For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Larry Fowler.
Larry Fowler has been in children's ministry for over 30 years and is currently the executive director of global networking for Awana and KidzMatter. Larry is also the author of Rock Solid Children's Ministry.
Today we chat with Larry about a transformed heart ministry, the significant "one", and "How often do they come?"
Larry, you have been ministering to children a long time (30+ years); what is the essence of effective children's ministry?
Well—the word "effective" implies a measure, and children's ministries in churches are measured a lot of different ways. I look at it through the lens of Scripture: "If we were to minister to kids according to what the Bible says, what would it look like?" You see, I believe that Scripture needs to drive the core of how we minister to children.
From the Scriptural perspective, I believe that the essence is, "Children's ministry must impact the heart of a child." Bible knowledge is not enough; practical application is not enough; relevance is not enough. Why? Because in nearly every instance where spiritual training of children is mentioned in the Old Testament, the word "heart" is nearby. The classic passage concerning instruction of children in Deuteronomy 6 is prefaced by this: "These words which I command you today are to be in your hearts." At its essence, children's ministry must be heart ministry.
Your newest book talks about seven principles of effective children's ministry, and they are all based on Scripture. So give me an example—what would change if we used Scripture as the designer?
If we did children's ministry according to Scripture, then parents would be primarily responsible for their child's spiritual growth, and we would assist them, not the other way around. Parental spiritual leadership is pretty much on everyone's radar right now. A concept that ministry leaders aren't thinking about is what I call the significant "one". Jesus, in Matthew 18, repeats the word "one" in this passage about children: don't offend one, don't despise one, and don't lose one. Individuals were always important to Jesus, and if we are not careful, we can minister to groups of children and think we are doing okay, when in fact we are not.
If every single child is significant, and we are concerned that we don't offend or despise or lose one, then our registration and recordkeeping processes will not only be used to see who comes but are used as tools to follow up with those who stop coming. Our structure will provide opportunities for our teachers and leaders to develop deep relationships with children (they come for the fun, but they stay because of a relationship). And we will train our volunteers to have a shepherd's mindset toward every child they minister to.
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