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Children’s Ministry in Churches Challenges Essay

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Updated: Mar 20th, 2021

What do you think are the most pressing challenges in terms of children’s ministry in churches today?

There can be little doubt as to the conceptual soundness of four suggestions, in regards to techniques, aimed at increasing the effectiveness of spreading the message of Jesus to people (aim lower, think smaller, give up, go have a cup of coffee). The authors of a video were fully aware of the fact that it is namely by targeting children, the percentage of which within the world’s overall population continues to increase rather rapidly, Christian ministers would have a better chance of sustaining Christianity’s appeal into the future. Therefore, the video’s suggestion that Christian ministers should pay more attention to introducing ‘little ones’ to Christianity while observing earlier mentioned guidelines, makes perfectly good sense. Nevertheless, when it comes to targeting audiences of adolescents, ministers should not solely be concerned with ensuring the technical but also qualitative effectiveness of their undertaking. Therefore, I would supplement the video’s suggestions with three additional ones: stay plugged-in, dive-deeper, and focus on pray-paration.

The first suggestion refers to the idea that, for the ministers to be able to set children on the proper track of affiliating themselves with God, they will have to teach them how to address life’s challenges from a Biblical perspective. That is, children need to be implanted with the idea that the Bible does contain clues to happiness. Therefore, it is namely those who never cease being plugged-in to the Good Book, who will be able to overcome life’s difficulties.

The second suggestion implies that, while ministering youth, Christian counselors must pay particular attention to ensuring the depth in understanding God’s words, on the part of those who are being ministered. Dive-deeper means to stay focused on teaching young people how to remain strong in faith and how to proceed with studying the Bible.

The third suggestion implies that, under no circumstances, ministers on the mission of introducing youth to Christianity, may overlook the importance of daily prayers in their own lives and also in the lives of those who are about to benefit from being brought to Jesus. In other words, while enlightening adolescents and children about the sheer power of a prayer that comes from the heart, ministers should aim at substantiating the validity of their words by the mean of exemplifying how prayer can serve as the instrument of communication between God and people.

Given the context of our church’s (Trinity Congregational Church, London, UK) functioning, it appears that the most pressing challenge in ministering youth is the fact that, just as it is being the case with potential subjects of a ministry, pastors become increasingly secularized – that is, they strive to adjust Biblical message to modernity and not the vice versa. I believe that this undermines the effectiveness of the ministering process, for the simple reason that, while being exposed to politically correct versions of good news, young people do sense the element of artificialness about it. Therefore, it represents the matter of crucial importance for pastors to be able to provide youngsters with the insight on Jesus as a not solely all-merciful and all-forgiving person, but also as the all-powerful Son of God who will be judging people for their actual deeds and not for their ‘good intentions’.

Another important challenge is the fact that, due to recent demographic shifts in British society, associated with the policy of multiculturalism having attained an official status, the increasing number of potential converts to Christianity comes from non-Christian families. What it means is that, before being exposed to conventional ministering, they would have to be introduced to the very basics of a Christian faith. In its turn, this requires ministers on the mission of spreading the word of God to be willing to take into account the particulars of ethnically diverse young people’s psychological constitution. And, it is needless to mention that not all ministers are equally capable of doing that. This challenge is being partially addressed by the mean of our church has adopted a Missional Model for ministry, as such that is being more adapted to the realities of multicultural living. Nevertheless, as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear for brothers and sisters that, for them to be able to ensure the church’s vitality, they would have to apply even a greater effort into spreading Biblical message in a manner consistent with these realities.

Write an article for your congregational newsletter in which you motivate and challenge the congregation to u more child-friendly ministry

For those who attend this church on regular basis, it must have become clear a long time ago that one of our strengths, as believers, is the fact that we address life’s challenges in essentially autonomous matter while resorting to Bible as the book that contains answers to just about any question we might have. Unlike Catholics, for example, we do need a ‘third party’ (clergy) between us and God, charged with interpreting God’s commandments. This partially explains why it is traditionally Protestant countries that even today continue to feature the world’s highest standards of living Lord does not like people who act as beggars, while constantly relying on ‘divine graces’ from ‘Saint Mary’, as much as he likes fully autonomous, individualistically minded and industrious individuals, who have chosen to submit their lives to God not out of some pressing physical necessity, but simply because they realize the full extent of God’s greatness and had consciously decided to associate their lives with the Creator of Universe.

Thus, it would only be natural to suggest that the essence of church members’ lifestyles contributes rather substantially to the fact that they enjoy being in favor with God. Hence, their prosperity, as God does reward his faithful followers with material riches: “And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian” (Genesis 39:2, KJV). Two important implications emerge from what has been said earlier: 1) For us to continue to enjoy God’s blessings, we must proceed with living the lives of God’s partners rather than the lives of his speechless slaves, while never ceasing to profess family-values, 2) To ensure the continued well-being of our church and the well-being of church’s members, our children must be provided with the guidance of how they can go about winning favor with God, especially when they are still young.

It cannot be denied that, throughout the last few years, a considerable effort has been applied to helping our youngsters to attain emotional comfortableness with Christianity. For example, it is a well-known fact our church runs annual summer camps for children, where many of our adult brothers and sisters in Christ act as counselors. Also, on weekends, the church’s basement is open for children to indulge in a variety of sporting activities and to study the Bible in a ‘user-friendly’ manner. Nevertheless, it appears that these church’s efforts to bring children to God and to make them embrace our ideas as to what should account for a proper Christian living cannot be considered fully sufficient – while being exposed to the continuous glorification of the concept of ‘welfare state’ on TV and in public schools, our children are being gradually deprived of their sense of perceptional individualism. And, as it has been stated earlier, the possession of such a sagacity, on the part of children, makes them naturally predisposed towards becoming faithful Christians. Therefore, the congregation should provide more children-friendly ministry to our young ones, in the sense that it should encourage them to exist as autonomous individuals, fully comfortable with the lifestyle of their Christian parents. Some of the techniques of how it could be accomplished will be outlined in the next newsletter.

‘Parents should guide their children to a personal relationship with the Lord.’ Describe this statement.

Nowadays, it became a fashion statement, on the part of Christian ministers, to suggest that parents should aim at encouraging their children to establish a close and personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, only a few Christian pastors appear to be capable of providing parents with concrete advice on how this could be done in practice. Yet, there is nothing particularly complex about it – parents must simply strive towards making their children being emotionally and intellectually compatible with the personality of Jesus so that they would be able to relate to Savior on an intimately personal level.

Who was Jesus? Bible tells us he was the Son of God, sent to Earth to redeem the sins of mankind: “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John10:36, KJV). Yet, while being the Son of God, Jesus never ceased emanating several psychological traits that betrayed his possession of a strongly defined individuality of mentally and physically adequate person – compassion to those in need: “Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, KJV), contempt to those driven by greed: “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them [moneychangers] that sold and bought in the temple” (Matthew 21:12, KJV), and belief in the eventual triumph of innocence and purity over corruption: “Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great” (Luke 9:48, JKV). Therefore, for parents to be able to help their children to establish a personal relationship with Jesus, they would have to encourage young ones to act as existential sovereigns – that it is, they would have to provide an additional stimulus for children to explore their idealistic inclinations.

It is needless to mention, of course, that given the fact that nowadays, children in public schools are being taught to think of dogmas of political correctness as such that represent an unquestionable truth-value, this would prove quite challengeable. Nevertheless, according to the Bible, it is specifically the divine authority of Jesus that should be respected above the secular authority of the state, especially if it happened to be an ideologically oppressive one. After all, for true believers nothing is impossible: “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove” (Matthew 17:20, JKV). The earlier articulated argument should provide parents with insight on how should they tackle the issue of helping children to establish a personal relationship with God. Parents must persuade youngsters to try dealing with life’s challenges similarly with Jesus – if they see injustice taking place – they should be willing to fight against it, if they encounter lies – they should strive to reveal these lies’ essence by exposing them to the light of Bible, if they suffer from a hardship – they should act as stoics while taking comfort in the fact that the exposal to hardships simply hardens their loyalty to God. It is only after having proven their likeness to Jesus in their own eyes that children would be able to relate to Savior in the way he would like them to.

What do you see as some of the main issues youth ministries are struggling with today? Highlight at least three issues and discuss ways in which these issues could be solved.

It appears that the main issue, with which youth ministry is struggling today is the fact that, as time goes by, the socio-political dynamics in Western countries become increasingly secularized. According to Hutchison et al. (1991:131): “During the last few years, the popular press (in Western countries), quite as much as the scholarly literature, has remarked a declension in ‘mainline’ or ‘mainstream’ religion”. It is needless to mention, of course, that this trend hurts the effectiveness of youth ministry. The reason for this is simple – given the fact that the majority of ministers do consider themselves being the integral elements of a society to which they belong, how they go about introducing the basics of Christianity to children also becomes secularized to a considerable extent. The earlier mentioned video on YouTube exemplifies the validity of such our suggestion.

Nevertheless, as the example of Billy Graham’s youth-ministry ‘Crusade’ indicates, ministers are being more than equipped to win the hearts of young people to Jesus – all that ministers need to do is to convince potential converts that Christian faith is not solely about attending church on Sundays but also about taking an active stance in life. This is the reason why, throughout the last few decades, Graham had succeeded rather marvelously with spreading the good news to adolescents in America: “Graham’s own evangelistic Crusades began to take on a decidedly youthful bent as he found himself ‘preaching almost exclusively to young people’ from the mid-1960s on” (Eskridge, 1998:87). The key to Graham’s success in providing ministry to youth was his acute understanding of the fact that young people expect from God to emanate strength above anything else.

Another important problem, faced by today’s youth ministry, is related to the one mentioned above – nowadays, more and more youth pastors end up ‘doing’ the ministry instead of ‘being’ one. In other words, they are not being quite as concerned about helping adolescents to choose in favor of Salvation, by the mean of helping them to establish a personal relationship with Jesus, as much as they are being concerned with proving their effectiveness as ministers to superiors by the mean simply coming up with statistical data as to how many young people they have succeeded to convert on a monthly or annual basis, without paying much of an attention to the qualitative aspects of such a conversion. Moreover, while providing ministry to youth, they often go as far as mixing Christianity with psychoanalysis. As Miller (1995:16) had put it: “The underlying assumption is that spiritual resources are not sufficient to deal with the whole spectrum of youth’s problems – that only people with massive levels of professional training can help”. This problem can be partially solved using lessening the importance of monetary reward, within the operational matrix of youth ministry, as a motivational factor. This will increase the chances for only truly committed ministers to be involved in the process – hence, increasing the overall effectiveness of introducing children and adolescents to the word of God.

The third important issue in today’s youth ministry is the fact that nowadays, parents often fail when it comes to serving as spiritual models for their children. Moreover, they often fail in doing as little as introducing children to the notion of discipline, due to this notion being often referred to by media and by secular educators as ‘outdated’ and ‘are intolerant’. And yet, the proper upbringing of a child contributes rather substantially to his or her likelihood to accept Christ as its personal Saviour. According to Gibson (2004:123): “Much like the young child about his or her parents, accommodation to God’s rules at this most basic level grows out of fear of punishment (hell) or hope for reward (heaven)”. Therefore, it comes as not a particular surprise that, as of today, youth ministers often realize themselves quite powerless, while trying to convince a particular child or adolescent that accepting Christ would be in his or her best interests – as practice shows, very often a potential convert’s ability to rationalize its life-choices is being atrophied due to parents’ failure in endowing their child with respect towards the very concept of rationale.

This particular issue, faced by today’s youth ministers, appears to be the most challenging – after all, they are not being in a position to influence parents’ existential mode. Therefore, the solution to children lacking spiritual guidance from parents should be tackled by the mean of ministers themselves embracing the role of ‘surrogate parents’, in the spiritual sense of this word. As they socialize with those young people that have a potential to convert to Christianity, ministers should strive to provide them with practice-based proofs as to the sheer beneficence of a particular person choosing in favor of leading rational and responsible life, while taking advantage of being in favor with God as the most immediate consequence.

Interview with Reverend Braxton from Trinity Congregational Church

The following is the report on an interview that had taken place on February 22, 2011, with Reverend Braxton from Trinity Congregational Church, London, UK. The purpose of this interview was to elicit information as to what accounted for the leaders of Trinity Congregational Church’s decision to choose in favor of the Missional Model for designing their youth ministry strategies. These are the salient points of the interview:

Reverend Braxton, would you please tell me what model for youth ministry is being currently utilized by your church?

We currently utilize the Missional Model. We believe that this particular model is best adjusted for the task of outreaching young people in the neighborhood

Could you please specify?

You see, the specific of operating the church in our neighborhood relates to the fact that, during the last decade, the community’s demographic fabric underwent a drastic transformation. According to the most recent demographic survey, half of the community’s population accounts for first-generation immigrants from mostly Pakistan and Bangladesh and their children. In its turn, this created a need for the youth ministries, provided by our church, to be less doctrinally strict. And, as I am sure you are being well aware of, Missional Model for ministries emphasizes spiritual counselors’ ability to promote the message of Christ to the general population of adolescents with no strings attached. Given what I have stated earlier, it comes as no surprise that we find this model the most suitable – by being exposed to love and compassion, on the part of church’s pastors, ethnically diverse young people become naturally predisposed towards choosing in favor of Christian living.

In other words, the aspect of maintaining doctrinal wholesomeness in ministering youngsters does not play a crucial role in how you approach the task?

This is exactly the case. While sending pastors on the mission of winning the hearts of young people for Jesus, we stress out that under no circumstances should they be overly concerned with trying to promote Christianity as a dogmatically inflexible religion.

But don’t you think that such an approach to youth ministry might undermine the integrity of young people’s understanding of the fundamental tenets of Christianity?

Not really. On many occasions, Jesus himself used to stress out the supremacy of ‘grace’ over ‘law’. We cannot be expecting children of newly arrived immigrants from non-Christian countries to become comfortable with Christianity by providing them with Bibles and telling them to reflect upon the meaning of a good book’s every word.

How would you address the criticism of the Missional Model on the account of its presumably lessened ability to accommodate the needs of long-term church members? We must understand that those who had accepted Jesus in their hearts have already been saved, and an important part of being a Christian is to be willing to sacrifice some aspects of its spiritual well-being for the sake of providing an opportunity for less fortunate ones to be able to qualify for such well-being, in the first place. In the eyes of Jesus, the notion of earthly seniority matters very little.

Don’t you think that there are some clearly defined Catholic undertones in what you have just stated?

I do not think so. But even if it was the case, so what? We are here to provide an opportunity for people to earn everlasting life in Heaven. And, without accepting Jesus as their Savior they would never be able to do this. This is exactly the reason why we are willing to apply extra effort while designing operational principles for our ministry-related activities. There can be no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ models for youth ministering, but only effective and ineffective. In our case, the deployment of the Missional Model had proven to be the most effective, when it comes to outreaching youth.

Thank you for your time Reverend.

You are welcome.

From reading the interview’s salient points, it appears that the matter of choosing in favor of utilization of one out of four available ministry-related models is the subject to a variety of affiliated socio-political circumstances. What it means is that, upon deciding to adopt a particular ministry-related model, the church’s leaders must take into account the actual location of the church and the qualitative essence of the neighborhood’s demographic dynamics.

When compared with the Strategic Model, Missional Model features the following strengths:

    1. It is being more adapted for deployment in communities that consist of ethnically diverse populations. As practice shows, one of the foremost obstacles on the way of ethnically diverse youth accepting Christ is the fact that many of these young people do not consider themselves theologically qualified enough to become Christians. Yet, after being exposed to ministering, based on Missional Model, they will be able to get rid of a number of their conversion-related anxieties.
    2. Unlike what is the case with Strategic Model, the utilization of the Missional Model provides youth-pastors with operational flexibility – ever since they embark on the mission of spreading the good news to adolescents, they realize themselves at liberty to address the task in the way they consider being the most suitable. As the consequence, the effectiveness of their ‘field’ performances increases considerably.
    3. The deployment of the Missional Model provides objective preconditions for even those young people who would never consider joining the church under traditional circumstances (due to the influence of friends and acquaintances), to become emotionally comfortable with the idea.
    4. Given the fact that the recent years saw a dramatic surge of Islam’s popularity in Western countries, the utilization of the Missional Model for youth ministering appears being the most justified as it benefits Christian communities most immediately – hence, contributing to the extent of Christianity’s overall vitality, as religion.
    5. The deployment of the Missional Model is being more consistent with the overall spirit of Christianity, as the religion of love and compassion, as opposed to being the religion of people who have excelled in dogmatic scholasticism.

References:

Dudley, Roger “Indicators of Commitment to the Church: A Longitudinal Study of Church-Affiliated Youth.” Adolescence 28.109 (1993): 21-41. Print.

Eskridge, Larry “One Way: Billy Graham, the Jesus Generation, and the Idea of an Evangelical Youth Culture.” Church History 67.1 (1998): 83-106. Print.

Gibson, Timothy “Proposed Levels of Christian Spiritual Maturity.” Journal of Psychology and Theology 32.1 (2004): 120-125. Print.

Hadden, Jeffrey “A Study of the Protestant Ministry of America.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 5.1 (1965): 10-23. Print.

Holeton, David “Welcome Children, Welcome Me.” Anglican Theological Review 82.1 (2000): 93-105. Print.

Hutchison, William et al. “Forum: The Decline of Mainline Religion in American Culture.” Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 1.2 (1991): 131-153. Print.

Miller, Kevin “Putting an end to Christian Psychology.” Christianity Today 39.10 (1995): 16-17. Print.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, 2001. Print.

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