Don't Leave Them Out

I made a request to God several years ago. I asked him to allow me to do ministry with my family. I never wanted to do ministry apart from them because I knew God had specifically given me the privilege and opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. While the work isn’t always that glamorous and my customers can be quite picky, demanding, and opinionated, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Even when I think I need to be doing something else, it never works out. I spend most days preparing meals, shopping for meals, doing laundry, cleaning up messes, monitoring homeschool work, breaking up arguments, and mustering up some energy to be present when my husband comes in from work. Though to many none of this sounds something to aspire to do, I have over the years grown accustomed to my unscheduled days. And over the past couple of years, I have enjoyed lots and lots of moments with my children now that they are homeschooled.

My highest calling is to care for my family. I am my husband’s help-mate and my children’s caretaker. However, I know that God still has plans for me and work for me to do both inside and outside of my home. It is at this intersection that I asked God to allow me to do ministry with my family.

I know the number of days with my children are short and I want to do everything I can to not only speak about Jesus, the Gospel, and serving, but I also want to show them what it looks like. I don’t want them to know that I (or my husband) go out and do a bunch of service projects, write checks, or attend events. I want them to be involved as well. Why? I fear that if I don’t expose them at a young age to loving and serving others, they won’t discover the need to love and serve others for themselves until they are much older. If that happens, they could waste years and miss out on participating in Kingdom work now.

We look for ministries and opportunities that allow us to serve together. We also like to expose
them to things that some might say children aren’t quite ready for or interested in. For instance, this past weekend we planned a family trip which included attending a Hillsong Worship event one night and a tenth-anniversary celebration (black-tie) event another night for a ministry we are passionate about. What I love about exposing our children to these things is they get to see the big “C” church in action.

The Hillsong Worship event brought together people from different churches and denominations to gather together for two and a half hours of praise and worship (not a concert or performance). We also had the privilege of hearing from some of the band members about how they gather their songs from people across their church, the sacrifices involved being on the road and doing ministry, their hearts to help people engage through song and their genuine love for one another. Most children aren’t listening to worship music let alone attending worship events.
I also love that my children got to get dressed up and attend a sit-down event (with fancy place settings and multiple pieces of silverware on the table). Not only did they get to practice using nice manners, for two and half hours they (along with some family friend’s children) sat quietly listening to every speaker and worship song during the event. They heard the incredible stories of how this particular ministry helps the poor and needy, as well as why it is important for every Christian to do so. They heard and saw the same things that get us fired up and excited about partnering with this organization instead of us just telling them about it, or as is sometimes the case, not mentioning it to them at all. No one ever told us we couldn’t bring them to the event and that’s why I love this organization as well. They are like family.
We’ve always been the family who has brought our children into “big church.” Honestly, I dislike it when people use that term with children. Children are allowed into God’s house always. It’s our job to train them to sit there quietly (even if they fall asleep). They may seem like they are getting nothing out of the service, but they are joining in during worship and hearing the word of God being taught. If Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14), then we should let children have their place in the Kingdom. Jesus loved and valued children enough to say, “Listen, don’t stop them from coming to me. They have just as much right to come to me as anyone.”

It’s amazing to me that we give our children so many things that may harm them at young ages, but we don’t always give them the things that could help them. Exposing them to Kingdom work and participation with the Church are things that will increase their understanding of Jesus and what is expected of Christ followers. These things will help them develop, or deepen, their relationship with Jesus.

It is no wonder that children often fall away from church when they leave for college. They are vested, perhaps, at a superficial or social level with the church but have missed out on what it means to be a participant in Kingdom work. Encouraging and enabling children to do ministry work or be exposed to the work of ministries is critical to helping children deepen their spiritual roots so that when the world tries to come at them, they know already what it means to be a follower of Christ because they’ve served alongside people who are doing the work, too.

If children are exposed today to adult-things (cell phones at young ages, computer access, television access, violent tv shows, movies, and video games, etc.) and are forced to undergo lock-down drills in schools so they can hide from the “bad people,” we must also include them in adult spiritual things. We can’t leave them to fight the physical without arming them with the full arsenal of the spiritual. It won’t work any longer.

Churches, include them and allow them (and parents) to feel welcome during worship services. They need to hear the full Gospel and complete Bible teaching.

Parents, include your children in ministry. Allow them to make hospital visits with you, attend prayer meetings, participate in service projects, lead family devotionals and Bible teaching from time to time.

Children, show the world that you are an image bearer of Christ by your behavior.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). If we are asking the Lord to send workers into the fields (Matthew 9:38), he’s going to respond. Maybe, just maybe, some of these workers are going to include children. Let’s be sure to not leave them on the sidelines when God has said to put them in the game.

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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