Missional Kids and Families
by Tina Houser
Tina Houser is the former executive editor of KidzMatter Magazine. She has a heart for children’s ministry within the local church and a desire to train up an army to fight for God’s kids. Tina is the author of 17 children’s ministry books and loves (really loves) spending time with her grandtwins who give her plenty of ideas for children’s ministry.
In children’s ministry we recognize that kids are lost from the God who loves them, and as kidmin leaders we look for them in all the obvious places. Looking in the obvious spots is fine, because often those searches bring results. But we also have to be willing to alter our search, to do something different solely for the sake of reaching that one child we weren’t reaching any other way.
As children’s ministers, we are commissioned to:
· Search for the ones who don’t know Jesus.
· Keep searching.
· Search in the unlikely places.
· Continue to celebrate each one who is found.
WHO ARE THESE LOST KIDS?
I think of the lost kids we are called to reach as making up two main groups.
Group 1: “Obvious” kids. These are the lost kids you minister to each week. They are the kids who come through your doors, probably from the time they are infants. More than likely, their socio-economic status, ethnicity, educational opportunities, preferences and values are similarly defined.
You have a set plan for leading them through a process as they grow up that will disciple them to be followers of Christ. The expectation is that if you follow the plan, even though they are lost, they will be found. It assumes they are fairly compliant, regular in attendance, and have a godly support system at home and otherwise.
I will argue that this group has great value in the church. Great impact can be made when a church recognizes their demographic and hones in on what they can do to most effectively reach it.
Group 2: Kids who look “different.” These kids don’t look, act like or come from the situations we’re used to. They disrupt our assumptions of where and how to look for the lost. Here’s where the rub comes in—we have to search for them, and keep searching for them. We have to look in the unlikely places and try the unlikely methods. And we must celebrate when they’re found. Here are some of their broad characteristics:
They have special needs. The challenge is that we cannot group these kids together because each one has a unique need. It takes an incredible team to individually search for each of these children to find the way that will connect with them. It will entail taking risks and ministering in unusual and maybe uncomfortable ways.
They are underprivileged. This has come to mean any child who is on government assistance, whose family has financial challenges. They represent a disruption to the mindset of how you typically reach lost kids. It takes a supernatural love and a commitment to demonstrate to them that God’s love is sure and doesn’t walk out on them.
They are abused. These kids are a disruption to our model of searching for lost kids. The world they know doesn’t include unconditional love, so our search for this lost child includes a strong commitment to careful and consistent appropriate attention to their emotional healing.
They have nontraditional families. The “traditional” family hardly exists anymore. Divorce, the one-parent home, a deceased parent, the grandparent guardian, an incarcerated parent, same-sex parents: each scenario presents specific opportunities to search out how to connect with this lost child.
Language, age diversity, ethnicities and foster care are a few more of the situations that cause a disruption in the traditional way we look at approaching lost kids. Finding these kids requires you to look outside the normal places and educate yourself in areas that you’re not accustomed to.
WORTH THE SEARCH
As children’s ministers, let’s be committed to searching for and ministering to all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, language, intellectual challenges or advancements, emotional needs, family structure, or any other factor. Every child is valued by God; therefore, we should value every child.
Why do we search for something that’s lost in the first place? Because it’s valuable. What you search for says a lot about what’s valuable to you. Kids are valuable, and worth the search.
As those called by God to minister to children, we must make it our commitment to keep searching for each and every child, regardless of their life circumstances, in order that one day they will declare themselves found in God’s sight.