Caring for Children and Teens in the Church
Jesus Cared for Kids
We live in a culture where children are devalued, cast aside, and treated as burdens. The Bible teaches that the ancient world bears striking similarities to this modern mentality.
In Mark 10, the disciples are trying to stop kids from seeing Jesus. Here was their logic: Jesus is important. Children are not important. Jesus needs to do important things and see important people. Therefore, we need to keep children away from Jesus.
This logic gets turned upside down with Jesus’ words in verse 14, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them…”.
Far from pushing kids to the side as unimportant, Jesus commands them to be brought near! Jesus cares about kids. Because of this, we, too, want to care for the kids and teens that are in our church. Here are three steps you can take to do that.
Step #1 | Overcome Communication Barriers with Kids and Teenagers
If you want to engage children and teens in caring conversations, you will need to overcome two barriers.
1. The Boredom Barrier
Young people want to talk about things that older folks find uninteresting (video games, pop music). At the same time, the older generation can talk about things that don’t interest kids (mortgage payments, the stock market). This creates a situation where both parties find conversations with the other to be exhausting. If we want to overcome this barrier, we must strive to take a genuine interest in what our kids and teens are interested in (Philippians 2:4). Spend time taking a genuine interest in what they want to talk about. Ask them about their favorite video game, sports team, or music genre. You are not wasting time talking about these things. You are building trust and rapport.
2. The “Why Bother” Barrier
Perhaps you have attempted conversations in the past only to be met with one-word answers or outright opposition. This creates a “why bother” mentality in your heart. Left unchecked in the short term, this “why bother” attitude will lead to children and adults passing each other like ships in the night. Left unchecked in the long term, the little kids and teens in your life will grow up to be young adults who are no different to you than strangers.
If you want to overcome this barrier, you must remember that “love bears all things…endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Jesus wants you to love kids and teens at our church. That means rejecting the “why bother” mentality and re-engaging with that teenager despite previous attempts leading to a dead-end. When a kid or teenager sees that you are undeterred by their one-word answers and genuinely interested in them, that may be what God uses to open lines of communication.
Step #2 | Have Heart-Focused Conversations with Kids and Teenagers
Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
This verse pictures our kids and teens as deep wells with the water sitting 50 feet below the surface. Caring for the next generation requires that we draw out what is going on in their hearts (their hopes, dreams, desires, fears, etc.). We don’t just want behavior modification. We want Jesus and His Word to transform their hearts. The more we understand what’s happening in their hearts, the better we can apply the grace of Jesus to the real source of the problems they face. Drawing out what’s in their heart will require two things.
1. Heart-focused conversations require careful listening.
Before you open your mouth, make sure you’ve done the hard work of listening well and understanding what’s going on (Proverbs 18:13). If you try to speak into their life without understanding what’s going on, your solutions will not correspond to their problems. But if you listen and understand, the biblical solutions you present will unleash God’s transforming power into their life. Avoid simple yes or no questions. If they are afraid, ask, “What are the particular things you are afraid of?” If they are angry, ask, “What were you wanting that you weren’t getting?” Good follow-up questions will enable you to understand what’s going on at a deeper level.
2. Heart-focused conversations require gospel solutions.
At the end of the day, the biggest problem our kids face is the sin and false worship in their hearts (Romans 1:21). This means the ultimate solution will always be the Savior who died to pay for their sin and was raised for their justification (Romans 4:25). When we engage in heart-focused conversations, we want to call kids to repent of the particular sin in their life and to trust in the free grace offered to them in Jesus.
Step #3 | Embrace a God-Sized Vision for Kids and Teenagers
The author of Psalm 78 is concerned that the kids in Israel know and love God. But his vision stretches beyond the children he can see. He wants “the children yet unborn” to “arise and tell them to their children” (v. 6). A God-sized vision is when you picture the kids and teens in our church as wrinkly grandparents who are surrounded by a tribe of kids and grandkids, proclaiming the saving power of Jesus to them.
Do you have a God-sized vision for the kids and teenagers in our church? We want every child in our church to be a warrior for Jesus who loves Jesus, serves the church, gets married, has babies, and raises those babies to worship Jesus. Cultivate this vision in your heart. Cultivate this vision in your prayer life.
Bring the Kids to Jesus
In a culture where children are devalued, cast aside, and treated as burdens, let’s care for the next generation. Let’s overcome communication barriers, engage them in meaningful gospel conversations, and dream big about what God is going to do in their lives. Let’s obey Mark 10:14 and bring them to Jesus.
Listen to Pastor Trevor’s sermon on Caring for Children and Teens in the Church from the Sunday night series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate.