A Top Priority for Effective Ministry to Children and Youth

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Late summer is a busy time for children’s and youth ministry as church staff and volunteers gear up for the beginning of a new school year. And, increasingly, there are new and exciting resource options out there to consider—resources that claim to engage students in ways that are “relevant” to their particular age group, along with teaching methods and class resources that will keep students happily wanting to come back week after week. There’s nothing wrong with that…necessarily. How about first setting before your teachers and volunteers this sobering and instructive challenge?

If the Word does not dwell with power in us,” wrote Puritan John Owen, “it will not pass with power from us” (The Works of John Owen, vol. 16, page 76).

…what gave John Owen success in ministry was not so much his oratory skill, nor his evangelistic zeal, nor even his love for the people he shepherded. John Owen was used mightily by God in all these ways because he was a man characterized by personal holiness.

…Let’s consider whether we have allowed contemporary culture to infiltrate our minds and hearts. Have we inverted Christ’s desire that the church be in the world by bringing the world into the church instead? If we take an honest look, perhaps we’ll discover that we are contributing to this trend. Rather than relying solely on the sufficiency of God’s Word, are we employing counselors in our churches who apply worldly methods of psychological analysis to address felt needs? Have we adopted worldly means to reach the seekers [or picture some teens you know] who sit skeptically in the back pews rather than offering them the truths of the Gospel and the Christian life? Faithful teaching of God’s Word is vanishing. Are we among the number that have replaced preaching with elaborate drama productions aimed at entertaining?

…Rather than devoting much time to developing innovative amusements for the worship hour, Owen made private communion with God a top priority…The Word of God is the means employed by the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ, so if preaching and evangelism are to be effective, private communion with God in His Word must be more important than discovering the latest ministry technique.

These words are from an article titled “Recovering the Priority of Personal Holiness” by Pastor Alistair Begg. What I have quoted here does not do justice to the article! You can read it in its entirety here.

What especially struck me as a teacher was the last paragraph. During the week, as I prepare for the upcoming Sunday school hour…

  • Do I prioritize private communion with God over and above time spent developing innovative amusements for the Sunday school hour?
  • Do I prioritize meditating in the Word of God as the means employed by the Holy Spirit to transform me into the image of Christ so that my teaching is flowing out of personal holiness over and above relying upon some kind of ministry technique?

What might God be pleased to do this coming year if we were to recover the priority of personal holiness in our ministry to children and youth?

(Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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