Linda Mei Lin Koh
Director

Children! How should we describe them? Energetic? Spontaneous? Candid? Wiggly? Believing? Accepting? No wonder leading children's ministries is extreme! It is extremely exhausting and extremely fulfilling. On any Sabbath, you may find yourself sweating, crying, running, hugging, laughing, stooping down, reaching up, wanting to escape, and wanting to savor priceless, eternal moments. But hang in there, because it's worth it all!

It is this bundle of energy and the accepting, believing spirit that Jesus tells us to emulate: "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:4, NIV). Supporting this idea is the recent research by George Barna, who found that most people who accept Jesus as their Savior do so between the ages of 5 and 14. Yes, children do make decisions to follow Jesus. They are vital to the growth of our church--today and tomorrow.


Therefore, the mission of the Children's Ministries Department is to nurture children into a loving, serving relationship with Jesus. To accomplish this, the department focuses on the following areas of emphasis:

1. Grace-oriented ministries, in which all children will experience the unconditional love of Jesus, find assurance of acceptance and forgiveness, and make a commitment to Him.

2. Inclusive ministries, in which the volunteers who minister and the children to whom they minister will be valued and involved regardless of race, color, language, gender, age, abilities, or socioeconomic circumstances.

3. Leadership ministries, in which volunteers are empowered, trained, and equipped for
effective ministry to children.

4. Service-oriented ministries, in which children are given opportunities for hands-on service to people in their neighborhood or city, thus establishing a pattern of outreach to others that may well continue through life.

5. Safe ministries, whereby our churches (a) choose volunteers with high spiritual and moral backgrounds and (b) adopt safeguards to protect children from physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse, and the church from liability.

6. Cooperative ministries, which involve working with other ministries, such as Family Ministries, Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, and Stewardship Ministries to further our shared goals.

The Department of Children's Ministries celebrates God's gift of children in our churches today. Children's ministries on all levels of the church as well as in the local churches organize many nurturing programs that actively involve children on Sabbath, during the week, and at vacation time. Children have the opportunity to participate in small groups, retreats, evangelism, preaching, and outreach to the community. For teachers and other volunteers who work with children and teach children's Sabbath schools, training courses are also planned for them.

At the General Conference Children's Ministries Department, a number of significant advances have been made in the past quinquennium to facilitate leadership training, nurturing, discipling, and developing of resources for children.

Resources for Leaders
In response to the need for training and educating children's ministries directors on the various levels of the church, the department published the much needed Children's Ministries Handbook. This manual contains policies and guidelines for directing the ministry, as well as suggested programs for nurturing and discipling children in the faith. A separate booklet, How to Organize Children's Ministries in the Local Church, was developed for children's ministries coordinators to assist them in planning their ministry in the churches.

To help our local church leadership to better understand and support the ministry, the Children's Ministries Department collaborated with the Ministerial Association to publish the Pastor's and Elder's Manual for Children's Ministries before the 2005 General Conference session. This is given out to all pastors and local church elders.

In May 2004 the department published KidsNewsZone, a quarterly newsletter with news and resource materials for children's leaders. Through this publication, children's ministries directors around the world have the opportunity to share ministry ideas.

In October 2004 children's ministries launched its Web site at www.childrensministries.gc.adventist.org. The Web site contains resources for teachers, parents, and children's leaders, as well as departmental news, articles, tips, and ideas for working with children. A new section was also developed: Just for Kids! It provides devotionals, activities, and crafts to capture a child's interest.

Resources for Children
In the summer of 2000 Ellen G. White's classic book The Great Controversy was adapted for children ages 8-12 and published under the title Michael Asks Why. Children are introduced to last-day events through the main text and an activity book.

As radio is a popular medium of communication in many countries of the world, the department produced the Bible Explorers Club in December 2000. This is a radio series for children ages 9-12, with lively discussion on various topics related to a main theme, such as health, the Ten Commandments, etc.

Two years later the department released God's Treasure Chest, a CD with two-minute radio spots of children asking questions, and a person answering them from God's Word. Several countries are using these short radio spots on air.

To help fortify the minds of the children, and to help them understand the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the department has produced God Loves Me 27 Ways. Each doctrine is explained briefly, followed by illustrations, puzzles, games, and songs to help each child sing it, play it, and draw it.

As children's health problems are on the increase with statistics showing escalating numbers in obesity, diabetes, and mental stress, the department believes it vital that we help our children realize the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Utilizing the program of the Health Ministries Department called Celebrations, the Children's Ministries Department made plans to produce the children's version of this much-acclaimed program, Children's Celebrations, targeting December 2005 as the completion date. This will be a great resource for leaders, teachers, and parents to use for teaching children how to maintain good physical and mental health.

Leadership Certification
One of the greatest needs of the department is the training of children's leaders. As children's ministries leaders on the various levels of the church are changed whenever a constituency meeting occurs, a cry for training has rung out so that we can empower these new leaders. Therefore, a leadership certification program was organized to meet this need. This certification program is composed of nine courses, and aims to train children's ministries leaders and teachers to understand active learning, learning styles, faith development, and teaching with grace, among other things. All the courses are produced on a CD with PowerPoint presentations and notes for the trainer.

KID Discipleship
Children who have made their decision to follow Jesus need to be discipled in their spiritual journey. They need parents, Sabbath school teachers, and the faith community to assist them in growing their faith in Jesus. Kids in Discipleship is one of those programs that can help our children grow. It involves training parents and teachers to disciple their children. The children's ministries director began training at KIDS University, located at Southern Adventist University, in March 2004. The children's Ministries Department collaborated with KIDS University to draw up plans to develop KIDS University sites in different world divisions by 2006. The first group of division children's ministries directors will be trained at KIDS University in March 2006.

A Worldwide Ministry for Children
During this quinquennium the departmental director has made visits to 11 divisions, providing mentoring, support, and professional in-service training seminars for children's ministries directors in more than 30 countries. Besides equipping the adults, training is given also to children to involve them in witnessing, prayer, preaching, and outreach to the community. Children attend the Young Preachers' Club, Children's Small Groups, Children's Congress, and other service projects in the community.

One of the challenges we face in children's ministries is to continue to inspire and motivate all churches to rediscover the importance of children. Let's face it: building tomorrow's church begins with today's children!



 
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