Summary: If we want the next generation(s) to know and love Jesus as much or more than we do, we must bring a child to Jesus, be a child ourselves, and bless a child every chance we get.
Little 5-year-old Kayse Poland grew more and more excited about her first day of kindergarten, and her 3-year-old sister, Jayme, watched her with great fascination. On the Sunday before the first day of school, Kayse fell and skinned her knee.
Tears began to flow, and Jayme, seeing the blood on her big sister’s knee, tried to comfort her by saying: “Don’t worry, Kayse, if you die, you’ll go to heaven.”
Buy Kayse wailed even more. “I don’t want to go to heaven,” she said. “I want to go to kindergarten!” (Hugh Poland, “Kids of the Kingdom,” Today’s Christian, July/August 2005; www. PreachingToday.com)
I love children with their simple faith and their unpretentious expressions. And Jesus loves them too! In fact, He wants them ALL to go to heaven. He wants them ALL to come to Him and to be in relationship with Him.
We’re all concerned about the next generation or two, because they are leaving the church in droves. So how do we reach them? How do we become the kind of church where children come in contact with Jesus on a regular basis and enjoy being with Him? How do we help the next generations get to know and love Jesus as much or even more than we do?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 10, Mark 10, where Jesus shares his heart for children and helps his disciples learn some important lessons in ministering to children.
Mark 10:13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. (NIV)
They censured them. They warned them to stay away.
Now, maybe we wouldn’t be so blatant, but sometimes our attitudes and actions say to children, “You’re not welcome here.” For example, what do we do when a group of children come to sit in or near our row? What do we do when they get a little antsy after sitting still for a few minutes in the service? What do we do when they seemed bored with our music and sermons? The way we respond can draw them in or push them away.
Jesus first disciples pushed the children and their families away, and Jesus did not appreciate that.
Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant – i.e., he was aroused to anger. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them – literally, STOP hindering them – for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (NIV)
If we want to become the kind of church where young people get to know and love Jesus as much or more than we do, then we must be careful not to hinder them in any way. We must be careful not to put any roadblocks in their way. To put it simply, we must do everything we can to make this a welcoming place for children and their families.
That was a core value of Walt Disney himself. When he created Disneyland, Walt’s dream was to create an unforgettable experience for children. He wanted a place where kids could be with their parents or grandparents and be totally amazed – not just amused, but amazed. He wanted a place where children mattered and were valued. Walt Disney once wrote, “Both my study of Scripture and my career in entertaining children have taught me to cherish them,” and that’s exactly what he did.