I had the opportunity to preach in my large church when I was a young children’s pastor. At the conclusion of the last service, one of the elders came up to me with kind words of encouragement. Then he said, “Daniel you like preaching, you’re completing your seminary studies…when are you going to move on from children’s ministry to real ministry?”
Ministry to children has always had similar challenges. I find some degree of comfort knowing that the greatest children’s worker of all time had problems in His day as well.
Are children too young to enter the presence of Jesus?
In Mark 10:13-16, we read the famous passage where little children are brought to Jesus. It is likely that these were very little children; akin to toddlers. They were brought over to him by other people, implying the children needed help walking over.
The disciples are so opposed to the bringing of the children that they “rebuke them” (Mark 10:13)! It is not clear in the grammar whether they are rebuking the people bringing the children or the children themselves. Whatever the case, they think it is a very, very bad idea for little children to be brought into the presence of Jesus. While the passage is not clear why they act this way, we can surmise that holding babies wasn’t a priority of theirs.
Jesus himself welcomed children into his arms
By now, Jesus is known to have control over nature, do the miraculous and clearly exert some overwhelming power. Restoring Israel to her right place, re-establishing the Davidic throne, crushing the Roman oppressors, restoring pure Temple worship etc., were likely on the minds of the disciples. Getting Jesus to Jerusalem for the big showdown was going to be world changing. The disciples seem to think the world would not be changed by holding babies and squandering time with little children.
The attitude of Jesus when children are brought into his presence has inspired my ministry life for 35 years.
Jesus’ reaction is insightful. He is “indignant” with the disciples and welcomed the children. Then, the text says that, “He took the children in His arms” (Mark 10:16). The picture is one where Jesus is picking up children, holding them briefly, blessing them, and then continuing to another. The attitude of Jesus when children are brought into his presence has inspired my ministry life for 35 years.
Holding babies is powerful ministry
Today, our Christian community is replete with those who believe that the world will be changed through political means, economic clout or winning culture wars. There are many who believe that church planting, youth ministry, theological education and mass evangelism will change the world. While many enjoy holding babies, there are not very many who see it as a strategy for world change. But in God’s Kingdom, power is shown in sacrifice. The last are first and the greatest are the least. All that to say, if you want to be part of the Jesus revolution, take babies in your arms, lay hands on them and bless them.
If you want to be part of the Jesus revolution, take babies in your arms, lay hands on them and bless them.
Many languages of the world have various words to describe children. In English we use words like baby, infant, toddler, preschooler, school-age child, teenager, etc. The Greek language of the New Testament is similar:
βρέφος – newborn infant (2 Timothy 3:15) (used 8 times in the New Testament)
παιδίον – little child (Matthew 19:14) (used 52 times in the New Testament)
τέκνον – child, son, daughter, offspring (cf. Matthew 2:18) (used 99 times in the New Testament)