A Biblical Vision for Children’s Ministry

By Danielle Whitley

Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to me." Here's how your kids ministry can create opportunities for the next generation of children—and their families— respond to the gospel.

Laying the Mission and Vision

Before delving into the how-tos and what-tos of children’s ministry, it is important to first lay the proper perspective for the ministry. We must ask ourselves why we are doing this in the first place! Once we catch on to the vision and importance of children’s ministry, that passion and vision will translate into taking the right steps and prioritizing the development of a healthy ministry for the children in your church.

So, why is children’s ministry important?

Receiving the Kingdom

Let’s explore what Jesus said about this topic on more than one occasion. We’ll start with Mark 10:13-16. Now, we’ve likely all heard this story about the people who brought the little children to Jesus, but I want you to really listen to what it says and see if we can delve deeper into what’s happening here:

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them.

So, what do we see here? Well, the disciples rebuked those who brought the little children to Jesus. “What are you doing? Jesus is busy! No time for children!” Now, how do we still see this mindset today? Well, have you ever heard the expression, “They’re just children”? Or how about, “We don’t have time for this. We have important, adult business to attend to.” Or perhaps at times, the children may receive fewer resources, as well as less of our staff, time, and energy overall. It might be that our kids get the least desirable ministry space, the volunteers we have no other place for, and so forth.

Blessed are the Children

Now, let’s look at Jesus’ response and attitude toward the children. Jesus was indignant with His disciples for trying to send them away. In fact, He was angry. Jesus took time for the children. He could have been doing an array of other things, but Jesus spent time ministering to the children. The Bible says, “After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). The disciples saw the kids as a distraction from the main thing; however, Jesus saw the kids as the main thing.

Further, Jesus used the children as an example for the adults to emulate. So Jesus’ response shows that not only were the little children valuable to Him and permitted to come near Him for ministry and blessings, but He even went a step further in asserting that the adults who believed themselves more worthy of Jesus’ time and attention actually needed to become more like the little children if they wanted to enter the kingdom of heaven.

With Faith Like a Child

Matthew 18:1-5 says,

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a small child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me.

We see Jesus bringing up the faith, lowliness, and humility of a child. How might we see some examples of these characteristics in children? Well, children are typically very trusting, right? I’m sure many of you can relate to having a small child jump into your arms from a high ledge. As a parent, I love seeing my kids jump fearlessly into their daddy’s arms. In fact, they never seem to question if he’ll catch them or not. This is an example of childlike faith.

If that child thought like an adult and were told to jump to you, what would he or she do? Well, when you’re older and wiser, you may start to estimate the distance, as well as the adult’s strength level or ability to catch you. Doubts may start to arise, and you may not take the jump. Or perhaps it’s not even the doubt issue, but rather the feeling that you do not really want or need the help. We say to ourselves, “I want to catch myself. I can do this on my own. I’ve got this.” Well, what does it mean to change and become like little children? This shift includes an attitude change in thinking of yourself as less, acknowledging your dependence on Him, and admitting you need help.

Forming the Foundation

Apart from Christ, I can do nothing, as John 15:5 tells us. This reflects a mindset of humbling oneself and thinking of oneself as lowly. To humble oneself like a child in salvation, a person must acknowledge that he or she cannot receive salvation on one’s own and that it is through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial work—not the strength, merits, or efforts of oneself. Oftentimes, we see this mindset come easier to children, which leads to our next point regarding the receptivity and openness of children to the things of God.

I’d like to read to you some statistics from George Barna.¹ Forty-three percent of individuals accept Jesus Christ as their Savior before age 13. Sixty-four percent of individuals make their commitment to Christ before age 18. Seventy-seven percent of all individuals who accept Jesus do so before the age of 21. Now, listen to this one. By the time a child is nine years old, his or her basic moral foundation has already been formed. And by age 13, a person has formed the majority of his or her basic beliefs about God.

Being Rooted in Christ’s Truth

At nine years old, kids are already starting to take stances and beliefs on basic concepts, such as the existence of God. Further, can this God be trusted? Is He loving? Though they might not fully understand, kids are already forming a framework for a worldview they will continue to build upon for the rest of their lives. Roots are being laid in these important issues—whether they realize it or not!—and it will impact the adults they will one day become, including their beliefs about God, the afterlife, and the Christian worldview.

People of all ages are able to come to faith in Christ, and this point is important and clear. However, the church should recognize the extreme potential and openness of children to the gospel and the things of God. As a result, we should prioritize reaching people at such a critical age. When we wait to lay that foundation of truth for when people are teenagers or adults, we miss the most influential years of their lives, and many will consequently deal with years of the enemy’s deception and of hardheartedness toward the things of God. Instead of trying to reach people after their worldview and basic beliefs have been formed, we should strategically try to reach them as they are forming these important beliefs, while they are still moldable and open to the things of God. That is why an important goal in children’s ministry is to help lay a solid foundation of truth in the hearts and minds of our kids that is rooted in the Word of God and in the truths of Scripture.

So, Why Children’s Ministry?

1. Functions as a high priority for potential members

Often, when families look for a church home, they consider this specific area of ministry as a means of helping disciple their children. You could have the most powerful worship, really dynamic and effective preaching, and a biblically strong service; however, if you don’t have a place for a family’s child, this lack could be a determining factor as to whether or not a family will enter your doors and stay for the worship service.

2. Provides an open door for unchurched families

For many families who are not in church at all, their kids will lead their way into the church. Some parents return to church, even after not attending for years, once they have a new child of their own because they feel it is important for their child’s upbringing. So, God can use your children’s ministry to bring families in or back to the church.

3. Serves as a witness to non-believing kids

Many of these children will come to church with their friends or attend your church’s outreach events. In fact, I know someone who was brought to church by a friend, became a believer, and is now in full-time ministry! Non-believing children may be brought into church and discipled, even if they do not have Christian parents discipling them at home. They can then be a witness to the rest of their family, all to the glory of God!

Changing Lives for Christ

I hope you can see the huge impact children’s ministry has on kids and their family life, as well as how important it is to have a strong children’s ministry for the kids and families in your community. Not only are children at an age where they’re forming their worldview and may be more receptive to the Word of God, but it’s an extremely influential time in a person’s life. God can use children to impact an entire family!

May we remember the biblical basis of children’s ministry, the value and importance Jesus gave to it, and the way He valued the children and even used them as an example of what it means to come to Christ! May we welcome them in Jesus’ name, and by doing so, welcome Him. How important it is to strategically invest in children’s ministry and seek to lay a solid foundation of truth in the hearts and minds of our kids.

¹ Barna’s Annual Review of Significant Religious Findings Offers Encouragement and Challenges

Published March 27, 2024

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Danielle Whitley

Danielle Whitley has had a lifelong passion for ministry. Growing up as a missionary kid, her passion for discipling children was stirred in her teenage years as she led the children’s ministry at her father’s church. As Danielle began writing her own children’s curriculum and outreach strategies, she saw the life-changing impact of gospel-centered kid’s teaching. After serving as the children's director at a multi-site church where she helped start the children's ministry at different campuses, God called Danielle and her family to begin a nonprofit called "Solid Foundation Kids" to train, equip and advise churches and church plants in how to lay a solid foundation for their kid's ministry.