Becoming What We Love
It’s wonderful to come across a book that’s so engaging and challenging you can’t put it down! When a book makes you want to stop and change everything you’ve been doing, you want everyone you know to pick up a copy and read it. This is how I felt recently when I read You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith. This book not only changed the way I think about worship; it also changed how I think about discipleship in children’s ministry.
Our Loves Define Us
Smith’s basic premise is that we human beings were made to flourish; we all have a vision in our heads about what a flourishing “good life” looks like. We want to picture things we think will make us happy, content, and free; things that capture our hearts and imaginations, such as pursuing the idols of wealth, power, or status. When we love these rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made, we don’t realize how they are shaping our hearts. Our captive hearts need to be realigned with what is real, true, and good as citizens of God’s Kingdom—the ultimate good and our ultimate hope; our hearts need to be re-formed by the Holy Spirit to understand that following Jesus is the only true life that flourishes.
What This Means for Kids’ Ministry
So what does this mean for kids’ ministry? To start, it means that leaders need to understand the importance of a child’s heart and imagination.
If you stop and think about it, children from a very young age are mesmerized by movies and TV shows that capture their imaginations. They are transported from this world to another as part of an adventure. They want to be a part of the story. It is the same for adults—many of us also enjoy movies and a good story.
The gospel is the greatest story of all; the best part is that it is not make-believe—it’s reality! As leaders, we need to tell the gospel story in ways that will draw children in and help them realize it is the story of their lives and that they have a part to play.
We need to do more than teach biblical facts (although facts about the Bible and Bible skills are important). We need to teach what God communicates through His Word in ways that will shape and form a child’s heart and imagination. We need to communicate in a way that helps kids see that the “good life” is not about money, power, or status, but it is about being in a right relationship with God. In order to teach this, however, leaders need to be convinced of this truth. We will be unable to draw kids into the greatest story if we are not drawn into it ourselves.
As kids’ hearts and imaginations are formed in light of the reality of the gospel narrative, we will be participating in the work of fulfilling the Great Commission by making them disciples of the good news. We need to help children see the glories of Jesus and that knowing Him is better than any make-believe story out there, which are mere shadows of the ultimate story—the gospel.