Uniquely Equipped for Ministry
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–13).
Years ago when my husband and I first started out in ministry, we attended a conference at Willow Creek Church near Chicago. We were wowed—by the facilities, the teaching, the bookstore, the amazing children’s wing, the volunteer base, and the curriculum.
Surely, we thought, if we could take the training and manuals back to our youth, small group, and children’s ministries, they would boom. Admittedly, we lived in a rural Pennsylvanian town with a population less than Willow Creek’s regular Sunday attendance. (We weren’t expecting to build a megachurch; we were just hoping for a thriving congregation.) But that’s not what happened. For example, we promoted small groups that never really took off.
Years later we realized why. We were located in a small community with many family connections, so our church’s need for small groups wasn’t as strong as that in an area like Chicago or a church of Willow Creek’s size. The principle of small groups connecting people to God and each other in discipling relationships was good; we just needed to go about it differently.
Ultimately, we had to realize that God had given us everything we needed to thrive as a church. He had given us people who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him with unique talents and skills. With the mind of Christ we could identify our community’s needs and God’s purposes in meeting them through us. The same holds true for your church, specifically your children’s ministry.
God has equipped you with everything necessary to do the work He has for you. It doesn’t matter whether you have a congregation of 85 people with a handful of kids or 500 people with a children’s ministry bursting at the seams. God has given you what you need to faithfully train disciples.
What’s most important is that you recognize that God has created your church by connecting individual members through the power of the Spirit to move in unity with Jesus’ heart to live out the gospel. He knows who you are and how He’s gifted you. And He knows your community and the challenges it faces.
If your community is rural and dealing with apathy, poverty, and family brokenness, it is an opportunity for you to meet the needs of children who are affected by these problems and express gospel mercy in every relationship. If your community is urban and facing intense busyness, materialism, and disconnection, it is a chance for you to meet the needs of children encountering these issues and express gospel mercy in every relationship as well. There is no one-size-fits-all for child discipleship.
It’s great to attend seminars, tour other church’s children’s wings, and listen to successful children’s ministry leaders. But if you are striving to replicate another church’s ministry in your own community, you are missing the opportunity to understand how God has knit together your church family to meet the unique needs of your neighborhood.
Start with prayer. Ask God to point you in the right direction. If you have fallen into the comparison trap, let Him point it out.
I encourage you to then take stock of your gifts.
- Identify specific people God has gifted in teaching children, and thank Him for them.
- Recognize material gifts you’ve received to meet kids’ needs—a strategic location, a playground, a generous congregation, a healthy budget, a pastor who champions children’s ministry—it can be any number of things.
Once you’ve done this, pay attention to the needs God has put right under your nose.
- Are there many kids in your area, or even in your own building, without an involved dad?
- Are there issues of violence, poverty, divorce, or hunger?
- Do you have a number of families caring for children with disabilities? How about families adopting?
Don’t tailor your ministry to an area of need that doesn’t exist in your neighborhood—just because it’s the next big thing—and neglect what’s happening in front of you. I know that may seem to be stating the obvious, but I’ve seen it done. I’ve done it.
God wants you to succeed in loving the children in your community and their families. He has knit you together with His Spirit, for His purposes, and for His glory. Don’t worry about the work He has for another church—press in and join Him in the work He has just for you. It matters.