Friday Five: Larry Fowler
Developing a heart ministry and asking "How often do they come?"

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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October 18, 2013

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

Darlene Wallace

October 29, 2013  8:32am

I agree with the following post made on 10/18/2013 by Patricia Blount and would love to see the answer to her post. "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." Perfect. Right on. But then he drops this concept out of the rest of the article. Why?

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Tracey Hooks

October 20, 2013  9:19pm

Thank you for your article! It truly brought some clarification for me. My granddaughter was just recently saved and baptized. She just turned 7 yrs old and as expected we were concerned that she was definatley professing her faith for the Lord and NOT that she simply wanted to be "baptized" as some children her age were. She's very bright and in speaking with her teachers, and spiritual leaders, they all reassured us that Riley knows exactly what she is experiencing and what she has committed her life to. Now, a few weeks after her babtism, I started noticing her behavior change somewhat. She started being sassy, talking back, challenging adults to prove HER point is really more the issue and having "selective" hearing. You know, a typical 7 year old! She just never acted like this before so it is challenging for all of us. I remember having a discussion with her on several occassions about her commitment to the Lord and how he wishes for her to act and treat others. I bought books...said prayers...you name it. I began to wonder how in the world was I going to explain to her about how the Spirti of God lives in her heart and by studying his word and truly committing her life, the Spirit would begin to change her attitude and the way she looks at issues that confuse her and how she responds. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting...wondering why she isn't showing the same excitement, or change that older children experience. And now...reading your article...I get it. She can't understand what I can...I have to remember that! Now I know why. The difference in preventive power and transformative power...never heard of it before! I just thought that the childrens church must be teaching bible stories mostly and not explaining the fruit of the spirts to ouir children! Thank you for your article, it helped me more than you know! Can't wait to share it with my daighter! God Bless!!

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Tim

October 19, 2013  10:41pm

"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." Perfect. Right on. But then he drops this concept out of the rest of the article. Why?

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Patricia Blount

October 18, 2013  9:49am

Thank you for these wonderful insights. I'm sure that you would also agree that it is the Holy Spirit that draws a person to salvation and all of these activities help to light the way. A great post!

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