“…And the child did minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest.” (1 Samuel 2:11)
When Hannah brought Samuel to the tabernacle at Shiloh to fulfill her vow to the Lord, the Bible tells us “the child was young”—possibly as young as three years old. We know that under the direction and instructions of Eli the priest, Samuel immediately began serving in ministry at this young age. How did he serve? 1 Samuel 3:15 tells us that Samuel “opened the doors of the house of the Lord.” I can picture a young Samuel, wearing the linen ephod that his mother had made him, opening the doors and greeting the people as they entered the house of the Lord.
Samuel began his ministry as a young child, serving and contributing, while learning from Eli the priest. It was an intergenerational ministry. Samuel was not placed in the back of the tabernacle where he would not be seen or heard. He was placed at the front door. He most likely had to sweep, clean, and do some of the more menial tasks of serving in the tabernacle, while learning and growing in the Lord. The lesson here is that Samuel was given the opportunity to serve, learn, and grow in ministry from a young age.
The children in our ministries need the same opportunities as Samuel. We want them to know that they can serve and contribute now, even if it is in the small things. The Lord says, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much…” (Luke 16:10). We can teach our children while they are young how to serve and be accountable in ministry. Our children are part of our church today, not just the church of tomorrow.
IDEAS YOU CAN USE
It is important to teach that ministry is full time, not just when we feel like it. In my church, we make sure to hold our children accountable when they volunteer or are asked to serve in a ministry or a service project. Practices are required, and they attend meetings about that ministry or project. Here are some things we have done at our local church and camps that work. The ages required for these ministries are listed as well.
THE CREW: Children sign up to help clean after an event. They wipe tables, sweep the floor, and help take out trash. The Crew also helps on scheduled work days to clean and do repairs around the church. They have even help organize the supply closet! The Crew can also help pick up trash at the local park or playground. Ages are Pre-K to Adults.
PUPPET MINISTRY: Children are our puppeteers. They must participate in advance practice. When children are new to this ministry, we give them finger eye puppets to take home and practice puppeteering in the mirror. We typically have many children who want to participate in puppet ministry. When this happens, we rotate our puppeteers weekly to give each child a chance to serve in this ministry. Our puppet ministry begins at the 3rd grade.
CHOIR/WORSHIP TEAM: Children sing in the choir and worship team. They are required to attend practice, so they can learn the music and words. Ages are Pre-K to Adults.
MEDIA TEAM: We give children the opportunity to shadow and learn from the adults who run the technology and sound equipment. This is much more than just pushing a button. From set up to shut down, children learn what it takes to make media run smoothly, so they can operate the system. We want to make sure children understand the cost and value of the equipment. Children in this ministry can begin at 5th grade.
USHERS: Serving as an usher involves greeting people as they come in and taking up the offering. Children are taught to greet with a smile, a kind word, and handshake. They should also become familiar with the building and ministries offered in order to be able to answer questions and direct new families to the nursery, children’s ministry area, sanctuary, etc. Ages are Pre-K to Adults.
BLESSING BAGS AND BASKETS: Once a quarter, our children bake cakes, cookies, and brownies to put in blessing bags and baskets for our seniors and shut-ins. They write encouraging notes and draw pictures to add to the bags. We pray over the bags and baskets the night we make them. Children who are available the next day help deliver them. Ages are Pre-K to Adults.
CRAFT FAIR: Children make crafts to sell for missions. We choose crafts the children like, and every child makes one to sell. Christmas Craft Fair has been our best one yet. Ages are Pre-K to Adults.
CHILDREN’S CHURCH: Children who want to help in children’s church get a copy of the lesson ahead of time, and we meet with them to discuss and pray about the lesson. We decide which part of the lesson/service they will minister in—whether it is the object lesson, the Bible lesson, running the technology, or games. A few days before service, we contact the children to make sure they are ready. After the service, we discuss what they liked and didn’t like, what went well or didn’t go well, and decide how to make any changes or improvements. We want the child to be at least three years older than the children in the class where they are assisting. Children in this ministry can begin at 4th grade.
VISIT: Take children to visit nursing homes and hospitals. We take small items to give to those we are visiting and ask if we can pray with them before we leave. Ages are Pre-K to Adults.
ENCOURAGEMENT TEAM: Children write thank you notes to our pastor and other leaders in the church. We post these on office doors, car windows, or place them in their seats at church. Ages are Pre-K to Adults.
Children want to be a part of ministry and serve. Over the years we have heard many children ask, “Can I help?” Our answer is “YES! YOU CAN!” Watching a child serve, learn, and grow in ministry is one of the greatest blessings that exists in children’s ministry. Children may begin with small baby steps, but given opportunity, practice and time, those small steps turn into great strides.
Contributing Author: Margaret Bryant
Margaret is the children’s ministry leader at Family Worship Center in Hickman, TN. She and her husband, David, also direct Big Shot Camp at Camp Hickory Hills. Margaret began serving in children’s ministry when she was 12. She has a desire for all children to know they are loved, wanted, and created for a purpose.