Adults and Children Together in Church Community

I learned two simple rules from a very early age: (1) "Kids are to be seen, but not heard." and (2) "What I see or hear here, stays here." The adults in my life wanted me to be quiet and not repeat anything I'd heard. Sometimes the Church has the same approach when it comes to how to handle children in community. At the very least, this is a missed opportunity.

I'm not saying kids MUST be present at all times. No time without the kids makes for both a bad marriage and bad church community. When dealing with serious sin or having conversations that young children aren't yet mature enough to handle, it's helpful to have some sort of childcare provided. But some churches use these reasons as an excuse to never have the kids around.

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Here are three reasons I believe having kids and adults together when the church community gathers is important:

  • By participating in community with adults, kids experience church life that doesn't revolve around them. To love and serve one another (particularly others who are different from us) is a learned behavior. Learning to love someone who is different is requires being with other people who are different. So, it's important to have older and younger people, singles and those who are married, rich and poor, and those who are culturally different together in community. When we exclude any group, everyone ends up weaker. Faith doesn't grow or flourish on it's own.
  • When kids are present, adults are reminded what childlike faith looks like. As we get older and think we're wiser, our passion for our faith seems to diminish. We lose the wonder we once had. Kids still have the sense of dependence adult faith often lacks. As Christ said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).
  • As kids participate in the larger church community, we all mature. When a younger generation is around adults, the kids are reminded that their faith needs to be growing and maturing. Without older examples, their childlike faith can become childish faith. Worshiping together helps our kids develop the kind of faith that will hold up against the trials and temptations of adulthood. But kids aren't the only ones who mature when generations worship together. When adults learn how to communicate the things of faith to the children present in worship or their small group, they mature as well. This is what should drive our ministry endeavors. Our goal should be to "...present everyone mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28).

Adults and kids need each other. We can learn from one other. As this happens, our community will be stronger.

Family Friday Links 9.22.17

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Here's what we've found helpful online this week:

Corinne Noble had a guest post listing the benefits for serving WITH kids. It asks the question that's on the mind of every recruit (which is a good question that we all need to think through), "What's in it for me?" We all think it about everything we do. The way the Children's pastor or leader answers this will have impact on the caliber of people that serve (in a positive way).

Scott Kedersha had a post on what prevents "oneness" in marriage. This is something that all biblical marriages need to work at and strive for. He concludes the post this way, " An understanding of who Jesus is and what His Word says takes away the ignorance. Jesus and the Gospel is the solution to all of the barriers to oneness." Go read this post and see how many of his barriers are present in your marriage.

Our friend, Sam Luce, had a post about kids and cell phones. He writes, " If you just hand your kids a cell phone without teaching them how to use it or placing safeguards around it you are crazy. I love you but you are crazy." He goes on to list 9 things parents need to think about when thinking about giving their kids a cell phone.

What have you benefitted from online lately? Leave us a link in the comment section to check out.

Three Ways to Tell a Bible Story to Kids

What do the kids in your class remember after you’ve taught a Bible lesson? Who do they identify with in the story? Think about the story of David and Goliath. There are at least three ways to tell it.

Illustration and layout by Trish Mahoney from The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy, (New Growth Press, 2017).

Illustration and layout by Trish Mahoney from The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy, (New Growth Press, 2017).

1. An Example Lesson. You may have heard this story taught so the main point is to be brave and face big obstacles with courage. When we tell the story this way,  kids will remember all of the little details about David. He was too little for Saul’s armor. He took five smooth stones and a sling. David even cut off Goliath’s head! The kids will also remember to be brave like David! They will identify with him, because David is the example to follow.

That’s one way to tell the story. But if we just teach example lessons, the kids may only remember the key Bible characters. What will they remember about God?

2. A God-centered Lesson. As I've written before, God is the Bible’s main character. We shouldn’t overlook or forget about David. But focusing on David shouldn’t keep us from seeing that God is the true hero. David reminds us that God rescues his chosen servant from wild animals and enemies (1 Samuel 17:37). When Goliath came against him with a sword and spear and javelin, David didn’t start naming his weapons: “Well, here I come with my sling!” No way! David said, “I come against you in the name of the Lord” (1 Samuel 17:45). David’s weapons may be weak, but God is strong. The battle belongs to Him. If we’re listening to David, we’ll hear that this story has little to do with David’s example at all. It’s a story about God. That’s who we want our kids to remember.

It’s true. One of the first things we should ask ourselves when crafting a lesson is, “What is God doing in this story?” The Bible was written to show us God. He’s the main character. But when we’re crafting lessons, does that go far enough? 

3. A Gospel-centered Lesson. I recently heard Marty Machowski talk about one of the best ways to craft a gospel-centered lesson. He said, “We want to help our kids identify with the people in the story who need the Good News.” In this story, that’s the Israelites. They have a strong enemy and a weak king. When Goliath marches out into the valley of Elah, he challenges king Saul, all of Israel, and Israel’s God. Israel needed a courageous hero to save them from their oppressors.

Enter David. Even though the people there didn’t know it yet, we know that David stepped onto that battlefield as Israel’s newly anointed king. He was the people’s representative. God won the battle, but he won the battle through David. In this way, David gives us a sneak peak into a specific way God saves his people. God saves his people by sending them a representative king. David points beyond himself to Jesus! After we’ve discovered what God is doing for his people in a story, we should look for how that action points to what Jesus has done. We should ask, as Jack Klumpenhower has phrased it, “How does God do the same for us--only better--in Jesus?” In this way, we can move from a lesson that is merely God-centered to one that is Gospel-centered.

Which of these kinds of lessons do you find yourself teaching on a regular basis?

Sign up online at the New Growth Press website to get promotional information about the release of my new book, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible, or you can pre-order now at 

FAQ: How Did You Choose Your Curriculum?

One question I get fairly often is, "What curriculum do you use and how did you land on it?" It's a really great question. My first year on staff at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY, was 2007. At that time, Sojourn's elders weren't satisfied with the curriculum that we were using, and we began to look for something new. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend changing curricula in your first year in a new ministry role. It's important to build relationships with the team first. But in my case, I had the advantage of entering into a process that had already been started by our elder team. Here is the process that we adopted at that time:

Step 1, Research. 

A research team was formed, and we worked to amass as much information as possible about children’s ministry curriculum. In 2007, the primary researchers were Maggie Ainsworth (now a part of the church planting core at King's Cross Church in San Francisco) and me.

Step 2, Evaluation. 

We set out to evaluate the curriculum based on the following criteria:

  • Gospel-Centered. In our research, we found that children’s Bible lessons were typically designed to teach children what to do—“Be joyful!  Be courageous!”  But this is rarely the main point of the Bible story.  The Bible was written to show us God—who He is and what He has done to rescue us through Christ Jesus. We wanted a curriculum that kept God and his gospel central. We also wanted a curriculum that reflected the core values of our local church.
  • Biblical. Christian spirituality is informed and transformed by the Scriptures. So, we wanted a curriculum that majors on the Bible. We looked for one that begins with prayer--asking God for understanding. We looked for a curriculum that helps children observe the text and understand the author’s expressed meaning. We looked for a curriculum that helps children apply what the text says by asking searching questions, and providing relevant application points.
  • Equipping Families. We believe parents are called to be the primary faith-trainers in their kids lives. So, we wanted a curriculum that reaches and equips parents in this role. We asked, "How well does the curriculum connect with parents?" Unified children's ministry curriculums, where all age groups study the same passage of Scripture on any given Sunday, scored high for us in this area. Why? Because similar lesson themes help cultivate conversations about the Bible passage that involve the entire family
  • Educationally ExcellentWe wanted a curriculum that accounts for and speaks to multiple learning styles as well as the varying age-level abilities of children. We also wanted a curriculum that would help kids retain key Bible doctrines and stories through memorization and review.
  • Welcoming for Outsiders. We want to have a children's ministry that creates welcoming environments for building relationships with kids and their families. So, the curriculum should not be so incremental and dependent on previous lessons that it fails to embrace kids that are new to the program. And it shouldn't alienate children from an unchurched background with legalistic standards or application points. Instead, we wanted the curriculum to be engaging and aware of the presence of new kids.
  • Simple ExecutionIn 2007, we had one part-time children's ministry staff person (That was me).  I recognized then we needed a curriculum that was "out of the box." Things have changed. Now, we're writing and producing nearly 40% of what we teach. Nevertheless, I think some simplicity is essential. You should never adopt more than the volunteer team can teach with excellence. Before you can evaluate the simplicity of execution for a curriculum, you need to know how your context fits with the curriculum you're considering. What kind of facility/equipment is required by the curriculum? If the curriculum is video-based, do you already have the necessary audio/video equipment? Do you have classroom for every age group or are you more dependent on a rotational format or large assembly setting? Knowing your budget is also essential to knowing what type of curriculum you can consider. Pre-printed curriculum is usually "out of the box" and ready to go each week, but it is also more expensive. Digital curriculum that comes via download or CD-ROM usually requires more prep and printing time, but it is less costly on the wallet. Do you have more money to spare or time? Would you give preference to a curriculum that uses the same supplies each week in creative ways or one that provides lots of options? Answering these questions will help you determine the whether or not the curriculum is a simple fit for your context.

Step #3, Selection. 

Based on these criteria, we scored each curriculum then presented our findings to Sojourn's elder counsel. Download this free score sheet that lists questions from each of the categories outlined above with a rating system. Writing down numerical scores for each curriculum set actually made the choice easier for us and the elders. After reviewing the scores, our elders gave even more solid feedback. We actually went with the research committee's second choice. Today, Sojourn is larger, and a small group of staff members/pastors would make this decision rather than taking our findings before the entire elder board. The final selection will work differently in different churches based on size and church governance. However, I think there was one indispensable lessons from that final stage. Have a community speak in. We would not have landed where we did without a multitude of voices looking over those score sheets.

The tools you give your children's ministry team goes a long way toward helping their teaching be more effective and Christ-centered. I hope our selection process helps you if you're planning to change your curriculum sometimes soon.