In April of this year I attended a Children’s Ministry Conference in Burlington, ON and it was an incredible time to learn, grow and be challenged. It was a unique opportunity to sit in a room and learn from some men and women who had been serving in Children’s Ministry for over two decades. They had hearts so firmly set on God’s love and a deep desire to not only reach but transform this next generation by sharing the gospel. In April I posted a Blog titled “Blown Away Children’s Ministry Conference: Highlights from the Weekend” where I recapped some session notes from the Main Speakers. I promised to post more about what I learned during my time there and so below are some ideas and concepts discussed at the conference.
The notes below are a detailed review of a Seminar titled “Disciples under Construction” by Mark Colwell. Mark serves as the District Youth Ministries Director for the Western Ontario District of PAOC. He has been in ministry for over two decades and is an experienced pastor, mentor and teacher. Mark has also produced a new devotional tool called “Devoted Today” which helps families and Youth Groups invest in the faith journey of their children and students.
“Ready, Aim, Launch – Disciples under Construction” Ideas for how to transform your view on Discipleship
- The vision of the church is to reach and invest in people
- Whether we are employed on a church staff team, volunteering in a ministry program or attending every Sunday morning we need to recognize that the vision, mission and goal of the church is to be investing in people
- In Matthew 28: 18-20 Jesus says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
- We have been given a specific and clear command to go and tell the world about who God is – in fact Jesus tells us “go and make disciples”. The task is laid out before us but when, where and how do we start?
- Our vision as the church must be that we are working towards being disciples who make disciples
- We are first and foremost Disciples of Christ; our primary goal is to be like Him, to love like He loves and to show the world more of His grace and goodness.
- Beyond that we are called to go and make more disciples – to be intentionally seeking out those who have never heard the good news and not only sharing it with them but inviting them into that abundant life that Jesus promises.
- The question we need to ask ourselves as a church community is “are we living like disciples and are we making disciples?’
- Jesus’ Disciples were not the means to the end they were the end – they weren’t to be used they were to be invested in
- There needs to be an expectation for the children and students in your ministry that while we encourage and endorse having fun together we want to prioritize learning about who God is and how He loves us.
- We also want volunteers serving in our ministries to recognize the magnitude of the role that they have. Each and every week they have the opportunity to tell children about their Heavenly Father who adores them tremendously. For some children this is something they have never heard before and many will have questions. Be intentional about reminding your volunteers that the lessons they lead, the songs they sing and the crafts they create have a lasting impact on the spiritual life of a child.
- Intentionally invest in developing, challenging and shaping your volunteer team. You are discipling your volunteers as they lead and in turn they disciple the children in their care. Find and create opportunities to get to know them, to ask hard questions and to support them and encourage them as they continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
- Disciples are always a work in progress – you never arrive
- Do not be discouraged when you have kids or volunteers who seem unresponsive or unreceptive to your questions, comments or inquiries. We never arrive at being a disciple of Jesus where we have it mastered. It is a life long journey and it will look different for everyone. The sooner you understand and accept this the easier it will be for you to celebrate the small wins you do see.
- When we understand that discipleship is a lifelong journey we also recognize the importance and value in relationships. When we invest in a relationship and journey through life with volunteers, children and families we get to experience the fruits of that discipleship in a whole new way.
- If you bring people near enough you can speak deeply to them
- Relational proximity allows us to dig deep spiritually. We can’t expect to share in the discipleship process with volunteers and families if we don’t take or make the time to engage in conversations about their lives or share in experiences that allow you to make memories together.
- Make time to have coffee with a volunteer, throw a baby shower for a volunteer who is stepping down as their family grows, go cheer on one of your kids at their soccer game – get creative but get involved. The more time you invest in people the more trust you develop; this trust will allow you to share in some of life’s toughest moments together and will let you celebrate the momentous occasions as well. Ultimately the relational proximity will let you challenge, encourage and support your volunteer team and your families well.
- We call discipleship bible study while the reality is Discipleship is a daily renewal
- How do we make discipleship more than simply a concept we study and instead transform it into something we live out daily?
- When you change the definition of discipleship you change the expectation of it. Our understanding of discipleship must be reworked and transformed. Discipleship is about how we live and how intentionally we seek to live like Jesus.
- We lose our best leaders from the kingdom because we ask very little of them
- Are you challenging your leaders? People want to feel like they matter and they want to know not only that they are making a difference but that their gifts and talents are being used in the church with purpose.
- When you take time to get to know your volunteers figure out what they are good at, what they’re passionate about and what is life giving for them. Help them find a role to serve and lead in that allows them to flourish not only as a children’s ministry worker or a youth worker but as a disciple of Jesus. Let their servant’s heart flourish in an environment that champions them and their unique and special gifts.
- Check in with your volunteer team regularly and have open and honest conversations where you and your team can offer feedback. Challenge them and let them know it’s a safe place to ask to be challenged too.
- Only encounter transforms – not geography – you can have someone in the right spot for years and have nothing ever happen
- Are we just putting our volunteers in the right spot and hoping that will change them? This should never be the case – we don’t just want to fill empty slots on our volunteer rosters (although oftentimes that can feel like a never ending battle). We want to place volunteers in positions that allow them to grow, to intentionally be discipled and to be discipling others as well.
- In the same way are we just happy kids are showing up or do we want to see genuine transformation in them? Is a successful Sunday morning one where we have 50 kids show up instead of the average 20? How are we gaging success and where are we placing value? Having a large number of families attend is always amazing but having 10 kids show up regularly who are learning scripture, memorizing worship lyrics and engaging in a bible story is incredible and we need to celebrate that.
- Sometimes we push our kids more towards success than we do towards Jesus
- We do this all the time. We ask our kids what they want to do when they grow up before we ask them what kind of person we want them to be. Through our words and our actions we instill the notion that what you do is of more value than the kind of person you become. Be careful as you engage with children, volunteers and families that you keep Jesus at the center of it all and that you celebrate and encourage children when they exemplify Christ-like behaviour.
- It’s easy to declare a love for Jesus but more difficult to demonstrate a love for Jesus. Our words are powerful but our actions oftentimes speak louder. Consider what you do on a Sunday morning (and throughout the week) that SHOWS families and volunteers that you care for them. Are you engaging in conversation? Are you greeting everyone who comes through your doorway and down your hall? Are you sending cards on momentous and celebratory occasions? What are your actions saying to the people around you?
- We want our kids to know they weren’t made for an ordinary purpose
- No matter how complicated life gets the call remains – we have been commissioned to tell the world about who God is and about his radical and unconditional love for us. That’s an incredible purpose and we want our families and our children to know what an exciting and amazing purpose that is.
For more information on Mark Colwell’s Devotional Resource “Devoted Today” check out https://devoted.store/#families