According to David Michael, the purpose of the first session was to cast a common radical and well-articulated vision and philosophy for ministering to children and youth. Many churches will provide “something” for kids without working out a philosophy or theological background for what that something is. This leads to an activity or program-driven ministry to kids. We need a cradle to graduation, well thought out philosophy for passing on the doctrines of the faith to our kids. What bible content do we want them to know? What Scriptures do we want them to have memorized? How can we lead them to participate as active worshipers in our churches? What qualifications will we require from those ministering to our children? All of the “somethings” we are doing as a church should be directed toward a single aim. Then, we will have a vision-oriented philosophy of ministry to children?
So, what should our aim be? The Word of God gives us our aim. A key passage is Psalm 78:1-11:
O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old-
3 what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their forefathers—
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.
9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
Four things from this Psalm:
(1) The Psalmist was entrusted with a vision, verses 1-3
(2) There is a calling on our lives to pass that vision on to the next generations, verses 4-6
God reveals the word to the fathers and intended that they would teach them to their children. The hope is that throughout the generations, each generation would say, “That’s my job.”
(3) The vision is a vision of God and his glory, verses 4-5
This is a vision of the works of God and the word of God. God is passionate for his glory as it is revealed in his reputation and in his word. Everything that God does throughout the generations is for his glory. The Bible is a book about God. God is the main character in the Bible’s stories. God can use anyone to accomplish his purposes. God’s redemptive story is at the heart of the Bible. The story of Esther is a story about God’s faithfulness and not about the beautiful king. Our vision is for a generation that can read their Bibles with God at the center. By teaching in this way, children come to see God at the heart of all things. It isn’t really hard to teach in this way, it just takes some re-training.
We must not teach about God with a self-centered emphasis. It is important not to place an emphasis on “me” when teaching about God. The misplaced emphasis can distort our message. The emphasis takes the focus off of God and put it onto man.
We must not merely use Bible stories to teach moral lessons. In this, we can divert the emphasis from God to “being good boys and girls.” The feeding of the five thousand is not primarily the story of a boy sharing his lunch but of God being compassionate on the crowds and providing for them from his sufficiency. The story teaches us that Jesus is God.
(4) Out of that vision for God flows a vision for children, verses 4, 7
So the next generations will put their confidence in God, verse 7, and so that the next generations will worship God, verse 4.
Two negative examples:
(1) The fathers—a rebellious and stubborn generation. We do not want this for our children. We want them to delight in our God and his faithfulness.
(2) The Ephraimites—who did not keep God’s covenant. They were armed with the bow, but they turned back in the day of battle. We want a courageous generation that learns to fight sin and Satan and stand their ground in the day of testing.
So, what is our target? We are aiming to have children who glorify God that grow into adults who glorify God. Moreover, we must teach them in such a way that it inspires them to teach their children.
A Call for Passion
We can teach our children that God is supreme and glorious, but we will not spread a passion unless our own affections are captured by God’s supremacy and glory. We are not just transferring knowledge. We are transferring passion. This involves passionately redeeming every moment—mealtime, drive time, bedtime, and in the morning—for the glory of God.
A Call for Courage
Understand the Challenge of Raising Children in a God-defying Culture. This means understanding that if we only provide what is fun that children will find something that something is more fun. They will understand the relevance of the Scriptures for all of life. They will understand that children’s workers will come to serve from a passion stemming from God’s call.
Four Spheres of Influence and Responsibility
(1) Our own children
(2) Children of our local church
(3) Children of the global church
(4) A generation we will never know (those yet to be born)
See the official live blog of the conference at the desiring God blog.