The work of Children’s Ministries has been a focus in the Adventist Church for more than 150 years. It began back in 1863 when a woman named Adelia Patten wrote a two-year series of lessons for children that were published in a magazine for youth called the Youth’s Instructor from 1864 to 1888. Patten served as editor for the Youth’s Instructor (1864-1867), and was the first of three women who served as General Conference treasurer (1871-1873).
Over the years, different individuals utilized various means to develop the work of Children’s Ministries. Then as the work of the church grew, Children’s Ministries was assigned to various departments of the church, including the Church Ministries department. The Sabbath School quarterly for children and Vacation Bible School emerged during that period of time. On July 4, 1995, at the General Conference session in Utrecht, a city in the Netherlands, delegates officially voted Children’s Ministries as a separate department of the church.
Today, the Children’s Ministries department is still going strong, but it, too, has felt the impact of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the many challenges, Children’s Ministries is still essential to the core of the church’s ministry. Thankfully, Children’s Ministries leaders are discovering new and exciting ways to reach out to the children to help keep them connected with the church and each other in safe environments (See the article “Working with Kids Online” on page 6).
Let’s look at some of the reasons why Children’s Ministries is important to the church.
• Children are important to Jesus.—In Mark 10:14, NKJV, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” There is no doubt from Scripture that all children matter to God. “Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me’”—Mark 9:36, 37, NKJV.
• Children’s Ministries connects children with Jesus.—The primary role of Children’s Ministries is to help children to get to know Jesus and develop a relationship with Him as their King, thereby paving the way for them to become citizens of His kingdom.
• Children’s Ministries is one of the greatest evangelistic endeavors.—There is no doubt that when you reach children, you reach parents, family members, friends, and others connected with them. Almost always, children will have the support of their parents or guardians, so this ministry opens the door to a broader audience than just the child.
• Children’s Ministries helps the church to pass on the faith.—What a way to tell the story of Jesus to the next generation! Through this ministry, children will continually hear stories about Jesus, His love, how He died to save others, and that He will return soon.
• Children’s Ministries helps train future church leaders.—This is an opportunity to model good leadership and train children to be exemplary leaders in the church and the world.
• Children’s Ministries creates the opportunity for children to showcase their talents.—Perhaps you remember the plays, recitals, and poetry recitations when you were a child. The church is an ideal place for children to learn to recognize and develop their talents and share them with others.
There are many Children’s Ministries leaders around the world church field who are to be commended for the work they are doing with children. They stand on the shoulders of the others who have paved the way before them. As we continue to do our best to model Christ to our children, regardless of what programs we have or what tools we share, there are a few core things that should always be considered:
• Show children Jesus’ love. Let them see Jesus in you.
• Reach children at their level. To be effective, we must reach them in ways that are appropriate to their stage of development.
• Involve them in the Sabbath School class, as well as other programs of the church. They must be more than a fixture in the room.
• Nurture them.
• Involve them in ministry to others.
One thing is sure, without prayer, none of what I shared would be possible. So, we must balance our ministry to the children with constant prayer for God’s guidance as we handle His most precious jewels.