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Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett on Children’s Ministry, part two


by Jason Smathers on September 11, 2009

This is part two of a three part interview with Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett. In part one, they explained to us why we should share about God’s love to our children without telling them that God loves them specifically before they repent and believe. Today’s conversation covers how children’s ministry fits in at Christ Fellowship of Kansas City.

What services do you provide for children during one of your home church services?
We currently have five home congregations, and each is free to serve the children as they choose (under the oversight of the home congregation’s pastor).
We have all utilized a Scripture memory system designed by Karen Eppler, a member of our church. She sets verses to popular tunes, and also designs artwork that corresponds with the Scripture to be memorized. For about 30 minutes on Sunday evening, usually before the main session, the younger children will gather in a separate room or comfortable basement and one or more of the adults will lead the children in memorizing Scripture. A portion of Eppler’s work is online.
For the older children, some of the home congregations may provide additional Scripture memory opportunities or Bible studies. The youth of the church also meet most Wednesdays from 7 to 9 pm at the men’s meeting or the women’s meeting (the men and women alternate meetings in a home every 6 weeks). The youth meeting centers on a serious Bible study, and it is currently being led by one of our interns. They are currently studying through John.
In your congregation, at what age is a child expected to worship with the adults?
We assume you mean “at what age is a child expected to sit through the whole meeting with the adults.” Our main session each Sunday lasts about 2 hours, and during the first half we typically do not provide a nursery. That means everybody is sitting in during the singing and open time of sharing. Each home congregation is free to have or not to have a nursery, but usually it is only provided for the second half of the main session. The age range in the nursery is typically birth to age three. Parents are not required to put their younger children in the nursery, but everyone understands the importance of taking a child out of the meeting if he or she becomes a persistent distraction.
Therefore, typically children ages four and older are sitting in during the whole meeting. Do they always sit still? No. Do they always keep from talking or interrupting? Of course not. But we train our parents to teach their children about appropriate behavior in church meetings and to discipline their children when they disobey or demonstrate rebellious attitudes.
We must add that we believe there are great benefits to having even younger children sitting in the entire meeting. We have been amazed to learn later on just how much a child actually heard from the evening sermon, and we also rejoice to see parents helping their children through the meeting by doing things like pointing to the text of Scripture being referenced, or encouraging them to sing.
Are there some services a church needs to provide for children to effectively reach families?
If you mean by this question, “Is there a program for children that every church needs to provide for children in order to draw families in,” we don’t think so. It may be God’s will for a church to provide something to reach the children and families in a community, but we wouldn’t say that it is required for all churches. Every church is responsible to hold fast to the gospel and evangelize the community. That will always require relationship building with unbelievers, and it sometimes involves providing something for children that might, as a result, provide evangelism opportunities with their parents.
Sometimes churches attempt to draw unbelievers in by providing “exciting” venues for children, thinking, “Then, perhaps the parents will come, sit in our service, hear the gospel, and be saved.” The desire is admirable, but we believe the apostolic pattern is much more about keeping the main meeting of the church as principally a believers’ meeting, and encouraging evangelism in everyday life in places like your neighborhood, local YMCA, and/or workplace.

Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett are both elders at Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. Jim is founder and president of Christian Communicators Worldwide (CCW) and Steve is a seminar leader, writer, and editorial assistant for CCW. Since 2007, Steve has traveled to churches around the country teaching a seminar on childhood conversion. Jim Elliff is the author of the children’s book and DVD, the Eaglet, which I recently reviewed.

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