Fifteen years ago I answered the call to serve as an associate pastor at a Baptist church in northwestern Virginia. We came at a time when the new senior pastor had been voted into office a couple of months before, and a casting of vision was needed for the church to advance. Very quickly after we arrived we discovered a church body that had experienced much hurt, pain, and division because of the mistakes of former leadership. Through no fault of its own the body corporate had not experienced any spiritual growth in years. I can recall a conversation I had with our pastor early on when we reviewed the state of affairs. He asked me, “Well, there are a number of staff members that have left and the work is wide open. What do you think the Lord would want you to do?”
I thought for a moment and reflected on the experiences God had given. During my college days I ran bus routes through a large city and ministered to scores of children and teenagers. In the brief 6 years leading up to the move to Virginia, I had also served as a youth pastor, preached in elementary and high school chapels, and had been trained in just about every aspect of associate pastor work available. Most of my ministry leading up to that time had been with the demographic we call the next generation. After much prayer and direction from God’s Word I replied to the pastor, “Give me the children.” We knew the church had lost its spiritual moorings and we believed that the best way to bring it back would be through a long-term investment in the next generation. Very few adults within the membership were modeling servant-leadership, and a good number were not even born again. So, while the senior pastor preached the gospel and gave biblical instruction from the pulpit, that which was delivered to the adults was echoed in each ministry that targeted the next generation. Workers within our Christian school, Sunday School, Junior Church, and Youth Ministry were all encouraged to follow suit. In the early days this was a struggle. Very few wanted to follow, and fewer still shared the vision of what God wanted to do within the church and all of its ministries. The need to train people to be servant-leaders became readily apparent.
Servant leaders were springing up everywhere in the children’s ministry and before too long these children were entering the teen department, making a dramatic difference.
Little did I know that the Lord would use a children’s discipleship program to great effect in the homes of our church. Fathers and mothers began to see their children respond to the Lord, know the Scriptures, and apply those Scriptures to everyday living. Servant leaders were springing up everywhere in the children’s ministry and before too long these children were entering the teen department, making a dramatic difference. Parents were giving testimony to the change in behavior in their children and teenagers at home. Such activities as teen soul-winning were faithfully attended. Leadership heard time and again about the servant’s spirit of our young people who were securing entry-level jobs in the community. God had made a miraculous difference and had turned the tide in the whole nature of the church itself!
I submit to you that the principles found in the first few chapters of I Samuel laid the groundwork for just such a supernatural work among the children and youth in that church. First we find in I Samuel 1:10 that the spark that ignited this fire of what would eventually bring a revival in Israel was prayer – intercession. Next we discover in verse 11 that Hannah made a promise and in keeping that promise she had a testimony of integrity to leave with her son. Later on in chapter 2 and verse 19 Hannah helped Samuel to continually remember his identity by making a special coat for him each year. And lastly, the child was trained to serve the Lord; we know this because of verse 18 of chapter 2 and verse 1 of chapter 3. How did Samuel understand how to minister to the Lord? I contend that there was an imitation of Eli’s behavior in the Tabernacle.
Is the children’s discipleship program you are using actually training youth to serve the Lord? If not, I know where one can be found – Master Clubs is right here at First Baptist Church. Master Clubs is not for every church, but it just may be the tool that will take your children’s ministry to the next level of training servants for Christ. Visit us today at masterclubs.org!