The church I went to growing up had a ministry team for middle and high school-aged kids to serve in children’s ministry. It was called “Timothy Team,” a name that took inspiration from Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:11-12).
I served on that team from the time I was in seventh grade through my sophomore year of high school. I worked mostly with lower elementary ages, and I loved it. But somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that I, as a young man, shouldn’t serve with kids, and (aside from summers volunteering as a camp counselor) I mostly stopped working with them through the remaining years of high school and into college.
Then, my first year out of college, the pastor of the church I was attending issued an “all-call” for anyone willing to serve in the kids ministry to apply. I thought, “Well, I don’t think this is what I’m supposed to do, but I’m willing to serve wherever I’m needed.” I applied, they interviewed me, and I was placed on a team serving the second and third grade boys group. Through that year, God re-revealed to me my favorite ministry area, and I haven’t looked back.
I’ve come to realize that kids ministry is an amazing place for young men to serve. Here are three simple reasons why:
1. It’s not weird.
I think it’s really common for young men, especially those who are without kids or unmarried, to feel awkward expressing a desire to serve with kids. There’s this idea that kids ministry is a place for women to nurture and care for kids. In some ways, the mental image of an older woman sitting down with a felt board to teach kids makes it really hard for young men to step into that ministry area. After you toss in the increased awareness of the risks and dangers of sexual abuse, walking into a kids classroom can feel like walking into a minefield.
But here’s the thing: Any safe and conscientious kids ministry will be thoroughly vetting volunteers, complete with lengthy applications, screening processes, background checks, and wise policies that protect kids and volunteers. If you take steps toward serving, and your church accepts your service, parents should know that you are safe and their kids are safe with you. There’s nothing weird about an older, wiser person taking an interest in helping parents disciple the next generation of the church.
2. It’s not hard.
There are a lot of horror stories about kids ministry. Kids running around like crazy, diapers exploding and covering everything in poop, everything devolving into chaos, and tiny barbarians placing pig heads on spikes to warn away neighboring tribes. True, that last one is from The Lord of the Flies, which is (thankfully) fiction, but you get my point. People in kids ministry love to swap “war stories” to see who is the most “battle-hardened.” I’m guilty of this. It follows, unsurprisingly, that the hardest thing about kids ministry is enlisting committed people to serve.
But the truth is, though kids ministry has challenges like any other ministry, it’s not difficult. All it requires is a little humility and access to your inner child. Kids are goofy, and their brains aren’t fully developed, so it can take a bit of silliness on your part to build connections with them and earn their attention. But once you have that, they are sponges for information.
If you are willing to lay down your pride long enough to do the silly hand motions, laugh at jokes you’ve heard a hundred times, and speak in strange voices, you’ll have unlocked the brains of kids who need to hear the truth of the gospel as much as anyone else. Here’s a secret: Most of our war stories are exaggerated. (And even when they aren’t who doesn’t love having a great story to tell?)
3. It is important.
Strong evidence suggests that the decade between a person’s fourth and 14th birthdays are the most formative years of his or her life. Things like taste in music, fashion preferences, sense of humor and favorite movies all tend to take shape in this “coming of age” decade. Think about your own life: Aren’t most of your favorite albums, movies or TV shows the things you first experienced and loved in grade school? This is also the time when fears, aversions and emotional scarring can root themselves deepest in our hearts.
This is a critical time to be pouring gospel truth into kids. It would be foolish to wait till kids are grown to share the gospel with them, hoping that worldly culture won’t shape them in the meantime. None of us mature in a vacuum, and if we don’t teach kids the truth and let the gospel inform their developing personalities, you can bet the enemy will step in to fill that void.Subscribe to ChurchLeaders!
Obviously, the primary disciple maker for children is (and should be) their parents. I’m not arguing that we, as young men without children of our own, can usurp that role. I’m saying that parents need help. When young men step into kids ministry, we communicate to both parents and kids that families matter. It doesn’t matter if you have kids of your own; you can still be a tool in God’s hands to raise up the next generation. This ministry is too important to give any demographic a pass. Jesus demonstrated his own heart from children: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). If you are waiting for a “calling” before you pursue ministry, this is it. This is work you can do, and it’s important that you do it.
This article originally appeared here.
Sam O’Nealwww.SmallGroups.comSam O’Neal is managing editor of www.SmallGroups.com and co-author of The Bible Answer Book (Sourcebooks, 2010). He lives in suburban Chicago and is a father to two handsome sons, husband to one beautiful wife, and a life-long fan of the Chicago Bears.