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Explore the Impact of Faith at 212⁰: A New Way To Look At Children's Ministry

Updated: Mar 18

Here's your science test for today: What is the difference between water heated to 211⁰ and 212⁰? Answer: Water boils when it reaches 212⁰. At 211⁰, it doesn't. Water at the boiling point has incredible power and versatility. Heat your children's ministry to 212⁰ and see what happens.

I am a casual scientist—very casual. I want to understand how things function. In particular, steam engines have always fascinated me. I am so impressed that water and heat can be harnessed together to do work. Basic, yet powerful.

The premise is simple: water is heated in a boiler, which produces high-pressure steam. This pressure drives an arm, which drives a piston connected to an arm that propels whatever the designer wants—a train, a tractor, a ship engine, and more. But unless the water reaches 212⁰, none of this happens. At 211⁰, the mechanism is inert. Just one degree more heat changes everything. Water at 211⁰ is just hot—not productive.

Children's ministry is just as organic and powerful. It is a straightforward machine that can be harnessed. One prerequisite is that our living water must reach 212⁰ F, not 211⁰. This is the minimum temperature that produces the steam required to do work. Just one degree more heat changes everything.

What does the boiling point of fresh water and children's ministry have in common? What sort of line can we draw between these two disparate concepts? Let's explore.

The fundamental commonality in this comparison is the impact of one degree. Of course, It is easier and more economical to maintain water at 211 degrees. We don't spend any energy putting more fuel on the fire, and we don't have to spend any more money on the fuel itself. But if we expend the energy and the money to heat the water just one more degree, the impact is tremendous. Do you want to develop disciples? It takes one more degree.

It takes one more degree to create the steam that drives the engine. Similarly, with just one more degree of effort, we can develop children's ministries that will change the cycle of decline many faith communities have been stuck in for generations.

With one more degree of effort, we will create generations of Christians who can articulate their faith, are committed to worship, and are eager to share the gospel through word and deed. Our churches become actual houses of prayer and worship. And this with just one more degree of effort.

My point is that in 21st-century faith communities, we must offer our children impactful ministries that are dynamic in spirit, rich in content, grounded in scripture, and delivered with joy. Children (and their parents) respond to this.

When faithful church members ask, "Where are the children?" My honest response is that children are in places and communities where they are offered what they need. They need adults who lead them with authority and passion, peers who are learning alongside them, affirmation and encouragement to advance through new skills, and a sense that they are part of a community that wants them.

Unfortunately, many families are finding that sports teams, gymnastics meets, dance competitions, and other secular activities fill those needs better than the church, which has a team of Sunday school teachers who rotate out so that no teacher "has to be there" every Sunday and a children's ministry budget that allows for the most limited supplies.

Indeed, families that substitute these secular activities for family worship do not feel guilty about missing worship. They believe these Sunday entertainments are better for their children and their families than going to church. So, rather than blaming the parents, the coaches, or the culture, we should look at ourselves and what we offer children.

Have we added enough fuel to our fire to heat our children's ministries to the point that it produces steam? Do our children's ministries work? Are we teaching true discipleship? What can we do to stoke the fire under the boiler so that the water reaches 212⁰?

First, we must remember that by comparing the number of children who attended our church in the 1950s and 1960s to the number who attend now, we are comparing dissimilar things. Families were larger then. Many families had three, four, five, and even six children.

Today, many families have only one child or perhaps two. Families larger than that are unusual. In addition, many couples choose not to have children or put off having them until later in life than parents in the mid-20th century did. So, expecting a few families to fill the Sunday school rooms with children is unrealistic. But that's okay.

So, beginning with the understanding that there are fewer children to serve, let us commit to fanning the flames of our obligation to love them to a complete knowledge of Christ so that the next generation will have many prophets and teachers. Here are some thoughts.

  1. Look to your strengths. The Gospel is Good News. This is what the word gospel means: Good News. In this eternal truth lies the source of strength for all ministries, especially children's. Children have an inner self that is drawn to Jesus and the Truth. With 212⁰ ministry, they will respond to solid, scripture-based, energetic, joyful, and exciting teaching. Offer them this. It is a sin to be boring as a teacher of children at church. Believing children should learn while sitting at a table is a fool's errand. Ramp up the joy. Be a happy teacher. Bring the light and the life to the children at church. They don't need to be given prizes for being quiet; they must be so engaged that they fully participate. Make sure the adults at your church make this happen.

  2. Raise the bar. 212⁰ ministry will challenge children with scripture, catechism, and a high-quality curriculum that requires much of the students. Making things too easy gives the impression that what we learn at church isn't all that important. Encourage students to stretch their minds and spirits, practice prayer, and read scripture. Encourage them to be Christ in the hallways, cafeterias, classrooms, and sports fields. Give them concrete ways to do this. Role-play typical scenes in school and have the students practice being Jesus in those situations,

  3. Adopt a culture that is pro-child. Children who are scolded, criticized, and ignored will go elsewhere. If they are welcomed as they are with all their child-like behaviors on ball fields and then openly berated for running in the hall at church, they will choose the ball field every time. Children are children. They are not yet adults. Patient teaching, appropriate expectations, and genuine inclusion will encourage those children to return to where they will hear the gospel message. This is the result of ministry at 212⁰.

These suggestions are meant to start a conversation with all church leaders about the importance of children in our faith communities. The hard truth is that whatever our children are taught to love and revere is what the entire world will love and revere fifteen years later. In teaching our children to know and love Jesus, we are moving the Kingdom of God nearer with each passing year. Heat the water to 212⁰.

Matthew 19:14 NIV

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Emphasis by the author. But I bet Jesus would emphasize it, ok

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