3 reasons why we need godly men serving in kids ministry

January 10, 2019

The church I went to growing up had a ministry team for middle and high school-aged kids to serve in children’s ministry. It was called “Timothy Team,” a name that took inspiration from Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:11-12).

I served on that team from the time I was in seventh grade through my sophomore year of high school. I worked mostly with lower elementary ages, and I loved it. But somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that I, as a young man, shouldn’t serve with kids, and (aside from summers volunteering as a camp counselor) I mostly stopped working with them through the remaining years of high school and into college.

Then, my first year out of college, the pastor of the church I was attending issued and “all-call” for anyone willing to serve in the kids ministry to apply. I thought, “Well, I don’t think this is what I’m supposed to do, but I’m willing to serve wherever I’m needed.” I applied, they interviewed me, and I was placed on a team serving the second and third grade boys group. Through that year, God re-revealed to me my favorite ministry area, and I haven’t looked back.

I’ve come to realize that kids ministry is an amazing place for young men to serve. Here are three simple reasons why:

1. It’s not weird.

I think it’s really common for young men, especially those who are without kids or unmarried, to feel awkward expressing a desire to serve with kids. There’s this idea that kids ministry is a place for women to nurture and care for kids. In some ways, the mental image of an older woman sitting down with a felt board to teach kids makes it really hard for young men to step into that ministry area. After you toss in the increased awareness of the risks and dangers of sexual abuse, walking into a kids classroom can feel like walking into a minefield.

But here’s the thing: Any safe and conscientious kids ministry will be thoroughly vetting volunteers, complete with lengthy applications, screening processes, background checks, and wise policies that protect kids and volunteers. If you take steps toward serving, and your church accepts your service, parents should know that you are safe and their kids are safe with you. There’s nothing weird about an older, wiser person taking an interest in helping parents disciple the next generation of the church.

2. It’s not hard.

There are a lot of horror stories about kids ministry. Kids running around like crazy, diapers exploding and covering everything in poop, everything devolving into chaos, and tiny barbarians placing pig heads on spikes to warn away neighboring tribes. True, that last one is from The Lord of the Flies, which is (thankfully) fiction, but you get my point. People in kids ministry love to swap “war stories” to see who is the most “battle-hardened.” I’m guilty of this. It follows, unsurprisingly, that the hardest thing about kids ministry is enlisting committed people to serve.

But the truth is, though kids ministry has challenges like any other ministry, it’s not difficult. All it requires is a little humility and access to your inner child. Kids are goofy, and their brains aren’t fully developed, so it can take a bit of silliness on your part to build connections with them and earn their attention. But once you have that, they are sponges for information.

If you are willing to lay down your pride long enough to do the silly hand motions, laugh at jokes you’ve heard a hundred times, and speak in strange voices, you’ll have unlocked the brains of kids who need to hear the truth of the gospel as much as anyone else. Here’s a secret: most of our war stories are exaggerated. (And even when they aren’t who doesn’t love having a great story to tell?)

3. It is important.

Strong evidence suggests that the decade between a person’s fourth and 14th birthdays are the most formative years of his or her life. Things like taste in music, fashion preferences, sense of humor, and favorite movies all tend to take shape in this “coming of age” decade. Think about your own life: aren’t most of your favorite albums, movies, or TV shows the things you first experienced and loved in grade school? This is also the time when fears, aversions, and emotional scarring can root themselves deepest in our hearts.

This is a critical time to be pouring gospel truth into kids. It would be foolish to wait till kids are grown to share the gospel with them, hoping that worldly culture won’t shape them in the meantime. None of us mature in a vacuum, and if we don’t teach kids the truth and let the gospel inform their developing personalities, you can bet the enemy will step in to fill that void.

Obviously, the primary disciple maker for children is (and should be) their parents. I’m not arguing that we, as young men without children of our own, can usurp that role. I’m saying that parents need help. When young men step into kids ministry, we communicate to both parents and kids that families matter. It doesn’t matter if you have kids of your own; you can still be a tool in God’s hands to raise up the next generation. This ministry is too important to give any demographic a pass. Jesus demonstrated his own heart from children: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). If you are waiting for a “calling” before you pursue ministry, this is it. This is work you can do, and it’s important that you do it.

Bonus: Listen to a conversation with Sam and Aaron about this topic on The Hero of the Story. This article originally appeared here.

Sam O'Neil

Sam O'Neil lives with his wife Stephanie and their dog in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated from Texas A&M in 2012 and worked for two years at the Austin Stone Community Church as a Family Ministry Resident. He is currently a content editor for LifeWay's The Gospel Project for Kids. He … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24