Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: Lessons from my bank

Pastor's Pastor: Lessons from my bank

Simple mathematics illustrate why we must prioritize children. When we lead an adult to Christ, we add a soul, but when we bring a child to Jesus, we introduce a multiplier for decades to come.

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Simple mathematics illustrate why we must prioritize children. When we lead an adult to Christ, we add a soul, but when we bring a child to Jesus, we introduce a multiplier for decades to come.

Too often we hear the adage that our children are the church’s future. I disagree. I believe that our children are the present church and that we dare not await the future to plan, emphasize, budget, and implement age-appropriate ministry.

Of course, in some areas of the world we invest a great percentage of resources in Christian education; and we recognize this as essential. However, many areas offer no Adventist education below college level, and even where primary education opportunities abound, only a relatively small percentage enrolls.

To reconsider how we approach ministering to and with our children, think like a banker. When I enter my bank, I am inundated with placards and slogans describing the various services the institution provides.

Compound dividends. When the church provides children’s ministries, we build for the future. This should not be considered a short-term, shortsighted view.

Savings account. We should view every child as a potential candidate for the kingdom. Perhaps this sounds too simplistic. But remember, Satan targets the very youngest. Surely, we can do our best to save those whom he aims to destroy.

Investment, not expense. Attract youngsters to your church and the adults will follow. Parents want to go where their children want to go. If you plan age-appropriate ministries and activities, parents will vote their support of your leadership with both their feet and their funds!

Mission, not money. My financial institution speaks much more about service to their customers than about holding my money. Of course they want my money, but they emphasize the benefits they provide. If we provide quality benefits for children, the necessary funds will be provided.

Safe depository. We must guarantee the security of precious assets. Volunteers and caregivers must be recruited, screened, and paired with other leaders to ensure that no little one is abused or molested. Training, supervision, and accountability must be hallmarks of all we do for children.

Needs-based service. In our last congregation, my wife, Sharon, an associate pastor of the church, listened to the needs of the parents in our church. She began offering weekly children’s worship services plus qualified child care that permitted parents to participate in the worship services. She secured qualified nursery leaders and coordinated those who conducted the weekly children’s worship. One bonus came when the nursery attendants asked to become members.

Long-term amortization. Every church has families who need tuition assistance to enable their children’s school attendance. Rather than aid grants, we provided age-appropriate work-study for students in grades five through eight. Students could empty trash, clean chalk boards, grade papers, or perform simple tasks to assist teachers. Others volunteered at the church office to fold bulletins, answer phones, or prepare for special events. One mother recently reported that her now-adult daughter had become a manager in a government office and credited her church office tasks for providing the first basic skills of interaction, planning, and implementation.

Community involvement. Whatever we do, we should include the whole church community. In our congregation, every service includes youth who provide scripture, music, or even the occasional sermon.

One-stop service. My bank provides a myriad of services at one convenient location. Surely we can demonstrate closer cooperation between school, Sabbath services, Adventurers, children’s mission and outreach activities, Pathfinders, Vacation Bible School, and social functions to attract and involve all members of our families.

Start small. A new associate on our staff opened a bank account with just one dollar. All the benefits the bank offered came his way because of that small beginning. You can do the same thing. Do something right now with children’s ministry even if you cannot do everything. Begin today and watch your results grow.

Fees and charges. The bank made it clear that there is a cost attached to the benefits they provide. Invest in your church’s children. Provide the most attractive rooms and materials. Affirm your teachers and volunteers. Add opportunities beyond the routine events. Spend in order to save.

If you invest in your children, you will reap great dividends. You can count on it!

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

September 2006

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