When you come to firmly believe that a vibrant children’s ministry is essential because of the covenant of grace in Jesus Christ, then you will remain grounded in your purpose and mission. But how will you maintain and sustain the everyday work of the ministry? It will certainly help if you have dedicated covenant parents who understand the vision, love Jesus, and like being around children. But there is another “grounding” element that will enable gospel-driven, Christ-centered ministry to occur for generations to come. It has to do with SEEING children the right way…
Lesson Sixteen: Grounded in Compassion
So, how do adults see the children of your church? Are children all so sweet and cute that (like Jimmy Stewart) they could just “eat them up?” Or, are they more like little nuisances that make too much noise and need to be better disciplined by their parents? Certainly, the first view may make a person more willing to minister to children, but it may not help him or her persevere–especially when the sweetness and cuteness wears off. The second view may be more realistic, but will probably move a leader or teacher to anger and frustration rather than compassion. And, it especially won’t help to see some children as almost angelic and others as downright demonic. The truth is that, when it comes to children, we all need to have our eyesight regularly adjusted by the Great Physician:
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
When Jesus “saw the crowds,” what did He actually SEE? He saw people who were harassed by Satan, by their own sinfulness, and by a fallen world. He saw people who were helpless to save themselves. He saw people who were lost, wandering, and needing to be led. And, what did all this SEEING cause Jesus to do for the people? To have compassion on them! To show them mercy, pity, and kindness. Thus, when we see people the way Jesus sees people, we will be moved to show them the compassion of Christ that they so desperately need.
How, then, does this translate to the “crowds” of children around you each week? For your children’s ministry to be grounded in compassion, your covenant parents and leaders must see children in the following ways:
See them as image-bearers. Children are not wild animals that need to be tamed. They are not senseless, mindless, or worthless. They are created in the image of God, and therefore must be treated with dignity, love, and grace. True compassion for children will never be shown if we forget that they are image-bearers. This doesn’t make them cute, sweet, and sinless–but it does make them incredible creations of our amazing God.
See them as harassed. Some of your children may actually be physically harassed and abused in horrific ways. They will need large amounts of compassion and attention! But all of our children are harassed by Satan, who would love to keep them in the kingdom of darkness. All of them are harassed by their indwelling sin, daily tempting them to be rebellious, unkind, or just apathetic. And, all of our children are harassed by the false teaching and messaging of this world, ultimately tempting them to live for themselves. How can you not have compassion for children when you truly see them as being harassed each day of their young lives?
See them as helpless. It’s easy to see a baby or toddler as totally helpless and needing our utmost care. But what about children who seem “independent” and able to take care of themselves? We must remember the truth that these children are still helpless to save themselves from the wrath of God. They are utterly helpless to enter the kingdom of heaven on the basis of their own merit. They desperately need a compassionate Savior who will have mercy on their souls!
See their need to be led. Does it break your heart to know that there are children all around you who are lost, wandering in the desert of this world, and on their way to hell? The children of your church are your littlest lambs in dire need of the Great Shepherd of the sheep. They need to hear the Word of God, be taught sound doctrine, and see the gospel lived out in front of them. They need adults who will shepherd them in the faith, motivated by true compassion for their souls.
Only when we see children in all of these ways will we, consistently and persistently, move towards them with compassion. Only then will we follow the instructions of the apostle Paul:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… (Colossians 3:12)
Children’s ministry must be grounded in compassion in order to truly show the compassionate heart of Christ to all of our little lambs!