Over the past few months, I’ve been intentionally researching helpful ways to communicate spiritual development that are clear to enough to express the observable growth in children and don’t imply simply legalistic development of rules, as well as ways to support and nurture children’s spiritual development.
The current series in James and Titus that presents faith as being something that is visible and lived out has really helped to squash that fear that recognising faith lived in action is being legalistic. Sure, that can be the case, but true faith leads to transformation from the inside out. We can see from both the Old and the New Testament the necessity to be simultaneously taught from his word and by his people and transformed by his spirit to grow in knowledge and love of the Lord and others.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.Proverbs 22:6
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2
So, what are some examples of observable growth or evidence of a heart for God? Well, here’s just a few examples from the past year…
- Multiple 7 -11 year old children deciding that they are going to commit to reading the Bible everyday before breakfast or before bed and the practice of this discipline being an encouragement to parents.
- An 8 year old who made more extensive sermon notes than I do most weeks simply by giving it a go! Commenting not only on the content of the sermon but also on what it means for him.
- A couple of networking kids who never fail to bring a friend along to Kids Club or Kids Kollide events, (in fact it’s usually multiple!) demonstrating their heart for the lost to know Christ.
- A 9 year old who declared “I’ve got some news. I was talking to my dad about the end times the other day and I want to be baptised. I believe in Jesus and follow him and want to spend eternity with him.”
- A few verbal creche kids who, upon pointing out flowers, say ‘God made the flowers!’ in an excited tone. The joy that knowledge brings them evident in their smiles.
So what’s the encouragement from this? Children are disciples! They are capable of understanding and loving God and others just as we are. And they are often a huge encouragement in how matter of fact they are. What they believe is almost always carried out in immediate reaction. If they’re hungry, you’ll know about it. If they’re angry, you’ll know about it. If they love Jesus and have a heart for him, you’ll know about it. What a blessing!
What can we, as adults, learn from this? There are two thingsI can think of…
1. Why do our actions not so clearly match our beliefs anymore? What’s stopping us from letting people know that we have a heart for Jesus? There’s an idol we might not have known we’re holding on to.
2. Children are so capable! I have seen each of the children from regular church families engrossed in something throughout my time discipling them (yes, ALL of them). Whether it be their personal prayer journals, deciphering memory verses or clues or learning lines to act out a story. Children love to be challenged and grow, and are naturally curious, especially about what’s important to the significant adults in their lives. They’ll look to you as parents and other safe adults in their lives (yes that means you without kids too!) to model and set boundaries for them and for support as they practice things that might be new to them like a daily quiet time, sitting in church, listening and making notes, singing enthusiastically, praying regularly or taking part in communion.
We can all show grace to these young disciples as they grow in these things and each other as we teach them. Discipleship is a journey and they’re just at the very beginning! We’re so grateful for the kids in our midst and the wonderful witness they are! What’s one way you can help disciple a child in your life this week?
Meaghan Gates | Children’s Minister