Ordinary. Adjective. The opposite of exciting. That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? Why in the world would we want to be a part of anything ordinary? The last thing we want in our church is just a plain old, ordinary, boring children’s ministry! After all, we live in an age where most people expect–even demand–events and programs and activities which are special enough to keep their interest. If anything, the church is supposed to be extraordinary in order to compete with all the really cool things the world has to offer.
After reading Michael Horton’s newest book, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World, I’m even more convinced that our churches need to return to ordinary ministry in all of its excellence. Because we live in a time of restlessness and the longing for things radical and extreme, even Christians can often expect their church to deliver one exhilarating experience after another. This especially seems to be the case for youth ministry as well as children’s ministry. But in the end, this search for something that gives chills and thrills ends up moving Christians and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ away from their essential, ordinary purposes and mission.
Before I summarize what “Ordinary Children’s Ministry” looks like, let’s make sure we reorient ourselves to the beauty of being ordinary. Ordinary is what is NORMAL. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Ordinary is what’s commonplace or STANDARD. Again, all good. Ordinary is REGULAR, ROUTINE, HABITUAL, and DAY-TO-DAY. Have I lost you yet? Am I verging on defining what is boring? That’s what Satan would have us think. He loves when Christians become consumed with the Next Big Thing (as Horton says), to escape what seems mundane and routine. Ordinary is NOT average, it is NOT mediocre, it is NOT the avoidance of excellence. It is the ordinary life that is most able to be extraordinary in this fallen world. [If this still sounds like an oxymoron to you, read Horton’s book and let it challenge your mindset!]
So, here’s what an Ordinary Children’s Ministry looks like:
- The local church welcomes children into congregational life–into the worship and service of the church. Adults see children as a gift from God, members of the covenant community, who need to be taught, educated, and discipled. They do not ignore children, see them as a distraction or nuisance, or relegate them constantly to the periphery.
- The local church leads parents in the training and discipline of their own children. It also comes alongside parents with resources and relationships that will help them in their Godly endeavor.
- The local church ensures that its priority is to teach children ALL of God’s Word, not just the “major” stories over and over again. And, teachers are committed to not teach the Bible in a moralistic or legalistic manner, falsely training children to strive for their own salvation and goodness.
- The local church works with parents to teach children the doctrines of the faith. In days past, this was simply referred to as “catechizing” the children–using questions and answers to teach what Christians are to believe about God, the world, and ourselves.
- The local church provides community for children to learn to love God and love one another, pointing them to Jesus Christ.
- The local church prays for the next generation to not become another “Judges” generation who forgets the LORD and does what is right in their own eyes. The church prays for the true conversion of their children.
- The local church is the place where the “ordinary” means of grace–the Word and the Sacraments–are made available to ALL, according to the proper Biblical manner and process.
Does all that sound too ORDINARY for you? Where are all the bells and whistles? Certainly, there are events and programs that churches can and even should provide for children. But these must never take the place or distract from the ORDINARY mission of our churches for the next generation. When we become overly concerned about giving children the “adventures of a lifetime” or the Next Big Thing in order to make them want to come to church, then we feed their sinful desires for all that is extra-ordinary. They need the ordinary Gospel and work of the Spirit in their lives on a day-to-day basis!