I saw a tweet the other day extolling the virtues of summer volunteers because they bring excitement and enough nervousness to rely on Jesus (thanks @mattguevara). That tweet set me thinking about my own approach to children’s ministry. I constantly talk about the need to be prepared, the need to invest the time, the need to memorize your lesson, and the need to try your hardest when it comes to children’s ministry.
In the end though, I don’t want to be too good, and I don’t want to prepare too much. You see, if I am, and if I do, I am less likely to rely on Jesus when it comes to working in children’s ministry, and instead rely on my own efforts and gifts. Real effectiveness does not come from within or by my own effort. Instead, it comes when I let go and rely entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
The personal idol which I tend to battle in my own life is an idol of self-reliance. Absent the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, my natural inclination is to rely on myself. I have always subscribed to the theory that:
If I can set my mind to it, and work hard enough, I can do it.
Unfortunately, that approach to life does not leave room for the necessity of God, and a ministry can only be truly effective when He is in control. So, when I get up in front of kids each weekend to teach them about Jesus and the Word of God, I want to prepared, but I want to be nervous enough that I am forced to rely on God. In the end, the kids in our ministry will be a lot better off if they hear from him than if they hear from me.
This is an area of my life, and my ministry, where is continuing to work to transform me from the inside out. I still study, prepare and practice my lessons each week. I’ve heard it said that we should work as if everything depends entirely on us and pray as though it relies entirely upon God. I think our work in children’s ministry must take a similar route. We must prepare and plan as though the eternal destiny of the kids we teach lays entirely in our hands. After all, the Bible tells us that,
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. [James 3:1 ESV]
However, when it comes to actually teaching kids, all of that preparation and planning but be submitted to God, and we must be willing to allow all of that to take a back seat to the plans God has for His kids. When we rely on our own power to try to teach kids about God, we will generally fall very flat, but when we allow the power of God to work through us, He gives us the power to transform lives.