This article was transcribed from the Ministry Spark Webinar: The Importance of Sharing a Personal God in Children’s Ministry with speaker, Sam Luce. You can watch the full webinar here.
The fact that we have a God who is all powerful, omniscient, omnipresent, yet incredibly personal, is one of the things that makes Christianity so unique from every other religion in the world. We have a God who is a personal God—our God is fully God and fully man.
And because of that, we have this incredible story to tell other people because this story that has been told to us through His Word is so powerful, necessary, and life-giving.
I always loved reading when I was a kid. I still do. And what is so cool about books is that you get to be part of the story. The reason they’re so powerful is that they point beyond themselves. The purpose of a story is not just to entertain, but it’s to point beyond itself to a greater, more powerful truth than the story presents itself.
And that’s true of every story.
We Were Made for Story
G.K. Chesterton said this, “Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
The power of story doesn’t just say that, factually, these things exist, but they inspire us to realize that not only does this very big dangerous thing exist, but this very big dangerous thing can be beaten and destroyed for good.
Age of Science
We live in an age that is super obsessed with facts, figures, science, and getting the science right. But the problem with our scientific age is that we are often short on stories, and we see that in the way we lead.
We see it in how we communicate. We tend to want A + B = C (or tell me how to grow my ministry). And the problem is that’s not how things work. How things work is this: There’s a story that God is writing in your life. There’s a story that God’s writing in my life. And there’s a story that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His work.
And see, we have this desire for theological precision. And believe me, I believe in theological precision. I believe that we need to get it right. But here’s the thing: God could have revealed Himself to us through an owner’s manual of facts and figures.
But He didn’t do that. God revealed Himself to us in a story. In the beginning, God created. That is how He chose to introduce Himself to the world—through the power of story.
Power of Story
Two of the greatest 20th century storytellers both happened to be Christians, British, and friends. And they had much in common. They were Gerald Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
One of the things they differed on was the idea around the purpose of story. Tolkien’s idea was that story was made to reflect this idea of the Creator God—that we are sub creators.
And so, from this perspective, when you’re creating a story, what you’re doing is you’re speaking into existence a world that didn’t already exist. We see that through Lord of the Rings. He created this whole world that didn’t exist as an act of sub creation that reflected his Creator.
Lewis had a different take. He said that the purpose of our stories is not necessarily sub creation. He didn’t disagree with that, but he said there was something more powerful. Lewis said that stories were tools to smuggle truth past watchful dragons.
And this is what C.S. Lewis did. He took Mere Christianity—his idea of what Christianity was all about—and he smuggled it into the world through Narnia. Lewis used story to smuggle truth.
He realized that story is a powerful tool to help us understand something real and something more significant. He didn’t just give us systematic theology—he took systematic theology and wrote a story.
One of the most powerful stories, that we hear so often when it comes to kids’ ministry, is Deuteronomy 6.
It is one of the most significant passages of Scripture. If you ask a Jewish person what the most profound and prolific passage of Scripture is, they will invariably say Deuteronomy 6. It’s the Shema.
When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He pointed back to the Shema; He pointed them back to this passage.
Here’s what we have to realize: Deuteronomy 6 is this call to discipleship—a call for us to make disciples. And it answers a lot of questions.
Before we talk about who, what, where, when, why, how … what is the goal?
I think we must measure the success of our lives not by asking if our kids are serving God, but if our grandkids treasure Christ.
If your kids have heard the story of God’s redeeming love for them and were so transfixed by it that they believe this is the story by which every other story finds its meaning, they will invariably tell your grandkids that story. Then they’ll tell their grandkids.
How Stories Are Made
Beginning, Middle, and End
The most basic composition of every story is there’s a beginning, middle, and end. And we see that in Scripture.
In the beginning everything starts with God. Everything is created by God. Everything finds its source in God Himself.
In the middle, we see that because we broke the world after God created it, we marred it, God sent His perfect son to us to live a perfect life, to die in our place, rise again, ascend to the Father, and make intercession for us.
The end is that He’s coming back one day to make all things new.
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
You need to ask all those questions of a story to find out what’s going on. You have to ask good questions.
But the problem with how we disciple kids is that too often we don’t ask good questions. We don’t get to things like the personal nature of God because we’re so caught up in the function of our ministries. We miss questions like:
Why do we disciple kids? What do we say when we disciple our kids?
And these are the questions that your parents need answers to. This is what you need as a kids’ ministry leader … why you’re discipling kids. I need to know what to say because it’s important, because this story matters more than every other story.
A formational church understands that discipleship is both relational and communal. Faith formation happens in families, and it happens in churches. It’s important for kids to know what is true, but it’s equally important to know why that thing is true.
Back to Deuteronomy 6
So, the first thing we see in Deuteronomy 6 is this: How and where do we disciple kids?
Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV) says, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
So, this is explicitly talking about home.
The home has this formation power because of God’s design for homes and because kids are formed by their parents in ways that are explicit and ways that are implicit.
As parents, we’re telling them about God, but we’re also showing them about God. We’re intentionally, explicitly teaching our kids. But here’s my gentle admonition to you: specifically teach your kids what has always been taught, okay? Teach them the 10 Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles creed. Train them in godliness. Have them memorize passages of Scripture.
A Strong Compass
It’s so important to get your kids to internalize what’s true so that when they’re confronted with the world, they will have a strong compass. They’ll have a compass that will lead them and guide them into what God has for them.
What’s powerful about a compass is a compass is an orientation outside of yourself. It orients yourself to what’s true. It points continually to a north.
And as parents, we need to hand our kids truth. We need to give them a compass that continually points them to the unchanging reality of a God who loves them, because He loves them.
They don’t need a GPS that’s oriented around their current location that will constantly reroute them, but a compass that points them relentlessly to the God who loves them more than they can imagine.
Why do we disciple our kids?
And we see that answered in Deuteronomy 6:6 (NIV): “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.”.
You Cannot Give What You Do Not Own
See, you cannot give to your kids, your parents, or your volunteers what you do not own. The motivation for discipleship is that your heart is gripped by the grace of God in such a way that you cannot help but tell His story.
And if not, what you’ll do is religious activities, minus that personal relationship with God. Kids need to know what God is like. They need to know what we believe as Christians, and that you’re not a Christian because you say you are.
But those things are not what will grip your heart. Those are truths that point to the God who’s intensely personal and who, when you see Him as He is, will grip your heart in such a way that you cannot help but pass these truths on about what our God is like.
Kids are not going to remember how great your illustration is and how much you used flash paper. They’re going to remember who you were and how you made them feel.
Learning from Moses
In Deuteronomy 6:20-22 (NIV), Moses says this, “In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household.”
What Moses is saying is this: when your kids ask, “Why do you do what you do?” tell them a story. And not just any story—tell them the story of God’s redeeming love for them. Tell them that you were slaves in Egypt, but God rescued you by His powerful hand. Don’t just say, “because I said so.” Tell them that God rescued you.
Story Is the Gospel Way
Story is the gospel way. You see, story doesn’t impose itself on our life; it invites us into its life. The meaning of the commands of God is the gospel.
See, discipleship is not something that happens by accident. It’s something that happens on purpose. When the centrality of Christ’s last command is not our priority, what happens is we get apathy that transforms into apostasy.
When there is not warmth, when there is not a revelation of who God is, when there is not a relationship with God that is active and living, the result will be that those kids will walk away from God.
We have to be better storytellers of God’s redeeming love for kids, so that they will see the story of God’s love for them as something that is more compelling than every other love in this world.
Ideas from Tim Keller
Be Consistent in Behavior
The first idea from Tim Keller is that we must be consistent in our behavior.
So, you want your kids to treasure Christ? Be consistent in your behavior. This is modeling what it means to treasure Christ both at church and at home. Help parents understand that their kids see them everywhere they are.
Be the same person and be consistent in your behavior.
Be Wise About Reality
Number two, be wise about reality. Teach them to believe what’s true.
We live in a world that’s telling them competing ideas. So teach them to believe what’s true.
Warmly Personal on Your Faith
The third thing is to be warmly personal on your faith. Tell them the story of repentance and forgiveness. Your faith must be personal, but not private.
We must not only understand who we belong to, we must not only teach our kids what we they need to believe to true, we must also help our kids to know who they’re following. Because who they’re following is what they’re going to become like.
Who are parents becoming? Who are their kids becoming?
So, when your kids ask you, “Why do you do what you do? What do you believe?” Say this: “We were slaves in Egypt, but God rescued us. Say, “I was a slave and God rescued me.”
If you’ve never told your kids the story of how you came to faith, tell them your story because they need to know. How will they understand the personal nature of a redeeming God if you have not told them how He personally rescued you?
Tell them your story. And tell the kids in your kids’ ministry. Tell them what God saved you from and what He saved you for. Tell them a story about how God rescued you by His powerful hand. And tell them the personal reality of who God is and how He transforms today.
More from Sam Luce
- What Did Jesus Think About Kids and Why Does It Matter?
- Why Thanksgiving Is an Important Response to God’s Gifts
- How Can Leaders Cultivate Wonder in a World of Incessant Distraction?
- Parents as Primary Source of Discipleship in the Home
- Telling Your Children the Truth in a World of Sorrow and Pain
- I’m Still In: A Response to Leaders Leaving Their Faith
- How to Smuggle the Gospel through the Imagination to the Heart
- 5 Things Your Pastor Would Want You to Know about His Kids
- Why Kids Need to Know the Old Testament
- 4 Powerful Things Every Parent Needs to Hear from You
- How to Give Kids Faith They Grow Into, Not Out Of