As we work to reach this generation, the next generation, our neighbors, our kids—we need each other, but mostly we need Jesus. We have got to turn to Jesus every day. And we’re all in children’s ministry because we believe that we have a unique opportunity to impact the faith formation of kids.

God has placed us in this time right here and right now for a reason. And I think we need to be asking what God wants us to do and what He’s calling us to.

So, most of us have likely heard the statistics about the chances of a person starting a relationship with Jesus. It’s much more likely for those under the age of 13 than it is for those older.

We understand how it important it is to pour into kids when they’re young. But we’ve also seen the new stats in the last few years that are saying that 50% (and up to 80%—depending on the source) of our kids are leaving faith after high school.

One thing I know is that this is not a surprise to God—none of this is a surprise to God. And we have been placed in this moment. When we rely on Him, He will give us what we need—wisdom, endurance, and direction.

So, how can we be more effective in forming the faith of kids as we help them build a faith that lasts?

Faith Formation Defined

We are all being formed by something. We are formed by our culture, our time, you name it. In Invitation to A Journey, Dr. Robert Mulholland Jr. says, “Everyone is in a process of spiritual formation. We are being shaped into either the wholeness of having the image of Christ or a horribly destructive caricature of that image—destructive not only to ourselves, but also to others, for we inflict our brokenness upon them.”

It’s so important that we are being formed to be more like Jesus and not our culture.

Ruth Haley Barton defines spiritual formation as “the process by which Christ is formed in us for the glory of God, for the abundance of our own lives and for the sake of others.”

We are all being formed by something.

Faith is not something that kids put on when they come to church on Sunday and then take off when they go home or go to school. We want whatever faith they have to sink down deep into their souls and be something they carry with them everywhere they go.

Teaching Kids and Learning from Kids

In serving kids, our faith and our volunteers’ faith grow. We need to be equipped because we cannot give away what we do not possess. But kids will also teach us. There are so many things we can learn from them—wonder and awe and imagination to name a few.

Faith formation and discipleship happen in community, and we are better for it.

Keeping the Bible a Priority in Faith Formation

As we lean in, teach, and learn from kids, we need to keep the Bible a priority.

Some ideas for doing this are to give children their own Bibles and use them at church. At my church, we give Bibles to first graders every fall in the weekend worship services. Sometimes we’ll include handouts on how to read the Bible or favorite Bible verses to encourage kids to learn how to navigate Scripture. And what I love about this is that it highlights the importance of Scripture.

During this time, I take a few minutes to say a blessing over those kids and invite the congregation to do the same. And then we invite parents to teach kids about navigating their Bibles.

Reading the Bible with Kids and Engaging Them in Scripture

Diving into Scripture with kids helps them learn how to read it on their own. This is great to do with kid-friendly options such as the Action Bible. It’s really important to take time to find age-appropriate Bibles for the kids in our ministries.

We also have to keep it fresh and exciting as we teach. A few weeks ago in our Wonder Ink curriculum, the teacher was telling the Bible story, and our kids got to draw parts of the story and then get up and share their pictures as the teacher told it. At the very end, the teacher called all the kids up to the front in each group, and they all took turns showing their drawings and reteaching the story to the rest of the kids.

They were so proud of their drawings and loved sharing. And I think what was great about it is our kids had to use their imaginations when they listened to that story. They had to use their minds, they had to use their motor skills, and they had to use their creativity.

As we lean in, teach, and learn from kids—we need to keep the Bible a priority.

We don’t want to just teach them information about the Bible. Information is so good, and we need to teach them information, but we don’t want to end there. We need what they are hearing in the Bible to sink down deep in their hearts. So, we need to help all types of learners experience the Bible in different ways with their hearts, their minds, and their imaginations.

When we do that, we help these stories come alive.

Scripture Memorization and Bible Application in Faith Formation

It’s super important for our kids to grow in spiritual disciplines like memorizing Scripture, but I think sometimes we make memorizing Scripture all about knowing it in our heads. It’s deeper than that—it’s allowing Scripture to permeate our hearts so that in all life’s circumstances, we can recall the things God has said. It’s not about the Sunday “reward” and we should be careful not to make it about such.

Because we want kids to know how to apply the Bible to their actual lives instead of simply knowing information about the Bible, it requires some understanding of the lives of the children entrusted to the care of the family. And so, we’ve got to take time to learn their joys and their sorrows, their peers and their parents, their play and their rest. Understanding what they know about Jesus is important.

We can’t help kids where they are if we don’t know where that is.

Equip Families for Faith Conversations

Keep in mind the distinction between conversation topics that simply promote good behavior versus topics that help families root their identity in Jesus. It is so easy to get caught up in and focus on behavior modification instead of helping our kids learn to find their identity in Jesus.

We need to live as Deuteronomy 6 instructs—all of us, together!

Here are some questions your families can use to engage kids in faith conversations.

  • When do you feel closest to God today?
  • What things caught your attention?
  • What was most exciting in your day?
  • What was a hard moment today?
  • Did you help anyone today? What was that like?

Take some time to ask God what He wants you to do and then trust Him to lead you.

Helping Kids Live Out Their Faith

Our kids are great at talking to their friends about Jesus. There is no junior Holy Spirit, and we can trust that the Holy Spirit is speaking to our kids.

So, as we close, I invite you to not rush back into busy, but just to take a few minutes to sit quietly with Jesus and ask Him if there’s anything He wants for you and the kids and your families in your ministries.

Ask Him what He would have you do to be effective in forming the faith of the kids of your church. He knows every kid and every family in your church. He knows what they need, and He knows how best to minister to them. And so, take some time to ask Him what He wants you to do and then trust Him to lead you.

Download What If We’re Failing Kids at Faith Formation? And How Not To

This faith formation guide shares our desire to invite kids, parents, and volunteers into a Gospel-centered journey of curiosity, belief, faith, and identity.