Think Tank: Condition of Accountability

think-childrens-ministryWhat do you teach concerning a child’s condition (sometimes called age) of accountability for responding to the Gospel? How would you counsel a parent who is concerned about a preschool aged child who seems disinterested in learning about Jesus? If you had to estimate (and you do), what is the chronological age that most children become fully accountable for their decision about Christ?

Some Christians and Christian traditions maintain that Scripture teaches an “age of accountability” before which young children are not held responsible for sin and are not counted guilty before God.  But several Bible passages indicate that children (even before they are born) have a guilty standing before God and a sinful nature so that they not only have a tendency to sin, but God views them as sinners (Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Ephesians 2:3).  Experienced parents know that children do not have to be taught to do wrong.  It is their natural inclination to disobey, to lie, and to manipulate.

This is one of the strongest motivations for Christian parents and Christian churches teaching the gospel to their children from the youngest age.  We teach about Jesus because children need Jesus as their savior from sin.  As one famous preacher said, “The gospel is meat for men but it is also milk for babes.”  But kids don’t always want to hear about Jesus and trust him.  When a preschool age child isn’t interested in learning about Jesus, there isn’t necessarily a cookie-cutter answer, but here are some areas I’d explore with the parent: (1) I’d encourage the parent to examine his or her own heart.  Does mom and/or dad get excited about Jesus and learning from his Word?  Do they regularly pray and read Bible stories together with their family?  Young children often look to and follow their parent’s example.  Perhaps a parent has a satisfying relationship with the Lord, but it is private and not shared with the child.  Invite the child into your relationship with Jesus.   (2) I’d ask the parent whether or not he or she talks about sin with their child.  Does your child know that when she disobeys you, she is also disobeying God?  Do you just talk about your child’s misbehavior (taking a cookie, hitting his sister, not sharing), or do you talk with him about the heart attitudes and motivations that lie behind that behavior (greed, pride in performance, selfishness)?  When our children have a more honest view of the extent to which sin is rooted in their hearts, they will be more likely to look for and respond to Christ—who provides pardon and provision for that sin.  (3) Most importantly, I’d pray with the parent, and I’d encourage the parent to pray.  Salvation is ultimately God’s work in the child’s heart.  May God have mercy on our kids and help them to repent from sin and love Jesus.

As I stated above, I cannot justify an “age of accountability” from the Scriptures.  John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).  Since salvation is God’s work in a person’s heart, it doesn’t require any particular level of cognitive understanding or behavioral response to be present and real.  Growth in faith is certainly evidenced by understanding and behavior, but it is not earned (or merited) by them.  Faith is more than a decision, it is a gift from God.  So, Tony, my age estimate is somewhere around conception. :)

See the answers given by other children’s ministers here.

Learning Centers: Preschool Story Circle

This post begins a brief tour of the learning centers in our SojournKids classrooms.  I’ll be posting one per week for the next several months.

Preschool Story Circle

This center provides a place for story-telling.  Transition kids to Bible Time each week by using a few simple props.  Show the kids your large story bag (in which you have visual aids and other items you will use to tell the story) then hold up your Bible, open to the Scripture passage and keep it open as you teach.

Use the Center:

  • Be expressive.  Memorize the story and tell it with enthusiasm.
    Be familiar enough with the story to tell it without reading it.
  • Maintain eye contact and react to the children’s body language.  Are they interested?  Do they understand?
  • Explain the terms and describe the setting, but beware of adding extra-biblical thoughts to the story characters.
  • Use the visual aids to keep the kids’ interest.

Clean Up: Stack the pillows neatly near the teacher’s chair.

In Coming Weeks: Regular blogging will return in coming weeks with an installment of the Thursday Book Club and another Learning Center.  Also, an edition of the Children’s Ministry Think Tank is forthcoming.  And Advent Resources are right around the corner!

Thursday Book Club: Family Based Ministry

Tuesday/Thursday Book Club:
Perspectives on Family Ministry

“Family-Based Ministry:
Separated Contexts, Shared Focus,”

chapters 7-8

It has been a while (July) since I’ve done any book club posts, but now that the book I was reviewing has actually been released, I thought I’d finish it up in two final posts. If you didn’t catch the first portions of my review, you can link to them here:

Chapters 7-8 of Perspectives on Family Ministry is dedicated to family based ministry.  The advocate for the position is Brandon Shields, who, at the time his chapter was completed, oversaw high school and collegiate ministries at Highview Baptist Church, a large multi-site church here in the metro Louisville area.  Brandon served in youth ministry for 10 years, and he has now take a position as a senior pastor in a Florida church.

It is interesting that this is my first post on family based ministry, because I resonate with it a great deal.  Two key books for the movement are Family Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries (Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), and Think Orange by Reggie Joiner (David C. Cook, 2009).  Both of these books are worthy of their own book club installments in the near future. Continue Reading…

SojournKids: What do we celebrate?

As a children’s ministry, we’re very good a talking about what we believe. But I’ve been challenged recently to think about what we celebrate. What are wins or victories for our children’s ministry? What gets us excited? Well, here is a preliminary list:

  • When the lives of children’s ministry servants are changed by the gospel message we’re teaching.
    We want nursery servants, teachers, musicians, and classroom helpers all to be growing leaders who are affected by the gospel, because we give children our lives, not just a curriculum.
  • When kids talk about Jesus while at play.
    Because gospel life is more than just the lessons.  We want to do more on Sundays than teach through a curriculum.  We want to relate the gospel to each aspect of your child’s life.

  • When families talk about Jesus together.
    When we sit at home, when we drive along the road, beside the bed at night, and while we’re eating breakfast–our children’s ministry must be a catalyst for families having gospel conversations together.
  • When families celebrate gospel life milestones with their church community.
    Baby dedication, Coming of age, Baptism–because Jesus informs every stage of life.

A Parent Handbook for your Sojourn campus

Every Christian parent wants to raise children who will grow up to love and trust Jesus.  Parents deliberately search for the church that provides the most opportunities for their kids to grow up in the Lord.  We want Sojourn to be that church!  Yet, as we continue to build our ministry to children, we must not neglect our homes—where children see our faith on real-time display every day.

At Sojourn, we believe that the home is the front line of Christian ministry to children—not the Sunday school or public church gathering.  The practices of a Christian worship service—the Scriptures, prayer, and praise—should be present in the home as well.  After all, the most important teaching moments happen at home rather than at church.   As the church, our responsibility is to encourage and equip you in your parenting role.

We want to empower parents.  One of the ways we’ve done this is by putting together parent handbooks for each Sojourn campus.  The handbook has everything that you need to know about SojournKids’ policies and procedures–including campus-specific emergency action plans.  If you are a parent, you’ll want to take a look.  Grab a copy on Sunday or download them here:

Parent Handbook for the Germantown Campus (PDF)–an overview of SojournKids’ philosophy and childcare policies for those attending Sojourn services at the 930 Art Center.

Parent Handbook for the St. Matthews Campus (PDF)–an overview of SojournKids’ philosophy and childcare policies for those attending Sojourn services at Walden School.