What is the single most important thing we do in children’s ministry? What is the single most important thing we do in any ministry? I believe, and I think the Bible would support, that the single most important thing we do is share the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ. One misperception that many people have is that the Gospel is only for the lost. In fact, the Gospel is just as important for those who have made Jesus the Lord of their lives as for those who have not.
In many children’s ministry, it seems, the gospel has become tangential and has lost its position of the focal point of ministry. This is a dangerous trend and leads, at best, to kids who are not firmly grounded in their faith and, at worst, kids who never hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the best presentation I have ever heard on sharing the gospel with kids was made by Jill Nelson at the 2007 Children Desiring God Conference. Entitled “Presenting the Gospel to Children,” this presentation lays a foundation for the need to teach kids the gospel and then proceeds through 10 essential truths that we must convey to children in order to ground them in the truth of the Gospel. Each of the 10 truths is supported by scripture, thoroughly explained in kid friendly language, illustrated in kid friendly ways and is associated with a clear implication.
You can listen to the audio here:
I think that anyone involved in children’s ministry should listen to and study this presentation. It is important enough that I have decided to dedicate the next several weeks of this blog to a more thorough exploration of the points laid out by Ms. Nelson in her presentation. Whether you work with preschoolers or highschoolers or anything in between, you will learn from and be blessed by this study of the most important truth ever – the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, let’s get started.
My notes from listening to the presentation are primarily in outline form, and I have decided to summarize the presentation here in the same manner. For more detailed narrative descriptions, make sure to check out the presentation handouts prepared by Ms. Nelson.
ABOUT THE PRESENTER
Jill Nelson is a curriculum writer for Children Desiring God. She is also the author of many of the extra features included in the ESV Children’s Bible which I named my #1 Christian Book for Kids a while back.
Ms. Nelson started off her presentation with a refreshingly direct challenge to those of us who work with kids. She explains that:
“Our children are plunging towards hell.”
And, instead of giving them the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, all too often they are presented with false gospels. Gospels which:
- Put man at the center instead of God.
- Present a plan instead of a person.
- Comfort instead of convict.
- Encourage submission to true facts rather than submitting to God.
- Enslaves them to works instead of freeing them to do good works.
- Calls for acceptance instead of repentance.
- Is brought about by man’s decisive choice instead of God’s sovereign grace.
- Promises affirmation rather than radical transformation.
- Exalts man instead of God’s love displayed in Jesus.
Her assessment is both sobering and dead on. In children’s ministries around this country and around the world, kids hear a watered down gospel which in the end is devoid of the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Ms. Nelson goes on to explain that , before we can present a God-centered Gospel to kids, we have to understand three themes regarding the gospel message:
- God is the starting point of the gospel.
- God is the vehicle of the the gospel.
- God is the goal of the gospel.
In short, the Gospel is all about God and what he has done – not about us and what we have done.
We must also keep four additional things in mind related to our role in presenting the gospel to kids:
- When it comes to sharing the gospel with kids, our role is to plant and water the seed. We must pray to God that he would bring the growth.
- Sharing the gospel is a long-term prospect. We must be patient when it comes to sharing the Gospel. It is much more of a process than an individual event.
- We must remember that the hope is in the message not the method. We must go hard after the message because it is the message that has the power to save.
- We must present the gospel to kids within its proper context. The proper context for the gospel is within the whole counsel of God. For example, the purpose of the Old Testament is to demonstrate to us why the gospel is such good news.
The remainder of Ms. Nelson’s presentation covers the ten essential truths the kids need to understand in order to understand the gospel. She reminds us that this is not a simple 15 minute presentation. Sharing the gospel with kids is a progressive presentation which takes time. Over the next several weeks, we will cover each of the 10 Essential Gospel Truths in the same format that Ms. Nelson does as follows (each of these can be found in the notes section of the presentation handouts):
Scriptural Support: These are verses which show the scriptural support for the truth at hand.
Explanation: This explains how the essential truth can be explained in an age appropriate way. The presentation handouts contain a narrative explanation, but for purposes of these summaries, I will only include notes based on Ms. Nelson’s explanations.
Illustration: These are not included in the presentation handouts, but I have made an effort to capture the illustrations provided by Ms. Nelson during her presentation. These represent very practical ways of showing kids what the essential truths might look like. Ms. Nelson explains that these are ways the truth might be demonstrated in a concrete visual or life example. She does emphasize that we must explain to kids that these illustrations are meant to illustrate and not to be directly compared to Biblical truth.
Implication: The final point presented for each truth is the personal implication of that truth to the child’s life. To paraphrase Ms. Nelson, Biblical truth challenges, and even demands, that the mind and the heart and the will respond to that truth.
Tomorrow we will look at the first of ten essential gospel truths.