Kids Evangelizing Kids (and How We Can Stay Out of the Way)

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If you haven’t heard yet, there is a free e-book called What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry in which 33 members of the children’s ministry community were asked to pick one word which describes what matters now in children’s ministry.  That word selection is then explored further in 200-300 words chapters in the book. You can also find much more information on the project and various blog posts related to the project on my What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry page.
Several weeks back, I posted my thoughts on the chapter authored by The Lads based on the word “infectious.” The basic premise of the chapter was that kids have a natural enthusiasm for sharing the gospel, and as children’s ministers we should find ways to tap into that natural excitement.
One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the chance that it creates to spark conversations.  That’s one of the reasons I really appreciate when people take the time to comment on an article, and I always try to respond to comments.  On this particular article, Henry Zonio from Elemental Children’s Ministry (who along with Amy Dolan and Matt Guevara put together the book in the first place) made a comment in reply to the question “What are you doing to encourage the kids in your church to evangelize?” His comment really reshaped my view of the gospel and how we should be presenting it to kids.  He wrote:

Great questions… One way that I’ve encouraged my own kids as well as those in church is to talk about our faith as if it is something that is to normally be discussed and talked about with people. One of my recent revelations when it comes to kids talking about their faith is that they aren’t really scared to do it; we’re the ones who put the fear in them. We talk about how it can be scary to talk about faith with friends, we tell them we don’t have to be afraid, we tell them that they might be made fun of… We plant these fears in kids; they don’t already have them. It’s changed how I talk with kids about having faith conversations or about inviting their friends to church. I talk about it as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to do, which it actually is. Since doing so, I’ve heard more stories from parents about their kids talking about faith with their friends and their kids inviting friends to church.

I had never really thought about it that way, but Henry makes a very valid point.  Our attitude when we talk about presenting the gospel is critical in how kids receive it.  If you think about it, that’s really not that much different than other areas of our children’s lives where out reaction dictates there attitude and response.  I replied to Henry with a personal story related to this very issue and my thoughts (for those of you with an attention to detail, I have made some minor changes to my comments for purposes of clarity and to fix some grammar issues):

Great point Henry! I think we do this in all kinds of areas with kids. As a parent, I see it when my children get hurt. If we react our view gets imposed on the child, and it becomes a big deal. Oftentimes when we don’t react, the child will pick himself up and just go about his daily routine.
My wife and I used to get all kinds of dirty looks in public because we would actually laugh when the kids fell or bumped into something. We weren’t being cruel, inside we were hoping they weren’t really hurt (no parent wants to see their child hurt), but on the outside we wanted to impress on them that it wasn’t a big deal. Most of the times, that worked, and to this day our kids aren’t prone to overact to little bumps and bruises.
That said, I hadn’t really thought about that in a spiritual context. I know that when I have shared the gospel with kids in the past and encouraged them to tell their friends that I have from time-to-time talked about how it can be intimidating. And, you’re absolutely right, that was me transferring my intimidation to them where they may have had none.

When we talk to kids about the gospel, it is important that they hear and sense our excitement and eagerness to share it.  We must be careful not to inadvertently transfer our own fears and trepidations associated with sharing the gospel to the kids we influence.  I should note that with his typical humility, Henry was quick to point out the following:

I wish I could say that realization was a spark of my blinding awesomeness (of which there is no charge) but it came about in a conversation I had with one parent who was talking about how his daughter talked about her faith with her friends as part of her normal interactions with them and was thanking what we were doing in CM that facilitated that. I went away from that interaction wondering what we WERE doing and realized that we had been coaching our leaders to not talk about the fear side of sharing faith and simply present it as something natural to do. It then dawned on me that we most likely had been transferring our fears to our kids previously.

I want to thank Henry for pointing out this very important truth.  When working with kids, or anyone for that matter, it is important that we watch not only what we say, but how we say it.  What steps are you taking to feed the natural excitement the kids in your ministry have to sharing the gospel?  What might you be doing that would inadvertently discourage them from sharing the gospel?

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