But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:14 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible! Here, Jesus’ disciples meant to protect His time by forbidding those who they deemed to be less important – the children. The King then illustrates exactly the type of faith that is part of His Kingdom. Jesus tells His well-intentioned disciples to step aside and allow the children access to Himself. This verse should serve as the compassionate war cry of anyone involved in training up young people! But what about the clear warning to forbid them not? Is it possible that we could be just as well-intentioned as the disciples were and yet still hinder a child’s access to the Kingdom today? It is possible … and it can happen through Chaos, Confusion, and Carelessness during the invitation time in Jr. Church.
Jr. Church or Children’s Church aged young people are wired very differently than teens and adults. Because of this, many churches have a special service with on-level singing, teaching, and other environmental factors geared specifically toward children on Sunday mornings. At the end of this service time, young people are often given an opportunity to learn more about salvation and accept Christ. Let’s look at three specific issues to avoid during this time of invitation.
You’ve seen it happen, and you’ve wondered what to do about it. With heads bowed and eyes closed you ask if any of your young people who have been listening to the message would like to have someone talk with them more about knowing for sure that they are going to Heaven someday. Several hands are raised, and you ask them to rise from their seats and move toward your workers who are ready to deal with them from the Bible.
Unexpectedly, several more children (who have been somewhat daydream-ish up until now) get up and follow the others. Chaos ensues when workers take it for granted that every child has understood and wants to, at that moment, settle their salvation. In fact, some have moved from their seats because their friends have moved, or they assume that this would be a good bathroom opportunity, or perhaps they just have a good ole case of the wiggles! These reactions are normal for kids. In order to avoid the chaos of sorting through them while trying to present the gospel, try assigning a “Sorting Worker” at the back of the room to ask each child why they have come. Of course (and praise The Lord!), some children will say that they want to know more about Heaven, but you will also get some blank stares and shrugged shoulders. A reminder, at that moment, from your sorting worker about the review game (with prizes) that is about to take place in the main group will quickly weed out those who are either not serious about the matter at hand or have no clue as to why they’re currently standing separate from the group.
Now that you (and the remaining children) are confident that they are ready to be dealt with, avoid further chaos by always having at least two workers present with the child(ren) when dealing with them separately from the main group. If possible, deal with boys in one group and girls in another. I know that Jr. Churches are often understaffed no matter how many children you have, but the chaos you are attempting to avoid here is that of false accusations and legal issues. At all costs, avoid having an adult counsel a child about anything in a one on one setting alone.
“Okay, Timmy.” The well-intentioned worker starts. “You want to go to Heaven someday to be with Jesus, right?”
“That’s wonderful, Timmy! Now listen carefully and repeat after me. Dear Jesus, I …”
Wait! Please be careful!!! A repeated prayer is not what saves a soul. There are no magic words! As a matter of fact, “the sinner’s prayer” isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. And nowhere in Scripture does anyone pray a prayer of faith over or for a crowd of people. Helping a child to word his/her prayer of faith in Jesus is fine, but they must first understand fully what it is that they are trusting in. They must understand things like sin, repentance, the Gospel (Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection), Heaven and Hell, and how to receive this unseen Gift! Of course, these things should be explained clearly, simply, and on THEIR level!
On several occasions (for instance), I’ve dealt with small children who have come at invitation time, and while being dealt with, insist that they have never done anything wrong. Their innocence is sweet, but how can someone, in good conscience, lead this child in a prayer of salvation when they are not even yet old enough to understand why they need to be saved? The prayer doesn’t save the soul; the faith that causes the prayer does! (Ephesians 2:8-9)
How many times have you dealt with a child who has “been saved” seven times already, and is now sitting in front of you and ready for number eight, just to make sure. These multiple “decisions” can lead to a lot of confusion and frustration for everyone … especially the young person who desperately needs to KNOW for sure that Heaven is his home! PLEASE take the time to deal Biblically, accurately, thoroughly, and SIMPLY with this matter. Use illustrations, use verses of assurance, encourage them and talk with their parents about taking the first step of obedience as a Christian (baptism).
For help in dealing clearly with young people about their salvation you may wish to download this free resource by clicking here The Great Commission Manual. Cover.
Do you care enough to care on purpose? Then keep records! Whether you alphabetize/categorize 3×5 “decision” cards or whip out a whiz-bang spreadsheet program, make room for Salvation Date, Baptism Date, and Notes among the child’s other contact information. This practice allows you to do many things: follow up with the parents, recognize your student’s “spiritual birthday” every year, recognize multiple decision/confusion problems early, or perhaps even comfort family members in the event that the young person should unfortunately be taken home to Heaven at an early age.
And what about families? How well do you know your student’s parents? It is true that many adults would not know how to deal with their child’s questions about Jesus and Heaven, and have left that part of their training up to the leadership of the church. However, there are parents who are actively monitoring the spiritual pulses of their children. It might just happen that after a solid Jr. Church message, little Timmy is ready to trust Christ and you know for a fact that his mom or dad would like to be the one to lead him to Jesus. More than likely, little Timmy has already trusted by faith in his heart, but out of respect, it may be wise to allow the parents the opportunity to help him solidify his decision.
When a child is old enough to understand the concepts of sin and salvation, they are old enough to put their faith in the Savior! By avoiding chaos, confusion, and carelessness we can better fulfill Jesus’ command to not hinder our children from coming to Him.
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