Formation + Nurture + Leadership = Mission
children are our most precious assets. Our goal is to teach children
to be disciples. Jesus said to his disciples, "Let the little
children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14, NIV)
Bishop Henry C.
Bunton in his forward to the Junior Catechism developed by the
Department of Christian Education wrote the following: “…To be sure,
our forebearers were dedicated to the progress of the African American
family and community, and especially to the nurture of and development
of their children. They demonstrated their dedication by making sure
their children were brought up in the church…Parents and those
responsible for discipling the children took time to teach them how to
pray, recite Bible verses and memorize the many exciting Bible stories
and their significant to everyday human living. The church took
seriously its responsibility to teach children about God, what it means
to be a Christian, the importance of living Godly lives, and what church
membership is all about.”
Bishop Bunton recognized the
importance of Christian nurture for our children. Sunday School only
begins the process of forming and discipling our children in the faith.
It is not enough just to involve our children in Sunday school and
Vacation Bible School. Those responsible for Christian Education in the
local church must understand Spiritual Formation and Christian nurture
as the means to which our children begin their faith journey. We cannot
stress enough that it begins in the cradle.
Far too often today
churches tend to group children and youth all in the same category.
Children (ages 0 – 11) have different needs than youth. They have
different learning styles and comprehend at a different level than
adolescents. They relate to stories and need to be able to visualize
and imagine the meaning of the lives of the characters found in the
Research reveals that children begin to develop
their cognitive skills at a much earlier age than previously
understood. Those responsible for the nurture of the children at the
local church level have an awesome responsibility. Again we must stress
that this is where formation begins. We believe that Spiritual
formation and Christian nurture begins at birth. When children are
taught the meaning and importance of discipleship at an early age, they
grow into mature disciples who teach and disciple others in the faith.
local churches must become compassionate child care centers that focus
on spiritual enrichment and Christian upbringing. No child should be
left behind, whether they be born into the membership of the church or
whether they reside on the fringes of the larger church community.
does this mean? It means that we must create sacred spaces within our
congregations where children are welcomed. We must do the difficult
work of seeking our passionate, responsible and credible children
workers who have a love for children. Yes we must do the background
checks and although these persons are volunteers we must hold them
accountable to highest standards as they are entrusted with the
formation and nurture of our most precious assets.
It means that
those responsible for Christian education seek out and use age and
theologically appropriate resources that assist in their faith
development. (resources recommended by the Department of Christian
It means that Children’s workers must be mature
Christians who continue to be formed and shaped in the life of Jesus
Christ. These workers must participate in ongoing training and learning
as they seek to teach the children and serve as Christian mentors and
It means that we must find appropriate space for
children to learn and worship. It means that we must recognize that
children are a vital part of the worship community and have gifts to
offer to the worship experience.
It means that nurseries need
to be put in place for the small children of our young adults in order
for them to participate in the life of the church. These nurseries need
to be funded and staffed by the Church. Persons who work in the
nursery need to be trained and equipped to care for the children.
saved the children for last for this reason. Much is required in
teaching the faith to the little ones. When we fail to teach those who
have been entrusted to our care, we are held accountable for their
actions or non-actions.
The late Dr. William R. Johnson, Jr.,
former General Secretary of Christian Education stated in Developing the
Educational Ministry of the Local Church, that “much of the ministry
with children is simply a matter of surrounding the child with love.”
He goes on to say that everything we do we are “called to be persons to
whom God may reveal His seeking love for each child.” He refers to this
as the informal ministry of affirmation, which is the fundamental form
of the Christian Education.
Children are most definitely involved in
“Doing a New Thing in Christian Education.” They provide the thrust for
the work we are called to do. They keep us charged up and excited
about this ministry of Christian education because it is for their
generation and the generations to come that we fulfill the Great
Commission, “to go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them
to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NRSV)
Lisa Butler of Dallas, Texas has been appointed as the Interim
Connectional Children’s Director for the Department of Christian
Education. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annual Children’s Sabbath Manual developed and created by the Children’s
Defense Fund is an excellent resource for those who work with
Children. The Children’s Sabbath can be celebrated anytime during the
church year and modified for each local church’s use.
Also don’t forget about the Children’s Ministry Manual developed by the Department of Christian Education.
great resource for children’s small groups is The Way of The Child
produced by Companions in Christ, Upper Room Books. This resource
contains Leader’s Guide along with eight modules to guide in helping
children experience God.
An excellent ministry project for
youth during Youth and Young Adult week is to involve them in reading
and/or storytelling to the children. Prior to the celebration of Youth
and Young Adult Week, youth leaders can engage youth in creating and
developing a Children’s Bible Study or they can come up with creative
ideas for engaging the children during Children’s Hour or Children’s
Church during the week. Let them take on leadership in developing
activities for children around discipleship.
An activity could be as simple as engaging the children in coloring images that relate to Seasons of the Church Year.
always with any on-line resources, please be sure to get approval and
concurrence from the Pastor before using any resource. It is also
always recommended that your plans and activities be discussed with the
Director of Christian Education. Please check copyright laws and
permission of use statements. If you are uncertain about use of any
resources, please check with us at the Department of Christian
Another great resource that we recommend in conjunction with ministry to children as well is youth is
edited by Mary Elizabeth Moore, Almeda M. Wright
Mary Elizabeth Moore and Almeda M. Wright address the harsh,
challenging, and delicate realities of children and youth—who live as
spiritual beings within a beautiful yet destructive world. Providing a
practical theological analysis of the spiritual yearnings, expressions,
and challenges of children and youth in a world of rapid change,
dislocation, violence, and competing loyalties, Children, Youth, and
Spirituality in a Troubling World provides readers with a purposeful
conversation on this important topic.