Elementary kids are part of a unique generation who are the first to be born into a social media and technologically connected world, with screens and electronic devices available from birth.
They are part of what is known as Generation Z, which includes kids born between 1994 and 2012.
Generation Z kids are more likely than any other generation to claim no religious identity and to not regularly attend a church. They are known as the “nones”, which simply means they are religiously unaffiliated.
They are also more biblically and spiritually illiterate than any other generation. These kids are curious about life and its meaning, as they seek for truth and belonging.
Building a Strong Spiritual Foundation
The best way we can help this generation of kids and prepare them for their future is by giving them a strong spiritual foundation, which they can build their lives upon.
In children’s ministry, our main goal is not just to teach kids a list of specific things and get them to know information, but to change their lives by helping them know, love, and follow Jesus.
As you’re teaching, keep in mind the ultimate goal is connecting kids to Christ and His saving grace. But how do we know if our children’s ministry is effective and if kids are growing in discipleship and building a solid foundation and understanding of faith?
Faith Formation Matters
Discipleship is faith formation, and we can start discipleship with even the youngest kids in our ministries.
There are basic principles, concepts, and Scriptural knowledge kids needs to understand to help ensure your children’s ministry is teaching kids the most important things for a strong faith.
When we teach with the end in mind, we have a target and a goal for each lesson, and we are more intentional and strategic with our time with kids.
Here are suggestions for how you can help ensure you’re building the strong spiritual foundation the kids in your ministry need.
Benchmarks and Milestones for Parents
One goal of children’s ministry is to empower parents as spiritual leaders. Your children’s ministry can come alongside parents at multiple stages of parenting to equip them, celebrate with them, and encourage them.
This list of milestones and benchmarks can help guide you as you partner with parents.
This can be done in any way your church does child dedications.
Preschool Graduation/Welcome to Elementary Ministry
Whenever your church allows kids to be promoted to your elementary ministry, make sure you celebrate with parents. You can also do a back-to-school dedication or prayer time with families.
Salvation and Baptism
When a child makes a faith commitment and decides to get baptized, you can celebrate and include parents in the process.
Bible and Devotional Time at Home
Your children’s ministry can recommend or even give parents a family devotional or a children’s Bible. Look for ways to encourage them to spend time at home studying the Word together as a family.
Family Worship Environments
On a regular basis, your church can host an event or a worship experience to bring families together to learn the Bible, worship together, or even serve the community together through an outreach event.
When kids graduate from the children’s ministry into the youth ministry, this can be a time of celebration, prayer, and worship for kids and parents.
Theology for Kids
We might think of theology, which means the study of God, as something mostly for adults, but it’s essential to teach age-appropriate theology to kids, even kids as young as babies!
This is a (non-exhaustive) list of the theological concepts the kids in your children’s ministry need to know:
God created the world and everything in it. Genesis 1:1-31.
The Nature of God
Use God statements with students. Some examples are God is holy; God is good; and God is everywhere. Others include: God is loving; God is provider; and God is healer. God is all-powerful; God is forgiving; and God is eternal.
This book is a good resource.
*Note: This is one of the most difficult concepts for kids (and even adults) to grasp. Kids are concrete thinkers, and the Trinity is an abstract concept.
It’s helpful to use object lessons and illustrations when teaching the Triune God. Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 2:18; John 1:1; Hebrews 9:14; Matthew 28:19.
Our Identity in God/Made in His Image
God created humans in His image and likeness. Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 139:13-14.
Sin, Total Depravity, and The Fall
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, sin entered the world. We are all born with a sinful nature, and we cannot save ourselves. Genesis 3: 1-24; Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12; and Romans 6:23.
The Bible Is God’s Word
The Bible is inspired by God and is His truth, promises, and instructions for us. Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus was fully God and fully human. He was born to Mary, a virgin. Luke 2:1-40.
Jesus was tempted, but He never sinned. Jesus is perfect. Mark 4.
The Crucifixion and Resurrection
Jesus was innocent, but He was killed for our sins, died on the cross, and put in the tomb. And then he rose from the dead. Luke 22, 23, 24.
Redemption and Salvation
We can be forgiven and saved from our sins through the sacrifice and forgiveness of Jesus. John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:13-14.
Eternity in Heaven or Separation from God
Those who trust in Jesus for salvation will be with God in heaven for eternity, and those who do not will be separated from God forever. Revelation 20:15; John 14:2-3; Matthew 10:28; John 3:16-17.
Restoration/The Return of Jesus
In the future, believers will be restored to God and sin will be no more. Jesus will return, and God will make a new heaven and a new Earth. Revelation 21:3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58; Revelation 19:11-16.
The goal of teaching the Bible is not for kids to memorize every detail of the Bible or to be able to regurgitate information.
Rather, the goal is for them to understand the overall story of redemption and how every part of the Bible connects to the Gospel.
Kids need to understand that the Bible is a story—the true story of the only true hero. For more encouragement to help awaken and direct the wonder kids are already filled with, check out How to Smuggle the Gospel through the Imagination to the Heart.
This list of stories from the Bible is not exhaustive by any means, but it is a helpful guide of important stories to make sure kids know. Repetition is key for kids in learning and understanding, so these are all stories or concepts worth repeating in your children’s ministry.
Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
Once kids have an understanding of who God is, it’s important to give them tools and an understanding of how to have a deeper relationship with Him and become more like Him.
Before kids graduate from your children’s ministry, they need to know and understand:
Ministry and Serving God
It’s important to teach kids not only who God is, but how they can be used by Him and make a difference for Him. It’s important to teach them how to be compassionate.
Kids don’t have to wait until they grow up before they serve God and share His love with others; they can serve Him right now! Kids need to know and understand:
Helping Kids Transition to Youth Ministry
The best way to help kids make a successful transition to youth ministry is by working together with the youth ministry and including the youth ministry leaders in your ministry to preteens while they are still part of your children’s ministry.
Take time to learn about the youth services and include elements in parts of the children’s ministry services for kids who are getting close to the transition.
You can incorporate some of the worship songs, games, teaching style, or small group elements from the youth ministry.
Invite the youth ministry leaders to meet with your preteens and start building relationships with them before they transition to youth ministry.
Teaching Generation Z
Although Generation Z is the most technologically connected and advanced generation while being religiously apathetic, they are also driven, diverse, curious, and creative.
They are full of wonder, excitement, and hope. Generation Z has incredible potential to actually change the world.
It’s our job to not only teach them information, but to model the love of God for them and to help them understand why it’s so important to believe in God. It’s also important in helping us help them hear their callings!
We can create environments in which they can personally connect with God and build authentic relationships with others. Our teaching doesn’t have to be flashy or impressive, but it does have to be intentional, authentic, and purposeful.
We only have a short amount of time to influence and pour into these kids and ingrain God’s love and truth in their hearts, so let’s be ready to make the most of it.
By using this guide and making a plan to include each of these concepts in your ministry regularly, you can be intentional and make the most of the time you have with the kids in your children’s ministry.
And check out these free lessons to use with your students, too!
 Meet Generation Z, James Emery White