Are We Training or Entertaining Our Children?

Regardless of what people might say, there’s a big difference in training versus entertaining…and it has nothing to do with fun. 

Often a conversation about ministry to children includes comments like the following:

  • “We just want it to be fun for the kids.”
  • “It’s so much easier to relate when we can just do the fun stories.”
  • “Children can’t take in too much information; it just takes the fun out of it.”

On the other hand, the conversation rarely includes the following:

  • “We just want to be sure our children know and follow Jesus.”
  • “It’s so much better for them to take hold of their faith now than waiting until it’s too late.”
  • “Children can process so much more that we give them credit for, and they will be stronger followers of Jesus as a result.”

When the focus of children’s ministry is on “relevant fun,” the truth of God’s Word becomes an add on. From my experience, this isn’t done intentionally. Almost everyone I know who uses “fun” frequently in relation to children’s ministry care very deeply about children knowing and growing in Christ. The reality, though, is that there can only be one primary focus and the rest is supporting materials. Though the intention is good, the result is a consistent series of entertaining experiences.

When the focus of children’s ministry is “gospel-centered growth,” the truth of God’s Word becomes primary and foundational. Again from experience, some have done a much better job than others at supporting this focus with engaging activities. However, children have the most incredible way of creating their own fun and application to tough lessons. It seems to be part of their God-given resilience and wonder. Putting biblical growth as primary produces a resulting series of training experiences for children.

But, it’s always important to build our opinions and decisions firmly on Scripture itself.

So, I did a bit of an experiment. (You’re welcome to try yourself, if you like!) I did a search of the English Standard Version online at www.esvbible.org. Here’s what I found:

 

Search Word: “Relevant”

NO RESULTS COULD BE FOUND

 

Search Word: “Fun”

1 RESULT:

2 Timothy 1:6

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

*Ok, well, “fan” is apparently close to “fun.”

 

Search Word: “Train”

Proverbs 22:6 

Train up a child in the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it.

1 Timothy 4:7

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;

Titus 2:4

and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,

*Yes, I excluded the “train” that had to do with the train of the robe filling the temple.

 

Search Word: “Training”

1 Timothy 4:8

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Titus 2:12

training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

We could go further with “teach,” “teaching,” and more; but there’s no need to belabor the point.

God’s heart for His children is that they be trained in godliness through a consistent teaching of His revealed Word. (tweet this)

Does this mean that teaching and training aren’t fun? Is there no need to be relevant? By no means! But those are part of the supporting team to the lead player – the Word of God. If children don’t understand at first, they have a tendency of letting us know! Then we rephrase, do another activity, and keep coming back to the truth. We “sharpen” our children by our diligence.

If fun activities don’t further the teaching, they are simply distractions. If we’re relevant with no Scriptural support, then we’re just adopting cultural norms. If we’re focused on God’s Word taking the spotlight, we leave room for the Spirit to convict, guide, and apply what God has said.

Most of the time, we push for entertainment for our sake as opposed to the children. Because honestly, the children may have an easier time understanding the Scriptures that we do. Why? Because we have never been trained in them.

Let’s not let that be a legacy that we continue to pass on.

Be strong and courageous, parents and ministry workers. Let every conversation, every Sunday morning lesson, every children’s sermon be an opportunity for your own personal growth in Christ. May each experience be another way of putting Jesus Christ and Scriptures in the spotlight before our children.

May we be faithful in going deeper with our children than we thought possible because God has commanded it, our children need it, and our Lord is worthy.

Comments
One Response to “Are We Training or Entertaining Our Children?”
  1. After 7 years in youth ministry, I couldn’t agree more! I was constantly surprised at the amount of parents that knew little of the training that was taking place, but were constantly kept up to pace by their kids on how fun it was. If the fun-ness factor dropped, I got an e-mail. Inevitably there is an element of contextualization that takes place, however, few youth ministries or children’s ministries will be able to compete with entertainment at large. It is a futile effort to try to out-entertain the world. Thanks for your clarity on this topic.

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