I was reading through the gospel of John the other day in my continued study of the teaching methods utilized by Jesus. As I was reading through John 4, I was struck by one particular verse. Amongst a well-known story not commonly associated with children’s ministry, I found the ultimate goal of Children’s Ministry (or any ministry) in the most unlikely of places.
John 4 is the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well. For those who may not be familiar with the story, Jesus traveled through Samaria (a no-no for any Jew at the time). He met a women Jacob’s well in Sychar (another big no-no as Jews did not associate with Samaritans). Then he proceeded to engaged her in conversation and lay bare her sin (i.e., that she had been married five times and was now living with a man who was not her husband). Despite some vain attempts on her part at changing the subject and debating theology, she soon came to the realization that Jesus was the Christ and went back to tell her acquaintances from the village where she lived. Many were converted by her testimony. It is at this point in the story, that we find John 4:42. The converts from the Samaritan woman’s village exclaim:
They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” [John 4:42]
These Samaritan converts no longer believe simply because of what they have been told. Instead, they proclaim Jesus as the Christ based on their first-hand knowledge of what they have learned. There knowledge had moved from information to experiential in a short period of time.
So, how is this all applicable to Children’s Ministry? What is that ultimate goal that I spoke of earlier? I think the application is clear. As teachers and workers in Children’s Ministry, we teach kids about Christ. We tell them Bible stories. We explain that Christ died for their sins. We tell them how much God loves them and much more. However, all of these are simply means towards an end, not the end in itself. In all that we do, we must keep sight of this ultimate goal – that the kids we teach would come to their own personal saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We pray that God will use those things we teach them to lead them to a lasting faith (a real faith). In order for that to happen, their knowledge must expand beyond just the stories and information which we impart. They have to get to the point where they can profess “I no longer believe just because of what you have told me, but I now believe based on what I have learned and understand for myself.” In order for this to happen, we must constantly point kids towards the Bible as that source for this first-hand knowledge of Jesus Christ!
This is my prayer for all of the kids in my classroom!