A Brief Theology for Children's Ministry

We live in a world that devalues children. In the Bible, it was a Pharaoh or a Herod killing babies to protect their throne. It was nations sacrificing their children to false gods. It was entire communities who ignored the orphan. We still see it in things like abortion, abuse, and neglect. The birth-control industry suggests children are a burden more than a blessing. Similar attitudes characterize people who refuse to care for the orphan because they’re too busy building their portfolio. We see it in those who turn away the children seeking refuge from life-threatening situations.

But by his grace, God has brought us out of that world into another kingdom, the kingdom of his beloved Son, Jesus. In that kingdom, we offer the world the Jesus' view of children. When folks interact with us, they should encounter an alternative world, so to speak, a world where children flourish and where adults value, provide for, and protect children as God intended. The following summarizes a theology for children's ministry that forms the foundation of our Nursery and D.I.G. ministries (for the complete sermon click here).

1. God spreads his glory through image-bearers reflecting his character when they know him, enjoy him, love him, and obey him.

Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply, in order to fill the earth with God’s image-bearers (Gen 1:27-28). Being an image-bearer isn’t simply about what makes us different from animals; it’s about conformity to Jesus the Son, who is the true image of the invisible God (Col 1:15; John 1:18). As he reflects God's glory in his life, we should reflect God's glory in our lives (Matt 5:16). Every child is God’s image-bearer (Gen 5:1-3; Ps 8). Therefore, children have value as God’s image-bearers and incredible potential in Christ to reflect God’s character with their lives and spread his glory.

2. Every generation is born in sin, influenced by a corrupt world system, and, therefore, in desperate need of the gospel.

Sin seriously perverts God’s image in man. We’re not just mankind, but mankind in revolt. We lack the ability to reflect God’s character properly. Children are also surrounded by a corrupt world system (1 John 5:19). Children also lack the maturity to discern good from evil (Prov 1-3; 1 Cor 14:20; Heb 5:12-13). Their only hope is the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot win our neighbors afar while neglecting the children we have (Matt 28:18-20; 1 Tim 3:4; Tit 2:4).

3. Children have the intellectual capacity to understand God’s saving acts in Christ and God is able to save children.

The Bible assumes that children can understand key things about the Lord and how he saves, and that these things can make them wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (Exod 12:26; Ps 78:2-3, 7; 2 Tim 3:15). Also, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). Grace doesn’t show preference for ethnicity or age.

4. Parents have a great responsibility, with the assistance of the whole church, to declare God’s glory to the next generation.

God commissions parents with the primary responsibility for the spiritual nurture of their children (Deut 6:4-6; Ps 78:5-7; Prov 1:8; Eph 6:1). Yet Jesus also says that when we leave our selfish ambitions to follow him, we gain all kinds of “brothers and sisters and mothers and children” (Mark 10:30). In Christ, we become a family that helps parents raise children in the Lord’s ways. In doing so, children benefit from the incredible blessings of God’s people caring for them (1 Cor 7:14).

5. God is worthy to be praised not only among all peoples but also across all generations.

God’s infinite worth never changes. He is always supremely glorious and worthy of our praise and adoration. He deserves exclusive worship from every generation that he creates (Pss 71:14-18; 145:1-3).