What would age-graded ministries look like if they were gospel-centered? I suggest the following:
- PRESCHOOL MINISTRIES: IDENTIFY – Preschool ministries deal with those who are obviously the lead developmentally advanced: infants and toddlers. Their role will primarily be helping children indentify the major characters and stories of the Bible, not the least of which will be Jesus and his work. Preschool ministry helps kids identify the pieces of the puzzle.
- ELEMENTARY MINISTRIES: UNDERSTAND – Ministries which revolve around children ages Kindergarten through grade school not only have the task of helping those children understand the Big Story of Redemption (e.g., Creation, Fall, Cross) but also how the bible stories fit together in the Big Story of Redemption. Elementary ministry helps kids understand how the puzzle pieces fit into the whole gospel picture.
- MIDDLE & HIGH SCHOOL MINISTRIES: MASTER – This is the last stage of age-graded ministry before presumably leaving for college. Thus, like a fully-trained soldier who can take apart and reassemble his rifle in the dark, you must by default be able to master how the gospel integrates to your life, how each story of the Bible reveals the glory of Jesus’ saving work and how you see the Story of Redemption working itself out in the every day. Middle and High School Ministry helps students master the puzzle whereby they can break it down on their own and reassemble the pieces into the gospel whole.
Each age-graded ministry is working toward one goal: gospel-centered young men and women. Young adults who leave church with big hearts for Jesus! Young adults who, while in college, will seek out a gospel-centered church to plug into and help others follow Jesus. As a parent, your dreams may very well be realized. As an age-graded ministry staff, there can be nothing more rewarding…
Think about this: the moralistic approach to church isn’t new for kids. I venture they are probably hearing the same things (e.g, obey your parents, don’t tell a lie, work hard) from their parents, public school teachers, and Saturday morning cartoons. Even the most spiritually-hardened parent would likely instruct his child to be moral. So why not spend Sunday mornings giving kids what they will not hear from their teacher, Dora the Explorer or maybe even their parent? They can get good advice practically anywhere. Why not give them the gospel? Give them what they may not get anywhere.
Here’s what I believe. I believe shifting to a gospel-centered approach will not only bless the kids but it will bless those who work with those kids. Each week you display the glory of the gospel you help your entire team to have their own hearts stirred to worship Jesus! I could see how it would cause your volunteers to never want to miss Sundays again because they are getting encouraged, instructed and challenged by the gospel! It would also bless parents who may be bringing their kids to get morality-instruction (i.e., good advice). However, in reality, they will be getting the good news – a good news they’ll bring home each week to those very parents! How incredibly missional does that feel? Exciting to say the least!
Are you morality-based or gospel-centered? It’s a question you must ask honestly. Look at the curriculum you teach, the songs you sing, the banners you hang. Question: how much of what you teach, sing and display on Sunday could be taken over by someone from another faith? Could a Muslim step right in and pick up where you left off on nine Sundays out of ten? What about a cult? Could a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness use your curriculum without batting an eye because it is so overly moralistic that it has basically squeezed out the gospel? Don’t take the morality-based road. It’s easier for a reason. As sinners, we like the Law. It appeals to our desire to feel in control. It’s more “practical”, right? It is also less difficult to teach. It’s easier to put lessons together when we focus only on “how to’s” for morality. But the real question is, is it better?
What does shifting to gospel-centeredness mean? A different curriculum or writing your own? I don’t know. Some may choose to edit their current curriculum, others will think it to be too much work and buy different curriculum, and still others will write their own. Whatever you choose, choose to be gospel-centered. For the love of the gospel and the hearts of those you wish to impact for the gospel!