Friday, April 20, 2012

A Calling to Kids

It’s really amazing to look back and see how God places all the puzzle pieces in order throughout our lives to work His will in and through us. Things we suffer through, God uses for the good. Physical, mental and spiritual pain is all used by Him. The enemy attacks and causes harm, then God uses that to do something wonderful, turning all bad to good as long as we get out of the way and let Him work.

In my life, there’s been a lot of pain revolving around my childhood, parents, and living situations. Through all that, however, God has raised up within me a huge love of children and a deep-seeded need to help them. I’ve felt drawn to children and youth ministry for many years and can thankfully say that God has used me to encourage more young lives than I can count, in more ways than I’ll ever know.

And, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I believe He has in store.
In examining this “calling” through meditation, communion and years of sub-surface contemplation, a few things have really come together just in the last few weeks in my mind that I’d like to bring out into the open and see what you think.

While these are in no specific order other than the way God has laid them down in my thoughts, each point is a foundation stone to the building of ministry.

1) Youth and Children’s Ministry is not a stepping stone or a means to an end. It’s not a way station along the way or a pit stop on the road of a pastoral career.

This jumped out at me the other day when Angie and I were watching a video clip from The Elephant Room about Young Pastors. To paraphrase one of the Pastors, your calling is not necessarily your career. I think when some view being a Pastor as a career path, they view it through worldly eyes, as if it’s a corporate ladder to climb. First, you get a job as a volunteer leader, “interning” as it were. Then, you move on to a perceived lesser role as a Small Group Pastor, Child Pastor or Youth Pastor. Then, if you work hard enough and pray for God’s blessings, you can get “promoted” to adult teaching Pastor, and eventually CEO, err – I mean, Lead Pastor.

Worse still, some Churches view Youth and Children’s Ministries  as not nearly as worthy as the adult ministries, short funding it, marginalizing it, and in general treating the kid and youth leaders and pastors as if they’re second-class citizens. 

While many may disagree, I think the enemy is at work here in many ways. Children and Youth are not a pit stop. This leads me to the second point:

2) Children’s eternal souls are not less important that those of adults. In fact, from what I’ve come to understand in the bible, they’re MORE important than adults.
I’m guessing many of you don’t agree with that, but I’ll stand by it to the end.
In fact, if you don't understand how important the little ones are to God, you don't understand God.

Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

In order to prove my point, I’ll try to disprove it first. Consider this, if children were of lesser value than adults, would the enemy make any effort whatsoever to harm them, derail them, battle for their very souls to keep them from God? Of course not. But, the enemy knows better.

James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

Look around our world and see how children are under attack, every single day. Abduction, abuse and neglect are the overt ways that seem to get very little public attention. The food that’s marketed to them is harmful to their physical health. The food they're given in public schools is even worse. The toys and games marketed to them increasingly have a poor effect on their spiritual lives. Adults routinely ignore their needs, leaving them dying of starvation in third world nations, shriveling from neglect in second world nations, and targeted with poor education, poor nutrition and billions in greed driven advertising in first world nations. Meanwhile, the enemy does more and more to distract adults from the needs of children, even in our churches!

If kids weren’t important to God, the enemy wouldn’t care. Cigarette companies wouldn’t have spent billions throughout history to market cigarettes to children. McDonalds and many of the other fast food chains that bring on obesity, diabetes and a whole world of physical harm wouldn’t aim their products at kids. An entire industry of “energy drinks” that cause no end of harm to growing bodies has sprung up recently and is being marketed almost entirely at teenagers!

If God didn’t value them so much, there would be no child abuse, no neglect, no starvation. Kids would simply sit on the sidelines in our spiritual war until they came of age and entered the fray.

And, Jesus never would have taught on how much He and the Father value the little ones.
Matthew 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Those are pretty strong words coming from the creator and originator of love. For those of you who don’t know what a millstone is, check out this picture:

I don’t know from personal experience, but I’d guess if you hung that around anyone’s neck and dumped them in the sea, they’d do nothing but die painfully. Jesus must think a lot of kids for him to say it’d better to die painfully than to be caught causing little ones to sin.

He also says those who do right by kids do right by Him:

Mark 9:37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

So, for those of you considering youth or kid ministry, please understand how important the work is, how much God values it, and know this isn’t stepping stone or a career, it’s a calling.

Mark 10:16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them

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