Demonstrating what God’s kingdom looks like
5 MINUTE READ
Children’s ministry may look different from church to church but at its core are key aims to nurture, teach, love and shepherd the children that God has placed in our church family, and the children that He brings to us from our communities. We live out the great commission when we do these things, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
When a child is baptised in my congregation, the parents make vows to care for and raise their child to love the Lord Jesus while young, to know the Bible and enjoy the blessings of being in a Christian family and church. A part of the baptism service that I love is that the members of the congregation also make a vow to God as we witness the baptism of each covenant child. The promise is this:
“Do you, the members of this congregation, receive this child into your fellowship and promise to pray for him/her, and to help and encourage the parents as they seek to bring him/her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?”
What a great privilege and responsibility to commit oneself to be an example and helper for a child as they grow and learn within the love of a church family! I have not counted how many children I have made this vow for, but I take seriously the commitment to serve and love all the children that God has put in the midst of our congregation. Essentially the vows that the parents take are to disciple their own children and the members pledge to join them in this immense and joyful task, becoming part of the generational faithfulness commanded and exemplified in the Old and New Testaments. We are “co-disciplers”, living out the great commission in our homes and churches. We are “teaching them to obey all that [Jesus has] commanded [us]” (Mt 28:20) through our children’s ministry. We are demonstrating (by the Lord’s grace) what the righteousness of God’s kingdom looks like. Ultimately, this commitment is made because as Christians we have first made a commitment to King Jesus to follow him, make disciples, baptise them and teach them.
“I take seriously the commitment to serve and love all the children that God has put in the midst of our congregation.”
In my professional life I see the way that social work prioritises the best interests of children, seeking to promote their safety and wellbeing in everything. As a discipline, social work shares Biblical principles of respecting and valuing individuals, caring for the oppressed and seeking justice. The idea of seeking justice is an interesting one as the Bible couples the concept with righteousness, an extension that social work or social justice campaigners do not make. There is great work done by those who do not know Christ who are seeking justice. But by contrast, there is a missing element of true, Godly righteousness that leaves only half the Biblical picture. So why is this important? Can social reform truly happen without righteousness? Let’s do a quick survey of the Scripture.
God’s perfect, restorative, and redemptive plan for justice and righteousness is detailed and proclaimed throughout the Bible. Psalm 89:14 says “righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne”; Amos 5:24 cries “let justice rolls on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream”, Isaiah 1:17 tells us to “learn to do right; seek justice”, the white horse in Revelation 19:11 judges in righteousness and Psalm 106:3 declares that those who act justly and do what is right are blessed. Clearly righteousness and justice are not only both important but are vitally interconnected. We do not seek justice for retribution’s sake but because we know of the plan for righteousness. Social work seeks to right wrongs, but our mission as Christians is even bigger than that!
“…we are able to impart to our children the vision and action plan of the Bible to see communities of righteousness and justice.”
As Christians we collectively strive to obey the command that the Lord gives us throughout His word to seek justice and pursue righteousness. We desire to see God’s kingdom established here, spread throughout the nations with people coming to faith and being discipled. This brings us back around to children’s ministry. What a joy that we are able to impart to our children the vision and action plan of the Bible to see communities of righteousness and justice. We are not just teaching them what it looks like to right wrongs, but to participate in God’s works of righteousness – the blessings and advantages that come from living under Christ’s rule. The Gospels are littered with references to the kingdom of God showing us that we are to seek it, pray for it, enjoy it now and look forward to its completion. In the great commission Jesus told His disciples that He had been given all authority in Heaven and on earth. As Christians we live under this rule and we show our children what a special thing that is. The promise that members of my church family make to pray for, be an example for and nurture covenant young ones (as with similar agreements that many other churches practice) is done under Christ’s authority.
Many of my colleagues in social work do not recognise the rule of Christ, so while their desire to seek justice for children is to be commended, it is also limited to the extent they are willing to obey the One who perfectly desires the best for His children.
In children’s ministry we can disciple children in the ways of the Lord who loves them, who desires justice for and righteousness from them. Ultimately, if we engage in the pursuit of justice for children without the exhortation to righteousness we endorse reactivity without training proactivity.
So we teach and admonish all that Jesus commanded His disciples, illustrate and demonstrate life in the kingdom of God – and surely, He is with us always, until the very end of the age.
Emily Mikelsons Emily Mikelsons is a social worker working in family services in Victoria. She also has a qualification in Christian Studies and is an active member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church where she serves in children, youth, and missions ministries.