Children’s Ministry Is Our Foundational Treasure

In all my professional life I have been working with small babies, literally from the moment of birth, and even while still in the mother’s womb! Everything around these babies can affect them, from stimulation to their senses, to oxygen levels, to nutrition, to a host of other influences. Many even brief influences have long-term impact, sometimes for life. We talk about how, at certain times in our lives, “minutes count:” this is one of those times. One could even say, “Sometimes, seconds count!” The very early phases in life are truly critically important, hence my many decades of research, papers and grants, focused around this phase of life, at the same time giving intensive care for these infants when they were sick.

DL Moody of Chicago had a keen sense of the critical importance of childhood influences. He went around his neighborhood and literally grabbed and herded children into his Sunday schools, to hear the word of God. These kids were highly vulnerable to the dangers and temptations of the big city, but he taught them well, to bring up many of them as responsible citizens, becoming the beginning of his church congregation, which grew and grew. Moody ultimately ministered to tens of thousands of people, and started Moody Bible Institute, which has sent tens of thousands of young ministers and missionaries all over the world. In turn, many of these missionaries, recognizing acutely the importance of children’s work, began their ministries with a strong emphasis on children, an excellent model that is effective in diverse cultures and lands.

In Hong Kong, my wife (to be) and I grew up in the Swatow Christian church, a strong evangelical church with an effective Sunday school program for children and youth. We even became “childhood sweethearts,” under the nurture, and I sometimes suspect, the blessing (!) of excellent Sunday school teachers, whom I remember vividly and fondly, even to their old age. One of my most admired teachers, Charles, lived to the very ripe age of 90, and yet was able to still quote his childhood memorized Bible verses, even when he had dementia in his final years.

Photo 1: God-fearing dedicated Sunday School teacher Charles, shown with lovely family, who lived till age 90 years, faithfully teaching all his life. A living walking role model for my future wife and me, for years.

Our Sunday School teachers were undoubtedly great role models who had tremendous impact on our young lives. Even as the church children grew up, and migrated to Australia and North America, we could see the impact of their childhood Sunday School. Many of these continued to serve the Lord, and became deacons, elders, ministers and leaders of their churches. We heard enough stories from all over the world to remind us that, even when it seemed that some had veered from the straight and narrow, later on we heard, to our great encouragement, that many returned to church to serve faithfully.

Alan grew up as a child in the church, but when he left high school, he moved overseas. He became extremely successful and well-off in his new country, and drifted away from church. He spent every weekend basically playing mahjong with his friends, with little meaningful purpose in life. One weekend he was doing the same thing, but as he drove home, he noticed their 2 precious daughters sleeping in the backseat, because he and his wife had dragged them along for their usual mahjong night.

As it was way past midnight, he turned to his wife and said, “What are we doing with our children? What kind of life are we leading? Maybe we should go back to church.” To which, his wife agreed, they abruptly withdrew from their mahjong “4-legged” group, “returned” to church, and after a while began to serve the Lord. In my view, there was little question that his childhood Sunday school had impacted his life forever, even in a far-away foreign place. And that his faithful mother’s daily prayer for him from childhood, had been finally answered.

When we work in children’s ministries, today there are lots of very fine books to help us, so there is no need to repeat what they say. I just like to emphasize that children’s ministry is so important that it is definitely needs a big team effort, requiring a lot of people working together, joyfully, with one great goal. Never attempt to do this with a few people only, or we will burn out quickly and fail. Find good people, inspire them, gather them together, pray together for the kids, and off we go. We can all learn and grow together.

Most people, probably especially Asians, are hesitant to volunteer themselves for most church work, from a combination of shyness, humility, and inertia, so don’t wait for them to volunteer. Just help “volunteer them,” with a smile and warmth. If they are scared at first, especially about language issues with American born children, they can come in as observers and assistants. They can also help first in Vacation Bible School work, which is an excellent training ground, see Reggietales.org: “Lord, Bring us 100 Children.” Teen age volunteers especially will be likely inspired by Vacation Bible School; keep encouraging them, to join as fresh Sunday School teacher assistants, and watch them grow into great teachers.

Photos 2 & 3: Children and youth at camp. Camp implies a time away from normal school and environment, a time to focus on God, a time for teachers to bond with their children, to be even more a walking role model for them. Esther and I have loved children and youth retreats, all of our lives.

A key work of Sunday School is to find a credible experienced person as recruiter and mobilizer, one who obviously loves children, who is willing to announce, announce, announce, at big and small meetings, about the needs, challenges and results of the children’s programs, with enthusiasm and a great smile! Most church congregations barely see the children’s program, being often “out of sight, out of mind,” so it is up to us to keep the program alive and well in the minds of the adults.

One of the most important things that happens in Sunday School is teaching children great instinctive habits and principles, where indeed “the answer is always Jesus,” as we like to joke about, but which is always true. Our goal is to nurture instincts in young people to do the right thing all the time. And everywhere in their lives. In this evil and deteriorating world, hesitation when faced with temptations and wrongdoing, can be lethal. I am not kidding or joking: the reports of suicides, drug overdoses, and shootings are often only minutes away from faulty decision making. And wrong impetuous small decisions at many forks of road, lead unconsciously down terrible pathways. Principles and discipline are undoubtedly best taught in childhood, as foundational solid bases for their whole lives.

For example, even simple habits of discipline can have valuable long-term impact. Teaching children to tithe regularly from childhood, even with small amounts, gives children a foundation, of the right attitude and discipline towards God, giving, and serving others, for a lifetime. That was how my wife and I were taught faithfully as children, and it was instinctive for us all our lives, so as adults, we had little hesitation over giving in diverse situations, even when we were quite poor, such as during our pediatric training years. Amazingly, God has blessed us abundantly, throughout our entire lives, in unexpected and joyful ways, much more than we deserve, just like we were taught in Sunday School.

A story* goes that the tireless servant of God, George Mueller, was asked one time how many people accepted the Lord, after a meeting at which he had been speaking. When he responded, “2 and a half people,” people assumed he meant that there were 2 adults and one child. But he meant 2 children and one adult. Why? He explained that the 2 children had their lives to live, and the adult had only half a life! An important corollary to the story is that children’s Sunday School is definitely a great preparation for all of life, not just a half.

Overall, the astonishing thing about programs like Sunday school is that, for the children, right before their eyes, there are walking role models interacting with them, loving and inspiring them. These are not TV, video or smartphone characters. These are usually not “professional teachers,” taught and trained by professional professors, but real-life fallible coaches, just like natural parents, and older siblings, to the Sunday school kids, committed specifically and lovingly to their spiritual growth, for years and years.

Growing up in such an atmosphere of love and mission, kids instinctively carry that message all their lives. I am personally thankful always for the generations of wonderful dedicated Sunday School teachers who inspired us as children, so that we ourselves in turn can become dedicated Sunday School teachers. As they say, “life lessons are best caught, than taught,” and that is where Sunday School teachers are so wonderful. I personally feel that Sunday School teaching ranks as the “best job” in life, when we can, literally, nurture and inspire numerous others in life, naturally, and with the greatest satisfaction.

Finally, exposure to different ministry opportunities can begin really young. For my wife and me, even though we grew up as preteens in different countries, separated by a thousand miles, both sets of our parents used to entertain foreign missionaries in our homes. From these gatherings we learned, from early childhood, the importance of missions work, which helped set the stage for a lifetime meaningful commitment to serving in missions. So much so that we willingly and joyfully left a very promising academic career, to serve in medical missions in China. A perfect decision in time and place, linked clearly to childhood training and discipline. I invite you to read my book, “Coffee with Uncle Reggie,” you will see how joyful my life became, as I stepped into the “mission world.” Children are indeed foundational treasures.

*Author’s caveat: I can’t actually find the exact reference for this well-known Mueller story anymore, so if you find it, please let me know. It’s a great story with strong implications.

兒童事工是我們的寶貴資產 (庄文菁翻译)

在我的职业生涯中,我一直与小婴儿一起工作,不只从他们出生那一刻开始,甚至追朔到他们还在母亲的子宫里时候!这些婴儿周围的一切都可以影响他们,从刺激到感官,氧气水平,营养,以及其他一系列影响。许多短暂的影响,可能会造成长期的问题,甚至会影响生命。我们谈论生命的某些阶段,可以到”分秒必争”的程度。生命的早期阶段确实非常重要,因此我几十年的研究,论文和研究经费,都集中在这个生命阶段,同时为生病的婴儿提供重症照护。

芝加哥的D.L 穆迪 (Moody)敏锐地意识到童年影响的重要性。 他绕着自己的街区,把路上的孩子们带入主日学校,让他们学习上帝的话。这些在路上游荡的孩子极易受到大城市的危害和诱惑,但穆迪把他们教得很好,让他们成长为负责任的公民、也借此开始了他教会的聚会,促使教会会众成长和发展。穆迪最终为数万人服务,并创立了穆迪圣经学院,该学院已派遣了数万名年轻的传道人和宣道士到世界各地。许多这些宣道士察觉到儿童工作的重要性,他们因此非常强调儿童事工,而对儿童事工的重视,是一种在不同文化和土地上有效的优秀模式。

在香港,我和我的妻子(当时我们还未成婚)在潮人生命堂长大,这是一个颇有规模的福音派教会,为儿童和青少年提供有效的主日学校课程。我和我太太在教会里自然的成了“青梅竹马”,但我有时怀疑,这归功于优秀的主日学校老师们的祝福(!)。这些老师即使到了晚年,也仍旧活泼热情。我最敬仰的老师之一,侯老师活至90岁高龄,即使他在最后几年患有老年痴呆症。他仍能引用他儿时记忆的圣经经文。

照片1敬畏的主日学教师侯老师(Charles)與他可爱的家庭,他活到90岁,一生致力於教育。 多年来,他是我和我的妻子的活榜样。

我们的主日学校教师无疑是伟大的榜样,对我们年幼的生活产生了巨大的影响。即使教会孩子长大,并迁移到澳大利亚和北美,我们也能在他们身上看到童年的主日学校的影响。其中许多人继续为主服务,成为他们教会的执事,长老,传道人和领袖。我们听到来自世界各地的故事提醒我们,即使看起来有些人曾经转向 (远离上帝),后来我们听说,许多人回到教会忠实地服务,这对我们是极大的鼓舞。

艾伦在教会里长大,但当他高中毕业后,他搬到了海外。他在新的国家变得非常成功和富裕,并远离了教会生活。他每个周末都会和朋友一起打麻将,生活中没什么意义。一个周末他做了同样的事情,但当他开车回家时,他注意到他们的两个宝贝女儿在后座睡觉,因为他和他的妻子拖着他们一起度过他们平时的麻将之夜。

当时已经过了午夜,他转向他的妻子说:“我们对孩子做了什么? 我们正迈向什么样的人生? 也许我们应该回到教会”。他的妻子立刻同意,他们就退出原来的麻将”四条腿“组,”回到“教会,之后就开始为主服务了。在我看来,毫无疑问,他的童年主日学校已经永远影响了他的生活,即使是在遥远的国外。而他的忠实母亲从小就每天为他祈祷,终于得到了回应。

当我们在从事儿童事工时,有许多非常好的书籍可以帮助我们,所以没有必要重复他们所说的话。但我只想强调,儿童事工是如此重要,以至于需要大量的团队努力,需要很多人一起和谐快乐的工作,共同迈向一个伟大的目标。儿童事工永远不应该只由少数人来做,否则很快就会精疲力尽并且失败。找到对的人,激励他们,聚集他们为孩子们一同祷告,然后开始同工。我们都可以一起学习和成长。

大多数人,尤其是亚洲人,在羞怯,谦卑和被动的共同作用下,对于教会里的自愿工作都会犹豫不决。所以,不要等他们自愿, 要用微笑和温暖帮助他们成为“志愿者”。如果他们害怕,特别是与美国出生的孩子的语言沟通问题,他们仍然可以作为助手、或在一旁观察见习。他们也可以帮助假日圣经学校的工作,这是一个很好的训练场,(请参阅Reggietales.org:“主,给我们带来100个孩子。”) 。青少年志愿者尤其可能受到假日圣经学校的启发; 所以我们要继续鼓励他们,加入新的主日学校成为教师助理,直到他们成长为优秀的老师。

照片2, 3营会中的儿童和青年。夏令营意味着远离日常学校和环境的一段时间,一个专注于上帝的时间,一个让老师与孩子增进关系的时间,此时的老师为孩子树立鲜活的榜样。我和粹英(Esther)一生都热爱儿童和青少年的夏令会。

主日学校的一项重要工作,是找到一位可靠而有经验的人,作为招聘人员和动员者,这位显然爱孩子的人,会愿意用热情和灿烂的笑容,在大大小小的会议上宣布再宣布,宣布孩子们的需求与挑战,以及儿童事工的成果。大多数教会会众几乎未曾注意儿童事工,经常“眼不见为净”,所以我们有责任让儿童事工项目保持活力,让其他教会成员注意并知晓这项事工。

主日学校一项很重要的任务,是教导孩子原则与培养好的习惯,虽然我们总会开玩笑说,在主日学校,”所有问题的正确回答一定是耶稣”,但这的确是千真万确的。我们的目标是培养年轻人的直觉,教导他们在生命中的任何时刻、任何地点都要做正确的事。在这个邪恶和不断恶化的世界中,面对诱惑和不法行为时的犹豫,都会是致命的。我不是在开玩笑或说笑:有关自杀,药物滥用和枪击事件的报告,往往距离错误的决策只有几分钟的路程。在决策的过程中,任何错误而冲动的小决定,都会无意识地导向一条可怕的道路。毫无疑问,原则和纪律在儿童时期是最好的教导,成为他们一生坚固的基础。

例如,即使是简单的纪律习惯也会产生宝贵的长期影响。教导儿童从童年起就定期十一奉献,即使是少量的十一奉献,也可以为儿童奠定一生的基础,以正确的态度和纪律对待上帝,终生奉献和服务他人。这就是我和妻子小时候被忠实地教导的方式,这成为我们一生的本能,因此,作为成年人,即使在我们很困乏的时候,例如在儿科训练期间,我们也毫不犹豫地给予各种帮助。令人惊讶的是,就像我们在主日学中所教导的那样,上帝在我们的一生中,总以以意想不到的快乐方式,给了我们丰富的祝福,远远超出了我们应得的。

有个故事*是这样的,为上帝工作勤奋不懈的乔治·穆勒(George Mueller),在一次慕会之后被问及有多少人接受了上帝。当他回答“两个半人”时,人们认为他的意思是有2个成年人和1个孩子。但是他的意思是2个孩子和1个成人。为什么?他解释说,这两个孩子还有一辈子要过,而成年人只剩半辈子!这个故事的一个重要推论是,孩子们的星期日学校绝对是终生有益的准备,而不仅仅是一半。

总的来说,主日学校这样的课程,最宝贵的是,对于孩子们而言,有真实的榜样在他们眼前与他们互动,爱他们和启发他们。而不是电视,视频或智能手机里的人物。这些教师通常不是由专业教授培训的“专业老师”,而是像孩子的亲生父母和哥哥姐姐一样,充满爱心,并对孩子们的灵命成长做出了特别的贡献。

在这种充满爱与使命的氛围中成长的孩子,将会终其一生带着这样的价值观走下去。我个人一直对一代又一代的敬业的主日学校老师表示感谢,这些老师启发了我们小时候的生活,因此我们自己也可以成为敬业的主日学校老师。正如人们所说,“最好的人生功课是领受来的,而不是被教出来的,”这就是主日学校老师的美好之处。我个人认为,主日学校的教学是“最好的工作”,我们可以自然地并以最大的满足感,来培养和启发生活中的许多其他人。

最后,接触不同的事工机会可以趁年轻时开始。对于我和我的妻子来说,尽管我们在不同国家/地区成长大,相距千里之外,但我们的两家的父母都曾经在我们的家中招待外国宣道士。从这些聚会中,让我们在幼儿时期就了解宣道工作的重要性,这为终身服务奉献精神奠定了基础。影响如此之深,以至于我们愿意欢喜地​​离开了非常有前途的学术生涯,去中国从事医疗工作。这个完美决定,与童年训练和纪律明确相关。我邀请您阅读我的书《与曾叔叔闲聊》,您将看到我步入“宣道”时的生活变得多么快乐。孩子的确是基础财富。

*註:我无法再找到这个著名Mueller故事的来源典故,因此,如果您找到它,请告诉我。这是一个伟大的故事,寓意深刻。

Close Menu