Why Children Need Kids Church
If you have kids and you’ve been around the church awhile, you’ve heard it’s important for your kids to go to children’s church. After all, they’re learning about who God is and what He has done for us. But what you may find surprising is that elementary and middle school are the ages when they need to accept Jesus as their Savior—or they may never, statistics show.
“We are commissioned to teach children who God is and what He has done,” says Debbie Blahnik, Northland’s director of Children’s Ministries. “I believe parents are the primary disciplers of our children, but we, the church, must partner with parents in the spiritual development of their children.” She points out that nearly half of Christians accept Christ by the age of 14.
There’s no shortage of research to back that up.
A Barna study shows that 43 percent of Americans who accept Jesus as their savior do this by age 12. While that study was in 2004, the results have held true for many years; Barna noted consistent stats over the previous 20-year period.
The same study, titled “Evangelism Is Most Effective Among Kids,” showed almost two-thirds, 64 percent, of Christians came to faith before they turned 18. Furthermore, less than a fourth of believers came to Christ after age 21.
“This type of data has been confirmed time and again,” according to Barna. “Researchers describe childhood as a life stage when people are most open to the Gospel. This has led to a missiological focus on children aged 4 to 14: to win a people group to Christ, begin with the children.”
Blahnik says, “The percentages drop drastically after the age of 18. They must start young. It’s a small window of time.”
Tony Kummer, founder of Ministry-To-Children.com, confirms this and states on his website: “No matter who does the survey, one fact is overwhelming. Once a person reaches adulthood, accepting Christ becomes increasingly rare. Evangelism is most effective in the childhood and teenage years.”
Many churches call this window of opportunity to win kids to Christ as “the 4 to 14 window.”
“What we do during this window may be the most important thing the church does,” said Damon DeLillo, the creative director at Gospel Light and director of Family Ministries at Mission Church in Ventura, California, in an article titled “Everything You Wish Your Senior Pastor Knew About Children’s Ministry.” He adds, “It’s a season – sometime between 4-14 – when people are more moldable than they will ever be in their lifetime. It’s when people are forming their understanding of the world, of relationships, of love, of God. It’s a season when people are impressionable. We should be intentional about ensuring that they get the right impression.”
The Right Environment
Getting children plugged in to children’s ministry at a young age also enables them to begin learning in an age-appropriate environment, one that’s best suited to communicate important Bible truths to them in a way that makes them want to pay attention and learn more. This way, they retain the knowledge and learn how to apply it to their everyday lives.
While Blahnik is well aware of the research, she doesn’t recommend even waiting until a child is 4 to learn about Jesus in an environment tailored to children. Northland’s curriculum, “Worship, Word & Way,” is written for 2-year-olds through 11-year-olds and takes the kids through the entire Bible in three years, “through age-appropriate activities that make the stories come alive. Children will learn practical ways to apply the truths of the Bible stories to their everyday lives.
“Babies love songs, and reassurance they are loved and cared for. They will sense this in the nursery at church,” Blahnik says. “Toddlers love stories and are little sponges when it comes to learning. They can learn to recognize the name of Jesus and how much He loves them and will never leave them.”
Holly Faries, a Children’s Ministries volunteer with kindergartners at Northland, agrees.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for us,” she says. “They can hear the same awesome message in a way that will be impactful for them.
“Some kids live with a lot of fear and anxiety at this young age,” she notes. She says to them, “You know what I do when I’m afraid? I pray,” and teaches them to pray.
Also, she teaches with the enthusiasm that little kids cling to.
“I think it’s critical because you have to make learning fun for kids, and that’s something I think we do an amazing job with at Northland. It’s not something that they sit in the corner and dread till their parents come. … I feel so blessed and so fortunate to get to do what I do.”
Amy Faries, a teacher at the 11 a.m. Sunday service and Holly Faries’ daughter, who began in Childen’s Ministries 13 years ago as a helper seeking volunteer hours for school, says, “I feel like it’s extremely important to get children involved with the church at a young age because it teaches children strength, faith, and love. I believe that learning about who God is and what He has done has such a positive impact on young minds. We teach these children to love every person who walks into your life, just as Jesus has done. This creates selfless, kind individuals who genuinely love others and God.”
Kristen Roy, a 17-year Northland Sunday School volunteer in Children’s Ministries says, “I believe if we can demonstrate the love of Jesus to children at an early age and present the Word in a dynamic way, these lessons can truly plant seeds of faith that can grow over a lifetime.”
Roy, who also attended Sunday School as a child and teaches 4-year-olds at the 9 a.m. service., says those seeds will grow into a strong faith that will help the children throughout their lives, “because a person who came to know Christ at a young age will have a lifetime of learning about the Lord from which to draw upon when they face life’s challenges.”
Debbie Longstaff, a Children’s Ministries volunteer for more than 27 years, says, “I believe that it is important to teach children at a young age to serve with others and to share the gospel.” She has worked with 4-year-olds, in Praise Time and the classroom, and Saturday nights with the Access Ministries grade school and middle school program. Both of her children, along with her husband, have served in Children’s Ministries at Northland. Her son and her husband played in the worship band for grade school, and her son continues to serve at Buddy Break by leading worship for the teens and young adults. Her daughter, Abigail, serves on Sunday mornings in early childhood. Abigail loves to serve knowing she is making an eternal difference in children’s lives while bringing smiles to their faces.
“I believe the old saying that a family that prays together stays together. It’s along the same lines as serving,” Debbie Longstaff says. “We should use our talents that God has given us to glorify His name. I am blessed by my children and their willingness to serve together. I feel that as they become adults, they will continue to shine His light and serve others.”
Sharing the Gospel
Besides becoming saved themselves and getting equipped with the knowledge to help them through difficult situations in life, it’s important for children to get plugged in to children’s ministry at an early age so they can share Jesus with the people around them, for years to come.
Roy says having a stronger faith from childhood will lead to sharing the gospel more with others. “When God strengthens their faith through these life experiences, this growth will create a desire in them to share what it means to lead a Spirit-filled life with the people around them.”
Holly Faries says it’s rewarding when she sees the kids after leaving her classroom excitedly share their crafts with their parents. They also take the stories they learn and share them with friends.
“They can share that with kids at school or neighbors and make an impact in their lives,” she says.
Eric Geiger, in an article titled “3 Reasons Kids Ministry Is Important,” says, “Because kids ministry brings the truth of the gospel to kids where they are, kids go home with questions, stories, and lessons they learned. An effective kids ministry sparks conversations at home, and this challenges and encourages the whole family.”
The Bible Commands It
We read in several Scriptures that we are to teach our children about God and what He has done for us. Here are a few:
- Proverbs 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
- Matthew 19:14: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”
- Psalm 78:4: “We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.”
- Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”