When I began in ministry, I was woefully ignorant about the importance of theology in Children’s Ministry. I was prepared to build a ministry around things like themes, games, and environments. I was spending hours on hours each week preparing to tell kids about God, but I never took even 5 minutes to think about what I was actually teaching them about God.
I had bought into the myth. The myth that theology in Children’s Ministry is not important. But I wasn’t the only one who believed this lie. I heard other Children’s Ministry leaders say things like:
“Kid just want to have fun!”
“Theology is boring. If you make it boring, new kids won’t come and other kids won’t want to come back!”
“They’ll get theology when they get to the Student Ministry.”
We need to make sure they’re having fun and staying engaged as they’re learning, but that doesn’t require us to water down the message to a few puppets and a good moral to the story. And we can’t assume that kids will be taught what they need to know about God at a later time. Even if they do receive such teaching, many of them will have already formed opinions and views that are not rooted in who God is or what He has done for us.
As I started to dig into systematic theology for the first time in my own life, I can remember saying aloud, “Wow, I wish someone had taught me this stuff years ago!” That was the lightbulb moment that helped me to realize the value and important of theology in Children’s Ministry.
Here are 3 reasons why theology matters most in Children’s Ministry:
1. Theology helps us clearly define what kids need to know
We tend to focus a lot on how we teach, but not enough time on what we teach. Instead of looking at curriculum based on creativity or ease of use, we need to look at curriculum based on what is this actually teaching my kids about who God is and what He has done.
We’re all teaching kids something about God, but the real question is do we know what. Building a children’s ministry on good theology helps us to define what kids need to know, and then structure our programming, curriculum, and events toward sharing that message with as many kids as possible.
2. Theology pushes kids to want to know more
Did you see the movie trailers for Star Wars? They were captivating, and yet they never revealed any parts of the story! The trailers got people excited to see the rest of the movie & to hear the full story.
Good theology reveals more of God. But like a good movie trailer, it also leaves us knowing that there’s even more to God. So, we want to know more and experience more. When kids begin to see how Part A and Part B fits together under God’s sovereignty, they naturally want to know how everything else fits. Building a children’s ministry on a strategy that introduces kids to more of God is far more engaging than anything else we could possible do.
3. Theology leaves kids and volunteers with a more accurate view of God and their relationship with Him
I believe there are two major theological issues that we need to address in Children’s Ministry. First, we grossly underestimate our sinfulness. Second, we grossly underestimate God’s grace. If we’re not thinking about what we teach kids, there is a good chance that we will minimize our sinfulness and minimize God’s graciousness. This leads us with the dangerous impression that we’re good enough as is and in no real need of God’s saving power.
This is why theology is so important. A good theology will teach about sin, the fall, suffering, love, grace, salvation, service, and much more. Instead of just hearing a Bible story, a Children’s Ministry rooted in theology will help kids to see how the entire Bible is revealing our need for a Savior and God’s plan to meet that need through Jesus!
At this point, you may be feeling overwhelmed. You may not know where to start or how to evaluate the theological IQ of your ministry. So, I would challenge you to start with this question:
- What are the 5 things you feel kids need to know about who God is?
- What are the 5 things you feel kids need to know about Jesus—His life, death, resurrection?
- What are the 5 things you feel kids need to know about their relationship and walk with God?
If you take the time to answer those questions, you have at least 15 weeks worth of lessons—but probably a whole lot more! Then, begin to write, purchase, or adapt curriculum in a way that helps kids understand more of who God is and what He has done for us!