Weddings have drastically changed this summer. Large, elaborate gatherings have been, in most cases, reduced to the basics: a pastor, bride and groom, small wedding party, close family, and maybe a simple reception. Not what many couples had dreamed of but, when all is said and done, the marriage takes place. The main goal is accomplished.
This illustration can help us reorient ourselves in regards to children’s and youth ministries this coming year. Many churches have labored long and hard to build programs, activities, and other events that serve children and youth. But sometimes we inadvertently put too much planning and effort into the “bells and whistles,” while regulating the main thing to the outskirts, namely, the comprehensive discipleship of children and youth. By “comprehensive,” we mean discipleship that is deeply rooted in Christian instruction and practice—doctrinal and relational in nature.
That is why, in a strange way, the recent COVID-19 disruptions provide us with new opportunities to focus on the basics, asking questions such as…What kind of programs truly promote and fuel the comprehensive discipleship of children and youth? Are there any programs that tend to be unnecessary “bells and whistles” (as fun as they might be)? With limited resources and/or drastically changed circumstances, what can we do to make sure we are serving our students and parents?
A Place to Start
In his book, Zealous: 7 Commitments for the Discipleship of the Next Generation, David Michael lays out seven commitments that provide a vision and framework for the comprehensive discipleship of children and youth. These commitments provide a wonderful guide for setting a course for the year ahead, or as a type of sieve for evaluating your current programs.
This coming year, there is no “one size fits all” regarding programming and resources for churches and homes. Some churches will be offering in-person classes. Will there be additional midweek programs, or not? Some will have their teachers record lesson presentations for viewing in the home. Some churches will come up with other creative solutions. But, when all is said and done, committing to the essentials is what is most important. Let’s refocus our efforts this year on the comprehensive discipleship of our children and youth.