Turning Children into Disciples

Dear New Life in Christ Family,

At New Life in Christ Church we have a strategy for helping make children into disciples of Christ.

There no greater joy that a Christian parent has than seeing their children receive and follow Christ.  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4).  In baptism God writes his name on our children, claiming each one as his loved and prized possession.  As a parent there is no greater hope that I have than my children would know God’s love and walk in his love.

When a child is baptized, they are also brought into the church, where God has written his name on a whole congregation of loved ones.  While the home is the primary place where children should learn how to follow Christ, it cannot be the only place.  The community of the church is critical as we band together to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  The church, not isolated individuals or families, makes disciples.  And remember, the church is not a hierarchical group of “experts”, but all Christians who make up a local congregation (Romans 12:5).  Each of us has a role to play in discipling the nations.

The strategy of discipleship for children requires three components as shown in the chart here:

Biblical content is our message.  Without the gospel of Christ we walk without aim or purpose (1 Corinthians 15:17).  The things we learn have to be put into practice in our daily living through life application (Matthew 7:21-23).  Reading through the gospel of Matthew, for example, shows how Jesus expected his disciples to immediately practice what they had learned from him.  Finally, godly examples and mentors walk with us and point us in the direction we should go (Hebrews 13:7).  While parents are preeminent here, the reinforcement of others is helpful, others see strengths and weaknesses that parents do not see, and sometimes children do not have the parental models they need.  We are all limited and we all need help.

Our fall ministries for children will begin over the next few weeks.  How do these ministries relate to the creation of disciples?  Let me mention a few of our disciple-making ministries and how they fulfill this vision.

Sunday School:  Every Sunday at 9 AM, highly motivated and qualified teachers meet together with children to teach solid biblical content in a mentally stimulating way.  Sunday school tends to emphasize great biblical content and the godly examples for the children to learn what we believe and what faith looks like.  A child who attends our Sunday school program (2 years old through 12th grade) will gain a comprehensive view of the Christian faith, and become thoroughly familiar with Biblical stories and the major beliefs of the faith.  This understanding will form a framework for them that they will interpret the world through for the rest of their lives.

Boys Brigade and Pioneer Girls:  Every Wednesday, Pioneer Girls (PG is for 4 year olds-6th graders) meets at 4 PM and Christian Service (Boys) Brigade (CSB is for 4 year olds-12th grade) meets at 7 PM.  In PG and CSB we team mentor adults up with children to learn life application of biblical principles.  Both of these ministries give children the chance work with adults through life skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives, whether it is cooking, sewing, building, or breaking.  As they learn these skills, the children receive achievement badges that give them a great sense of accomplishment. One other great part of these ministries is that they connect children and parents together for learning skills through the week.  From personal experience, I can say that CSB has given me opportunities to be involved with the life of my oldest son I never would have had if it didn’t exist. These groups start on September 12.  You can register this Sunday.

Youth Group: Our youth discipleship groups (7th-8th grade and 9th-12th grades) meet Sunday nights at 7:00 PM.  As a church, we emphasize that these are “discipleship groups” – chances for our youth to work out their faith in practical ways.  Our youth groups are fun and meaningful.  A youth council organizes many of the events on Sunday nights and through the week.  They make youth group a great time for everyone.  Additionally, we have outstanding youth leaders who really focus the youth on biblical truth, love on them through a number of ways, and lead service events to our community.  When I look at our youth, I can’t help but be encouraged by the level of service and involvement they show in the church and the community.  The Lord is raising up a team of servants that genuinely glorify his name.  Youth Group starts September 9th.

There are other ministries that help disciple our children and youth, but these ones are core to what we are and they are available to everyone.  Other ministries play a part as well: Christ Covenant School plays a major part in the education of some families; our music ministry is a training children and youth in worship and gives them a chance to serve; our baseball ministry gives an opportunity to include Christ-centered activity in the lives of children.  I am listing these ones though because they are so core to the way we make our children into disciples of Jesus Christ.

You can see on this second diagram how these things work together.  While each of these ministries has all three components, the diagram shows which direction the emphasis is slanted toward.  Please don’t misunderstand.  We cannot “engineer” a disciple.  Disciples are built by faith.  Each child must come to personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Each child must set his or her heart to follow Christ in every part of life.  Parents and teachers both must call our children to faith in Jesus Christ.  As we see each of our covenant children put their faith in Jesus Christ, we pray that they will be disciples who will influence generations to come with the great gospel of Christ.