hy do so many children who grow up in the Adventist Church alongside their parents fail to establish a relationship with Jesus and choose instead to walk away? Kids in Discipleship (K.I.D.), a ministry of the Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church, was created in an effort to find a solution to this serious problem. Our church needs to be infused with individuals who have a passion to carry out the ministry Jesus exemplified for us: to make disciples of all nations. But it starts in our own homes and churches and with our own children.
The K.I.D. ministry trains and equips congregations, parents, and other mentors to implement the biblical model of discipleship as described in Deuteronomy 6:4-7. These verses clearly identify parents as trainers of their children; “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (verse 7). Founded in 2002 by Don MacLafferty of the Collegedale, Tennessee, Seventh-day Adventist Church, K.I.D. seeks to teach children to be faithful, fruitful disciples of Jesus Christ.
Through the intentional discipleship focus of K.I.D. parents, mentors, and children grow in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and with one another. Families are empowered to use their gifts in worship, ministry, and mission. “Praise God for this movement that centers on discipleship for families, so relevant to our spiritual journey. This is right on target, focusing on the Elijah message for these end times,” said Sally Phoon, Children’s Ministries director for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division.
“Imagine your child hearing your voice as they make the important decisions that come in daily life. And they hear your voice giving them scriptures to strengthen them with the guidance they need to make the proper decision. You wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity like that. That’s what Kids in Discipleship will give you,” says Gerard Carter, a grandparent, educator, and K.I.D. volunteer prayer coordinator at the Duluth, Georgia, Seventh-day Adventist Church. Over the past several years Carter and his wife, Felicia, have been involved with the K.I.D. ministry through their home church. Together they participate with other families in weekly interactive Bible studies that have netted wonderful results for parents mentoring their children on their journeys with Jesus.
The Carters have a passion to help connect other families to Christ. “As a teacher and a parent I feel the most important thing we have on this planet is our children. There is nothing that can be compared to watching the excitement of a child getting ready for baptism because they are in love with Jesus,” shares Gerard. The Carters are currently volunteer Footprints for Parents and Mentors* small-group coleaders at their church. “It’s exciting to be around other people who want to see their children grow spiritually and have stronger relationships with each other,” affirms Felicia.
But Why Disciple Children?
According to the Barna Research Group,1 by the time children are 13 years old they have formed their spiritual identity. Additionally, more than 50 percent of children born and raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church end up leaving, and that is a terrible reality.2
“As a parent, more than anything you want to see your children in heaven. But never before has the church given you a how-to-make-that-happen program similar to the Kids in Discipleship ministry,” adds Felicia Carter. “The K.I.D. ministry provides the tools. It’s not just a dream. It’s not just a wish. You can be empowered and given the tools to see that you are doing everything you can.” In Malachi 4:6 God proclaims a powerful prophecy found in the last verse of the Old Testament, and provides us with a picture of what He yearns to do for families. “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”
Are You Concerned for Your Children’s Future?
“We are living in difficult times. Families are under attack. Satan has a plan to steal the hearts of our children. It is time to intentionally disciple them to stand tall for Jesus in this final era of earth’s history,” says Don MacLafferty, director of the K.I.D. ministry.
K.I.D. provides a strategy to unite three evangelistic avenues—home, church, and school—into one united ministry effort. “As a father, in order for me to have a connection with my children I need to have a connection and relationship with Christ myself. The K.I.D. ministry emphasizes the importance of making time for God not only in my life but also for my kids. Our family has more of a deliberate and quality family worship time together. We are engaged in worship,” says Don Howe, father of two and a graduate of the Footprints small-group series.
So How Can You Start This Ministry in Your Church?
Getting the K.I.D. ministry in your own church isn’t a far-flung dream. It involves the creation of church teams—comprising a pastor plus two or three laypeople—who attend K.I.D. University, a three-day intensive training event. During these sessions, volunteer leaders are equipped to direct Kids in Discipleship programs in their home churches. The K.I.D. ministry is pastor-supported but layperson-led. “This has been the most exciting ministry experience of my life because of what I see happening with families,” says Will James from the Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in National City, California. “I love to see my kids active in our church. They literally run from the junior room after Sabbath school to serve as either a greeter, deacon, or to be up front for the praise time. They want to be involved.” There are three K.I.D. University training sites in the United States as well as several international training centers in the South Pacific and Trans-European divisions.
“While this ministry may be geared toward children, it really serves to strengthen families as a whole. This in turn has an energizing influence on entire congregations. Never have I seen such a simple, yet biblically solid and effective model for discipleship and outreach—all built on the foundation of a Christ-centered home. If ever there was a time to take this ministry seriously, it is now!” affirms Ed Wright, president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
If you are interested in learning more about Kids in Discipleship, now is a great time. Several training events are planned for 2009. For more information, visit www.kidsindiscipleship.org or call 423-893-3266.
*Footprints for Parents & Mentors is a set of 12 small-group Bible studies drawn from the lives of Bible characters that equip adults to become the primary spiritual nurturer of their own children. Parents and mentors grow in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and learn how to be intentional as they disciple their children to Jesus.
†Footprints for Kids is a 24-lesson intergenerational Bible study course. Parents and mentors along with their children participate in this highly active small group. Designed to follow Footprints for Parents & Mentors, Footprints for Kids assists adults as they mentor their children in three areas: (1) Build Your Relationship With Jesus, (2) Know the Truth of Jesus, and (3) Share Jesus With Others. Each lesson includes a take-home resource that reinforces the points of the Bible study.
1George Barna, Barna Research Group, Ltd., Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions (Regal Books, 2003).
2Roger L. Dudley, Why Teenagers Leave the Church: Personal Stories From a 10-Year Study (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2000).
Joel Henderson was director of communication and partnerships for kids in discipleship, when this article was written.