By Michael C. Mack
I woke up one chilly, December morning, the excitement of Christmas, still several days away, already percolating in my 8-year-old brain like the coffee brewing in the kitchen. It was still dark outside, but the kitchen light was on. In my footy pajamas, I wandered inconspicuously toward it. As I peered around the corner, first I saw the wall clock; it was only 4:30 a.m. Then I saw my mom, sitting at the kitchen table, head down, a small journal sitting in front of her. She was silently praying.
That memory is still etched on my mind. Over the years I often caught my mom in her early-morning prayer ritual.
Mom ran a drapery-making business out of our basement. Every weekday, several other women came to our house to work with her. It was a demanding, tiring job, yet every morning Mom woke up early to do some housecleaning, make lunches, often start dinner in a Crock-Pot, and do bookkeeping for her business, but first, always first, she spent time with God.
My mom wasn’t perfect, but she was an example for me and many others of someone who had an abiding connection with God. Her daily prayers undoubtedly included me and my three siblings, and those prayers—and the way she modeled spending time with God—has had a profound effect on me. I believe it is the foundational reason I am who I am today.
Our December issue focuses on ministry to children. We naturally think of kids at Christmastime, of course, but more importantly, we wanted to focus this issue on what publisher Jerry Harris calls the “sacred responsibility” of church leaders and parents to give children the surpassing gift of knowing Jesus.
We asked experts in children’s ministry in various settings to write on what we might call the state of children’s ministry in our churches today. Though the articles come from various contexts, I see at least five common threads:
• the vitality of having a clear vision for children’s ministry that guides everything else
• the importance of modern, kid-friendly, secure children’s facilities
• the priority of using Bible-centered teaching materials, although churches use a wide variety of curricula, often adapting them, and many write their own
• the significance of having the right leaders, including volunteers and/or staff, and a focus on multiplying leadership for the future
• an emphasis on the involvement of parents/families in discipling and training children
Let’s dive into that last one a bit more.
Several writers discussed the need, even urgent need, to equip and empower parents to engage in their role as the faith leaders in their families.
I was especially fascinated by something Becky Drish wrote: “Parents sometimes fail to lead because they do not believe they have what it takes or do not think it is their responsibility.” I think that’s true. And I believe it implicates us as church leaders. It reminds me of the way Jim Petersen began his 1993 book, Lifestyle Discipleship: “Thirty years of discipleship programs, and we are not discipled.”
I’m overjoyed that many of the children’s ministries in our churches have undertaken, by necessity, the discipling and equipping of moms and dads so they can carry out their parenting roles. But it also points to the vital need in our churches to get back to the basics of our mission to make disciples. Disciples who make disciples, including their own kids.