and the enemy's counterfeit.
Empower children to be spiritually active now, not to wait until they are adults. Train and empower them to be involved in the prayer movement, operating in signs and wonders.
"Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer ... for all people" (Is. 56:7).
Lenny La Guardia is executive director of the Children's Equipping Center and vice president of ministries at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.
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