At the 2010 Desiring God National Conference, Francis Chan gave a moving talk on humility and loving people. As part of that presentation, he listed seven question that he asks when preparing to teach the Word of God. I think they are the critical questions any children’s minister should also consider as they prepare to teach God’s kids. Those questions (and my notes on how they relate to children’s ministry) are:
1. Am I worried about what people think of my message or what God thinks? (Teach with fear)
Oftentimes in children’s ministry we dumb down our messages in an effort to make it age appropriate. This is no different than trying to tickle the ears of men rather than honoring God. To be sure, we should find age appropriate ways to teach God’s word, but we should never teach less than the full counsel of God and justify it as being “age appropriate.” The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and should guide our teaching efforts as well.
2. Do I genuinely love these people? (Teach with love)
Do you love the kids you are teaching, or are you just going through the motions? Kids will engage and respond when they sense that you love them. You may be the only one capable of showing the love of God to a particular child. Make sure that you are doing just that.
3. Am I accurately presenting this passage? (Teach with accuracy)
You should prepare and invest the same amount of time in preparation as you would if you were presenting your lesson to adults – maybe more. Just because you may not be teaching five year olds the original greek and different interpretations of a passage doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t research them and understand them. Strive to make yourself an expert in everything you are teaching this coming weekend. Above all else, do whatever you must to make sure that you are accurately and faithfully presenting the Word of God to the kids you lead.
4. Am I depending on the Holy Spirit’s power or my own cleverness? (Teach with power)
You may be smart. You may be talented. You may be engaging. No matter how good you are though, you are no match for God. He wants to help. He longs to work through you to impact the lives of kids in your ministry. Ask him to. Before you put pen to paper to plan your lesson, pray for guidance. Before you take the stage or put on a microphone or pull the flannel graph out of the closet, pray for God’s wisdom and guidance in teaching his kids.
5. Have I applied this message to my own life? (Teach with integrity)
Ouch! Now this one hurts. Are you being a hypocrite. Are you teaching kids about patience and anger ten minutes after you yelled at your kids on the ride to church? Are you teaching them about giving when you grasp your wallet so tight that you imagine even the fingers of God couldn’t pry it open? Are you teaching about humility one second and trying the figure out why the world is properly revolving around you the next? God uses our ministry to point to areas in our own lives that need attention. Be open and honest with the kids you are teaching. Let them learn from your failures and let them see you trying to be an example.
6. Will this message draw attention to me or to God? (Teach with humility)
Are you a one man show every weekend in your children’s ministry? Do your lessons really point kids towards God, or is all about how funny and engaging and popular can be with the pre-teen set at your church that is important? Do your stories bring attention to you or to God? Is God at the center of your children’s ministry? There is nothing wrong with being funny and entertaining and engaging if those things point kids in the direction of God. There is something wrong if it just glorifies you and builds your ego. Search your heart and make sure that you have not made the attention received from kids in your ministry your own personal idol. Remember, it’s not about you!
7. Do the people really need this message? (Teach with urgency)
Are you teaching what you’re teaching because you need to fill an hour or an hour-and-a-half, or do you have a vision of what kids need? Do they need to hear what you are talking about? When you look out at the room on Sunday morning, are you weighed down by the fact that some of these kids don’t know Jesus and face an eternity separated from God if something were to happen on the car ride home that afternoon. Make sure you teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ with urgency. Make sure that you are feeding them the thing that they need most – a Lord and Savior who died for their sins and rose again to conquer sin and death. That is the message they need.
(HT: Andrew Jacobson & Jonathan Parnell)