Churches have differing philosophies and perspectives with respect to discipling children. Some emphasize programmed discipleship while others welcome the entire family into gatherings. Still others emphasize equipping parents. It’s not my intention to debate the pros and cons of differing perspectives on children's ministry. I'll leave that to Jared and Timothy Paul Jones. Instead, I simply want to share some biblical imperatives for children and the church community. This is intended to be a series of short posts for parents as well as pastors. The first imperative I'll examine is Jesus’ statement during his restoration of Peter after the resurrection. Jesus said, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).
This simple statement brings up several questions:
First, who are the lambs?
A lamb is a young sheep. When Jesus says feed my lambs, he’s talking about one of two kinds of young ones. Either he’s referring to those young in faith or those young in age.
Second, what are we supposed to feed them?
Those young in age need to be fed the simple gospel. They need to see their need for Christ. Those young in faith need to be discipled. They must see their need to grow in Christ.
Third, who is responsible to feed Christ's lambs?
There are at least three groups of people who are responsible to feed Christ's lambs:
- First, parents have the primary responsibility for their children's spiritual growth. Dads and moms must feed their little lambs.
- Second, the pastors and leaders of the local church have a responsibility to feed children. They are called to be shepherds of the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2). This includes its youngest members.
- Third, the church is responsible. As members of God’s family gathered locally, we have responsibility to partner with parents in guiding the young ones among us towards the Lord. All believers share in this responsibility and are commanded to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20).
Fourth, what gets in the way of us feeding Christ's lambs?
Without being fed the truth of gospel, those who are young in age and faith starve. It's a spiritual starvation. But several things can get in the way of our obeying this simple command, not the least of which are busyness, tiredness, laziness, and irritability.
Finally, when should we feed Christ's lambs?
All the time. But this takes intentionality. By attending church, during family devotions, and by being on the lookout for opportunities to capture and leverage for gospel conversations, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work to feed and teach the next generation..
While this will look different in various contexts, the principle needs to be carefully thought through and applied. Our Savior demands nothing less.