Last week my church had a training meeting regarding some changes that are going into effect this year in our children’s ministry, Sovereign Grace Kids.
The deacon in charge of children’s ministry asked me to give a talk at the meeting. I have received some good feedback, and while the talk is pretty specific to children’s ministry, a lot of the points can be applied to serving in any ministry, and honestly, the Christian mission as a whole. I figured I’d share the manuscript here. Hopefully it encourages and challenges you.
I believe most of you know me, but for those who don’t, my name is Thaxton Gamache.
As some of you may remember at the kickoff meeting a couple months ago, Roger shared a summary of our churches mission statement in kid friendly terms. As a reminder, the mission statement is as follows: “We [Sovereign Grace Church] exist to make disciples who delight in, display, and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Roger has reworked it slightly to make it more accessible to the kids so that they can better understand and apply it. And it goes, “enjoy, show, tell.” As Roger and I have been talking I’ve been thinking more and more about how important it is going to be for us as a team of volunteers to personally be grasping and applying the mission statement in our own lives and as we serve in SGK this year and in the future. If each one of us is personally delighting, displaying, and declaring, it will profoundly impact the way we serve and lead the kids as we help them learn to enjoy, show, and tell.
Now, I brought this to Roger as something that maybe he could implement into training, or address to everyone at some point. But he, being the good leader [read, delegator] said to me, “this sounds great, why don’t you put something together and present it at the meeting next week.”
So I want to take the next several minutes to exhort us to come together as mission minded servants, so we can better bring up the next generation to be mission minded!
My outline for this exhortation is simply the three D’s of the mission statement, delight, display, declare, but I’m going to go through them in reverse order. I’m going to start with declare, move on to display, and end with delight, because as far as children’s ministry is concerned, that tends to be the order of easiest to hardest. So, let’s dive in.
In order to make little disciples who enjoy, show, and tell, we need to…
This one is obviously pretty straightforward. Declaring is kind of in the job description for teachers. Every Sunday we as volunteers will be declaring the gospel to the kids. And we even have a prewritten curriculum given to us to give us a guide. It will tell us what to say, and what themes to draw out of the story in a way that is accessible to kids.
However, it is important to remember that we aren’t just telling them cute little Bible stories. We are called throughout the new testament to preach the gospel. When we serve in SGK on Sunday mornings, we will be teaching the children what is of first importance: that Christ came as a man, lived a perfect life, died in our place, and rose again to conquer sin and death. Teaching the kids in SGK is part of fulfilling the great commission. That is no small thing. It may not feel like the Paul and Timothy type of discipleship relationship that most of us idealize, and we may not see a lot of radical conversions, but we are planting seeds when we declare, and many of those seeds will grow. There will be fruit. We might not get to see it, but it’ll be there, and it starts with them hearing the gospel.
It’s not all about being eloquent. About being the best speaker. About having the best words. (Although those things are good, and obviously can help your message come across with much more strength.) It’s mainly about setting a Christ-like example and preaching truth with conviction and love. I have seen a lot of kids enter the teen years with a shaky foundation, and they falter. But if we come alongside these parents and help cultivate in their children a love for the gospel and for the church, to build a solid foundation, they will be far less likely to falter. But that won’t happen if we don’t declare.
And our declaring will be much more effective if we are properly…
Declaring Christ will mean nothing if we are not displaying Christ-likeness. It would be hypocritical to teach the kids to be like Jesus, yet not be trying to imitate him ourselves. Philippians 1:27 is a passage we are all familiar with. In it Paul gives the charge to, “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel.” Our manner of life must be worthy of the gospel if we are to expect the gospel to go forth. And a life that is worthy of the gospel is a life lived like Jesus’. We won’t be perfect, but we should set out to be Godly examples.
We are called to be like Christ, but Paul also tells others to imitate him as he is of Christ. Throughout the new testament, the word imitation is used frequently in regard to Christ-likeness.
1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 1:6 “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
This language is important when it comes to displaying. If we are imitating Christ well, if our manner of life is worthy of the gospel, the kids will notice. They notice how people they like and respect act, and they want to be like those people, and they will imitate. And while imitating Christ is the goal, imitating believers who are imitating Christ well is the next best thing. If we are displaying well, we will be setting an example for the kids, not only in what we are saying, but also how we are acting.
And honestly, serving is displaying. In being here tonight, and in being willing to serve in the coming months, you are displaying, and it is very encouraging to me! “Christ came, not to be served, but to serve.” A massive part of Christ-likeness is serving. Serving is displaying. Let us continue to display.
The thing is though, we will not display well if we do not…
We must delight in the gospel. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but I often find that to be a lot more difficult than it would seem. The gospel is amazing. It is good news of great joy for all people. In theory, Christians should be the happiest people in the world. For some of us, that’s hard. I am extremely predisposed toward negativity and cynicism. But we must make an effort to delight.
1 Corinthians 13 talks about how, without love, a Christian and his message is essentially pointless. I think that can apply here. If we teach these stories to these children, but do not have love for the gospel, for Christ, for the church, for the kids, for serving, and do not have joy, we are a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. We won’t be heard. Our message will fall flat. But if we are are delighting, if we are displaying and declaring with joy and love, our message will be all the more enticing.
We must not only delight in the gospel (although that is most important), we must also delight in the act of serving. We are going to make much more of a difference to these kids if we are excited to be there. If we want to be there, and if we want to serve, it will make the serving easier, and will benefit the kids far more. They will notice if you don’t want to be there, and so will the other volunteers. It can be very difficult early on a Sunday morning to be excited to deal with a bunch of unruly small children, but it is possible. God will grant you the strength. Be joyful servants. We must delight so that we can bring up a new generation of gospel delighters. (A word I coined while writing this.)
I’m not saying that serving in SGK is a terrible thing that we have to force ourselves to be joyful to do. But serving can be stressful. From no one person’s fault, the past few years have been difficult and at times chaotic. And honestly, there will be stressful days ahead. But we must delight. It will be so much easier and God-Glorifying if we are delighting in the gospel as we serve. And if we delight in the gospel as we serve, we are far more likely to delight in the actual act of serving. And we should, for serving is a delight. It is building the church, it is obedience to God, and it is Christ-likeness. I don’t know about you, but that makes me pretty excited to get serving.
As I was sitting at the coffee shop, preparing this exhortation, I wanted to find a text that I could use that would bring all my points together really well. I was coming up short. I searched a couple buzzwords such as “preach” and “proclaim” in my Bible app. I found a couple good ones for individual points, but nothing that got the big picture.
Eventually I came upon 2 Corinthians 4. In particular verses 5-7. It didn’t perfectly fit the as a text to structure the entire exhortation around, but I think it can apply to serving in children’s ministry, so I’d like to read it now:
“5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
The chapter goes on to address striving in suffering, which I thought applied well when discussing dealing with children, but for the sake of time, I won’t read it. What I want to draw from this text is recognizing that this isn’t about us. Surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are proclaiming Christ crucified, but not on our own strength, and not for our individual reputations. It is by the strength of Christ, for the glory of God.
Sovereign Grace Kids doesn’t exist as an end in itself. It exists to build and unify the church. And the church exists to spread the gospel. We are called to make disciples, and our young brothers and sisters are little disciples. The best way to ensure that these little disciples enjoy, show, and tell the gospel of Jesus Christ is, as volunteers, to set the example by delighting in, displaying, and declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ with such joy, love, and passion that even toddlers notice and want what we have.
So, brothers and sisters, let us delight in the glory of the gospel, and from that delight let us overflow in a display of the grace we have been given, that we may declare with fervor the good news of great joy to all people.