This article was transcribed from portions of the Ministry Spark Webinar: Known, Loved, and Led: Helping Children Know Who They Were Created to Be with speaker Courtney Wilson. You can watch the full webinar here.

When we minister to young children, we may not always see the end of the story.

At the end of the day, what I can tell you is that I taught God’s Word. I testified to the good news of God’s grace. I taught the whole will of God.

I come from Iowa, but my parents were from small, farming communities in Iowa. And my dad had this big giant family with seven brothers and sisters. There are lots of people in my family. And every time we got together, there were people filling a small farmhouse.

There would come a moment in the night, when the patriarch of the family would suddenly slap their hands down on their thighs and say, “Well.” And the minute they say, “Well,” it’s what starts the Midwestern goodbye. And if you are from the Midwest, you know exactly what I’m talking about because it sets off this flurry of activity. Everyone stands, gathers dishes, and finishes conversations on the way to the door. Everyone is walking people out to the door and getting into cars. Then there’s another flood of hugs and goodbyes and well wishes.

And whoever is hosting that gathering comes all the way out onto the front porch as everyone else gets into their cars. They wave everyone off until the last set of taillights is gone.

It is truly a beautiful thing, and I would contend that it’s biblical.

Learning from Paul

One of my very favorite moments in history from the Bible is in Acts 20. It’s when the Apostle Paul is leaving the Ephesian elders. These are incredibly dear people to him. They knelt and they prayed, they embraced him, kissed him, and then walked Paul all the way out to the ship.

So, this is like the first recorded Midwestern goodbye. I’m pretty sure that’s what this all points to. And I would guess that in tears they sat on that dock, watched as that ship set sail, and waved until it was far out of sight.

The next chapter, Acts 21, begins with, “After we had torn ourselves away from them.” There was such precious relationship that they had to tear themselves away from Paul, and Paul had to tear himself away from them because of the relationship he had with those people.

That’s the kind of legacy I think we all want to leave, right? I want to leave that legacy because of what Paul says in his goodbye speech to the Ephesian elders.

Paul says this in verses 24 through 27 (Acts 21:24-27): I consider my life worth nothing to me. My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task. The Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Now, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I’m innocent of the blood of any of you, for I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.

A Legacy Worth Leaving

I usually can’t get through that without tearing up a little bit because it is what I want my life to be defined by. You see, I want people to know the Word, the whole will of God, and the good news of God’s grace. I want that to be true of the children I encounter as well as the adults.

That’s the legacy that I want to leave. And I’m pretty sure that resonates with you. I think this is the legacy that you want to live and that you want to leave in children’s ministry and in life.

Paul says, “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task. The Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

God has a mission for us. He calls us to testify to the good news of God’s grace and to proclaim the whole will of God to children. And that’s the finish line we strive toward.

My family is all runners. All of my kids have run at different levels. My second-born son has run at one of the highest levels that he can at this point in his life.

He ran at the World Cross Country Championships last year for team USA in Bathurst, Australia and they won a bronze medal. So cool!

There is a photo of him at the end of the race, where he is passed out right past the finish line. It is the ultimate I-have-run-the-race-and-crossed-the finish-line moment. It was 97 degrees that day. There was no shade on that course. He’s covered in mud. There were obstacles. They were spraying water on the mud to keep it muddy. There was sand he had to run through. They had to run up and down hills, through tires, and over hay bales.

Running the Race to Finish

When he got on the starting line, his aim was to finish the race. That’s what he wanted to do.

And in this picture of him passed out at the finish line, if you look behind him you can see a young man from Japan who is scooting to the finish line on his bottom. He wanted to finish the race, so he is bottom scooting to the finish line, and he did finish. He was so desperate to finish the race that this guy scooted through on his bottom.

So, what I would tell you is that, as you are running this race, some of you may feel like your arms up and you are triumphantly running the race. Some of you may feel like I just, I’m going to cross that finish line and pass out. And some of you might be bottom scooting through. But whatever your context, we should be that desperate to finish the race and the task that God has called us to.

I would challenge us that we need to begin with the end in mind. When we stand on the starting line, what’s in our heads is what’s at the finish.

Known, Loved, and Led

We want kids to know that they are known by God, loved by Jesus, and led by the Holy Spirit as children of God. So, when you pull up your lessons, when you look at the things that you’re teaching kids, are you thinking through God’s Word informing theology, informing identity, and forming beliefs, which is all forming behaviors?

But isn’t it sweet and precious when we can say our children have learned that what they know about the Bible is true? That what they know about God, the theology they formed about Him, is a solid and true and full robust theology of Him. And that the theology is informing their identity. They walk in confidence knowing that they have a God Who stands before them and behind them, that Who hedges them in on all sides. That they would be believers and that it would shape their beliefs and the way they see the world and that they would go out and behave completely differently.

The End of the Story

When we minister to young children, we may not always see the end of the story.

At the end of the day, what I can tell you is that I taught God’s Word. I testified to the good news of God’s grace. I taught the whole will of God.

God, I thank you that we know this truth, that we know that we are known by you, that we are loved by Jesus. That we are led by the Holy Spirit, and that we are children of God.

And you have given us this finish line—this mission that we are on, God. You have given us a mission to be people who testify to the good news of Your grace and proclaim Your whole will. That there would never be a doubt in our hearts and our minds and our souls, that we have done that with absolutely everything we are, God, that this is our finish line.

I pray that we would be people who run through the finish line triumphantly. That we would be people who teach children the truth of your Word, the history, the good news of Your Word. That we teach children who You are, the robust theology of who You are, God, that it would inform their identity, that they would walk throughout the world and say, “I am a child of God.” And that means something.

God, I pray that they would know what they believe in and that would drive their behavior. And that if we turn out a whole generation of world changers who turns out a whole generation of world changers, that sounds pretty amazing to me.

So, God, we are humbled by the ministry that you’ve called us to. We hold it in awe and wonder knowing that you have given us a great responsibility. And we ask with hands open that you would bless us in that work that we do and the efforts that we make to proclaim the whole will of God and testify to the good news of God’s grace. And thank You for this gift that You’ve given us. It’s in Your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Watch the Webinar

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Known, Loved, and Led: Helping Children Know Who They Were Created to Be