Susan was the lesson planner and organizer. Cobb was the fun-loving, relational businessman. Everyone thought of her as the “teacher” and “children’s worker.” Cobb was just helping out. Each Sunday they would serve side-by-side.
Whenever I would check in on them, I would observe Susan presenting the Bible truth, leading an activity or helping children memorize a relevant verse from God’s Word. She was one of the most gifted and effective teachers I have ever worked with.
I would observe Cobb sitting on the floor with children sitting around and on him. He would be laughing with the children, talking to them, listening to them and playing with them. He would be leading a little discussion of God’s Word and their real life. He would know children’s names and about their lives. Sometimes, he would pray with them. Once I saw him sitting with the children, learning a memory verse with them, while Susan led the activity.
This went on for years. It became apparent that Cobb had just as much impact in the lives of those children. He was one of the most gifted and effective teachers I have ever worked with. His ministry was relational childrens ministry.
The Greatest Commandment is about relationship
It is this relational ministry principle that undergirds the teaching in Deuteronomy 6. Moses is teaching the Israelites about children’s ministry.
These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. (Deuteronomy 6:1-2)
You would imagine that what follows would be some lengthy “how-to” instructions. At least we would expect some kind of toolbox for parenting, relational childrens ministry, or the like. Maybe a series of seminars, conferences or books. Surprisingly, what follows is:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)
Children learn through relationship
Stated simply, if you want to have your children live in relationship with God, obey God’s commands and experience a long blessed life, then you need to love God yourself and be an example for them. If you want your children to love God and be servants, then you need to love God and be a servant example. If you want your children to be patient, then you need to love God and be a patient example. The idea is simple and profound. Children learn through our example. That is experienced in relationship.
Developing a relationship with our children is ministry.
In relational childrens ministry, the love of God flows into the life of a child. The children see and experience the Christian life in relationship with others. Knowing children’s names, desires, struggles, fears, family issues and personalities is the bedrock on which ministry is built. Developing a relationship with our children is ministry. If your desire is to see your children love God and live the life He intends for them, start with a relational approach and be sure that you can build on it.