Happy smiles, beautiful feet, adorably dressed little angels march in, bustling with energy and joy, eager to hear what the Sunday school teacher has for them today. “Will we learn a new song? Will we sing some action songs? Oh, I know! Who was Jesus’s father?” Several questions pique their curiosity. Their thoughts are, however, interrupted with the popular slogan, ‘Jesus!’ and they, in unison, respond gleefully, ‘friend of children!’
Christian parents have adapted to the culture of dressing their kids up as early as possible for Sunday school. This culture may be due to a myriad of reasons, among which will be to relieve mothers and afford them the space to complete their chores before attending service. The question that weighs on every mind is, ‘Is that really the purpose of Sunday school? Is it to act as a mere stress relief for parents?’
The Children’s Ministry, like every other ministry, recognizes the importance of the faction of the church that has been placed in its charge. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the game” (Psalm 127:3-5, ESV).
This scripture brings out the weight of parenting and the responsibilities that have to be fulfilled. Children are a gift from God, His very heritage. Parenting may be defined within the context of bringing up and raising to maturity through care and education. It is not limited to birthing children. Parenting is the extent to which efforts are put into intentionally raising holistically groomed young ones who can be independent, and in our case as Christians, young ones who can stand in worship before God and be intercessors for their generation. It is a noble yet herculean task to assume the role of being a parent – it is a whole ministry.
Ministry is doing what God wants us to do. It is fulfilling our divine mandate in whichever sphere of our lives we find ourselves in, including our role as parents. The Children’s Ministry is not left out of this parenting ministry. Sunday School teachers are second parents to these little ones. The ministry’s efforts are geared towards complementing that of parents in bringing up the young in the love of the Lord and grounding them in sound doctrine.
It is often said that children are the future, but brethren, they are both the present and future. Children are the future manifestations of present-day deliberate efforts. They will reflect all that was spent on them in the Sunday School days and how grounded they are in the near future, all things being equal. How do we match up to expectations? “And you must commit yourself wholeheartedly to these commands that I’m giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9, NLT).
Repeat and talk about them: Children are a part of the Christian community – the very center of it. As the future of the church, it is imperative that they are socialized in the ways of the church through constant teaching. We are to diligently impress the beliefs and doctrines of the church upon them. “Train up a child the way he should go, and when he is grown, he will not depart from it,” says the Holy Bible. Our kids are not supposed to be alien to the foundational beliefs of the church. Teach, oh Sunday School teacher, teach! Dear parent, do not neglect the teaching of the word. Have biblical conversations with your children!
Tie them to yourself: The words we repeat to our kids should be seen in our lives daily. They should be translated into actions. Children are the best imitators of behavior. Bind the biblical principles to your very being and imbibe the church’s culture such that we will be literal living books to our younger ones.
Write them on your doorposts: Children are visual learners. They are able to better assimilate that which they see daily like “the doorpost and gate”. The children and all who enter the gate must know that as for this house, we serve the Lord.
Children thrive in welcoming environments. Jesus, our perfect example of a lover of children voiced “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them.” Dear Sunday school teacher, do not hinder the children. You are a parent to these ones. Teach them with all diligence, rebuke them in love, and gather them into a warm embrace.
Inclusion is key. All praise to God for the Intergenerational Service initiative. In the church, we learn through observation which the Intergenerational Service affords. The children are able to merge what they are told about the church’s culture with what they observe.
The importance of the children’s ministry cannot be overemphasized! I reminisce my younger days when I would be sent to Sunday school neatly dressed. It was all joyous, especially when the snacks came. The childhood innocence of waiting upon snacks even as the teacher tirelessly tried to catch our attention with action songs and beautiful Bible stories disappeared as I grew. I then fully came to appreciate the efforts of the Children’s Ministry as a training ground for grooming young ones who will stand for God in such a perverse world.
Parenting as a ministry is helping children love and live for Jesus. God cares about how children are raised and nurtured. Parents, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Teachers and leaders of the children’s ministry should, therefore, make conscious efforts to help these young ones build a positive self-image and nurture them in the holy fear of God. This will help them to accept God’s promises and experience His benefits personally.
Parents, love to send your little ones to Sunday school. The children’s ministry workers are ever ready to guide these young ones to a saving faith in Christ. Children’s Ministry workers, Ayekoo!
Written by Deacon John Anaman Essiam (Agona Ahanta District, Takoradi Area)