If we rightly understand that the local church is a covenant community of believers, then we must always prioritize the development of Biblical relationships. So what does this particular task look like in children’s ministry? Do we just wait for our youth ministry associates to do this work, since that’s when children become more interested in relationships? I hope you recognize that, from the earliest years, our children need to learn how to relate to others in God-glorifying ways. If so, then the question is: What can children’s ministry do to help train children for Biblical relationships?
Lesson Fourteen: Train for Relationships
Certainly, children receive the majority of their training for relationships from their parents within the context of their families and extended family relationships. Yet children being raised in Christian homes are also members of the family of God, with many covenant parents, and brothers and sisters in Christ. The local church, then, provides an important opportunity for familial relationships, as well as Biblical instruction in how to relate to one another. So, here are a few suggestions of ways to assist Christian parents in training their children for godly relationships:
1. Bible Application. Since so much of the Scriptures speak on the topic of relationships, your Bible teachers will have many opportunities to also discuss it. Hopefully, you choose a children’s curriculum that prompts your teachers to make application to relationships. There are examples of godly relationships (i.e. David and Jonathan) and even more examples of ungodly relationships (i.e. David and Saul) that have much to teach children. And, as you study in places like Proverbs and the New Testament Epistles, you will have even more opportunities to teach what Biblical relationships look like!
2. Group Dynamics. Whether you are teaching a Sunday School class, small group, catechism class, or some other discipleship group, you will have multiple children learning together. You will witness group dynamics of all kinds–the good, the bad, and even the ugly! Unfortunately, there may be unhealthy cliques established and even bullying going on. So you must pay attention to how the relationships are playing out right before your eyes. In many ways, you are acting as a parent to a “blended family.” You are charged with promoting godly brother and sister relationships rather than worldly, combative, and destructive relationships.
3. Older Elementary Fellowships. As our children get older, they naturally begin to make friendships–most often in their schools or their communities. But are they making friends with their brothers and sisters in their local church? We must not just “hope” that they will make friendships at church; we should give opportunities to form these vital relationships. One way to help accomplish this is to do some “pre-youth group” sorts of events for older elementary children (4th-6th grades). Parents can be called upon to host these fellowship events in their homes, at a recreation site, or on the church campus. Serve the children a meal, facilitate games and activities, and encourage the formation of new relationships! Ultimately, these sorts of fellowships can help your children to transition to youth ministry with some solid Christian friendships.
4. Older Elementary Retreats/Camps. In the same vein, older children can benefit from more intensive times together as a covenant community. Putting together an overnight retreat can be a bit of a challenge, but would definitely allow more time for relationships to form and grow. Another fun opportunity is a week-long day camp for older elementary children. Many already regularly attend sports camps, scout camps, or other outdoor events; so your children’s ministry might want to explore this option. This is not just to imitate other organizations, but with the purpose of discipleship in Christ AND the promotion of Christlike relationships.
5. Service/Mission Projects. An overlooked children’s ministry activity which can promote godly relationships is a service project. Have you ever worked side by side with a team of people caring for the disabled, the poor, and the needy? It can’t help but bond you with the people you are serving, as well as with those you are serving alongside! So brainstorm ways to get your children involved in service projects or even brief mission trips. Along with producing Christian character, you will see the extra benefit of promoting relationships that may last a lifetime!
Don’t miss the myriad of opportunities to train your children in developing Biblical relationships. In your teaching, you can be proactive as you apply God’s Word to their relationships. In your event planning, you can give plenty of opportunities for young relationships to form and grow. And, in all situations, you will have an abundance of chances to lovingly correct wrong relational behavior, with patience and grace! Always keep in mind that the local church is an expression of the family of God, providing a wonderful (but sometimes difficult) laboratory of relationships!