That’s just keeping it real.
Altruism is a belief or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well being of others. It is a action taken on behalf on another at one's own expense. Altruism is called the greater good.
I believe that a church looking out for it’s own self-interest by investing heavily into ministry for children is better than a church having a weak and ineffective concern for the well being of children based on some sense that it’s the right thing to do.
Caring for and meeting the needs of children is the right thing to do, in and of itself. But it’s also a good investment by those who are doing it. Ministry to children doesn’t only serve the best interest of the children but also serves the self-interest of the church. So, a healthy self-interest is better than a flabby altruism.
The church must be clearer with its message. I’m firmly convinced of that. There is no substitute for apologetically preaching the Word, confidently proclaiming the Gospel, and zealously participating in evangelistic efforts. None! At the same time I am equally convinced that the church has a biblically mandated social responsibility as well, one that has meeting the needs of children (and by extension, families) at the core. To neglect that mission is to negate the message.
Somewhere along the line, the church abandoned its special call to love the unloved child. Local congregations have largely rejected their unique responsibility of serving the abandoned child, the social orphan, the unwanted kid. In doing so, its religion has become defiled and its power in the world sorely diminished.
I cannot think of a more honorable service, with the greatest potential for impact, with the most amount of good, than to help a helpless child. C.S. Lewis, that great theologian and author once said that, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
Here are seven characteristics that a ministry to children, no matter where it is, what it is, or who does it, these are the attributes on which that important work should be based.
1. Compassion: Make sure that your work with children is based on a foundation of compassion and grace. Rules are necessary and structure is essential when working with kids. They may act like they don’t want it but they do, and they certainly need it. However, ministry to children must not be rules based but grace based, and filled with true compassion for them. There is something about children and dogs. They instinctively know if someone cares for them and if someone does not. Be compassionate and let it show. Speak it. Reveal it. Live it. Be careful though not to let your compassion overrule wisdom and prudence, especially in these days of hypersensitivity. But if you are going to err, I believe in erring on the side of love.
2. Child-focused: It kind of makes sense that a ministry to children should be focused on the children but that’s not always the case. Children are often pawns in someone’s game. They are a means to achieve an end. If your ministry to children is constantly adjusting to the needs and desires of the adults in charge, then it is adult-focused and not child-focused. You should filter all of your ministry decisions through this filter: Is this in the best interest of children? If you can truly answer in the affirmative, then move forward. If not, then rethink what you're doing. Yes, you may end up having to replace the carpet. It’s true that something is going to get tore up. Yet, what is that in comparison to the life of even one child. What is that in the light of eternity?
3. Closeness: All ministry requires closeness. It must be where people live and meaningful to their life. It is community involved. Culturally sensitive, and developmentally appropriate. We can’t sit in our pews, doing church our way, and expect children just to show up. Sometimes they do, but they won’t keep coming back if their experience there isn’t close to the reality they know. As much as possible, ministry to children must go to where children live, be relevant to how they live, and meet the immediate and long-term needs in their precious lives. The ultimate goal is to challenge how they live, to have them take a critical look at their culture and life, but first you have to meet them where they are. Bottom line: ministry to children can not be done at a distant. It involves getting down on your knees, in their dirty little faces, and in their, sometimes strange, developing minds.
4. Connection: Allied to the concept of closeness is the need for connection. This is an especially critical component when working with older children and teenagers. Adults working with youth must find ways to relate to them. Caution - don’t to try to hard. Relating to kids does not mean acting like kids. They don’t need you to be their friends, and they certainly don’t want you acting childish, but they do need you to be a caring adult. They would rather you be genuine then cool. It’s been my experience that young people hate hypocrisy and they can smell it a mile away. So, just be you, but in all your “you-ness”, find ways to connect with them and their world. It requires a great amount of energy and creativity but it is possible if sought
5. Commitment: Don’t start working with vulnerable children unless you're committed. All children need consistency but especially children who are at-risk. They need adults who will keep their promises. Ministry to children must be led by caring adults who will stay for the “long haul.” It’s not so much a matter of time as it is a matter of circumstances, especially for children with behavior problems. Many adults get scared and quit. Others are frightened away by their own high moral standards. For some people, their Christianity gets in the way of doing the hard, messy, work of helping troubled children and their dysfunctional families. The commitment required is nothing less than unconditional love and unquestioned acceptance. If you think you might have a difficult time with that, then do the children a favor and serve somewhere else.
6. Control: It’s the opposite of chaos and children need it more than ever. Remember, we aren’t talking so much about rules are we are about order. Children must feel safe and be safe: physically, emotionally, spiritually. There must be predictability in our ministry to children. It’s really about providing and secure and stable environment. Be sure the adults are safe and are not threatening in 22.16any way. If someone is unwilling to submit to a background check, or ongoing supervision, they have no business serving children. People with good intentions have no problem with accountability.
7. Christian: This should go without saying. The single greatest need of any child is Jesus. There are many good and positive things that groups and individuals can do for children that don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with Christianity. Recreations, for example, has value in and of itself. Yet, the one thing a church or Christian group can do for children that they can not get anywhere else, is knowledge of the Savior. He is the ultimate rescuer of lives. Introducing children to Jesus is the best gift we can give them. However, if we simply do that, and not attempt to meet their other needs, we most likely will fail at both.