Sowing Seeds To Last A Lifetime

Earlier this year, I received an email from Bishop Philip Pruitt, overseer of California. He said he wanted to “share a story that illustrates the long-term impact of children’s ministry and God’s faithfulness.” Immediately, Bishop Pruitt had my attention.

His message continued, “Two weeks ago, Diana received a text that asked the question, ‘Are you the Philip and Diana Pruitt who served as missionaries in Paraguay in 1978?’ Diana responded that we were, in fact, the same Philip and Diana. Then, the response was, ‘I am Luz. I was in your Sunday school class in Barrio Sajonia, Asunción, when I was 10 years old in 1978. I’ve always hoped to find you to thank you for presenting the gospel to me and teaching me about Jesus. You gave me a Bible for memorizing all of the memory verses in November of that year. I still have the Bible; with the dedication you wrote.’” Bishop Pruitt noted, “She sent a photo of the Bible and of the dedication page.”

He went on to clarify they had only taught Luz for two years. During that time, she took part in Bible classes, Vacation Bible School, and a Christmas program. After that, the small church moved to the other side of the city and the Pruitts lost contact with Luz. “We never saw her again,” Bishop Pruitt wrote, “Luz’s parents did not attend church and we wondered if she would continue to seek knowledge of Jesus Christ and life in him.”

When reconnected with Luz, the Pruitts were overjoyed to discover she had indeed continued to grow as a Christian. Now married, she works as a mental health therapist in Brazil. She has served as a short-term missionary in Uruguay and has a daughter who recently served as a short-term missionary in Chile.

Bishop Pruitt concluded, “To Diana and me it almost seems miraculous that, after investing just two years in the life of  a 10-12 year old girl in Paraguay, then losing contact, the seeds of the gospel that were planted in Luz’s heart took root, grew, matured, and produced fruit. Forty-two years later, there is proof that the Word of God does not return to him empty.”

As children’s pastors, we are blessed to serve in the largest mission field in the world! We  invest time and resources to build relationships with children so the foundational truths of God’s Word can take root and flourish for a lifetime. Yet, so often as children transition from our programs, experience relocation, or simply stop attending our ministries, we lose contact with them. For many of us, we often pray that the time we had with the children in our ministries was impactful and transformational, empowering children to grow in their relationship with the Father.

While I read the story of the Pruitts and considered my own personal experiences of more than 30 years in ministry, 1 Corinthians 3:6–9 came to my mind:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

The truth of 1 Corinthians 3:5–9 applies to children’s ministry: sowing, watering, encouraging, watching, praying, and so much more are carried on through different people in the child’s community. So often, the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth of the children we serve is progressive and slow. We must entrust the children in our care to God, depending on Him to accomplish His purposes and build enduring faith despite our challenges, failures, and flaws.

To those who pastor and serve children in the church, we thank you for your commitment to this most energetic, strategic, and innovative ministry of the church. We celebrate your call and commitment the children of our local congregation and community, knowing that you are sowing His truth into the fertile soul of His children.

—Bishop Shaun McKinley, PhD, International Children’s Ministry Director