I met with a good friend this morning. He said something that shook me up a bit. Ariel Myslak, the youth pastor at New Beginnings Christian Center in Moses Lake, was describing a difficult time in his ministry. He was referring to a time, a few years ago, where he was working with children. And all the while, he wanted to be upstairs leading others in the youth ministry. This is when a thought occurred to him…that this is right where Jesus would be if he was in the building. Downstairs. Away from the limelight. With the children. Making disciples. Showing compassion. Leading. Shaping. Sharpening. Answering questions. Joining in all of the joy. Living in the fullness of their faith.
We hear the passage at every baby dedication. We hear the narrative so much that we become numb to it. We don’t ever stop to truly consider the ramifications. The Bible reads, “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16, ESV).
Would Christ want the spotlight? The stage? The sermon? The audience? Would he want what so many of us think is of the utmost importance?
Would he see children as an annoyance? Or as second-class? A side-note? An afterthought? A necessary ministry alongside other ministries? Nothing more and nothing less? After all, a church won’t grow without a healthy children’s ministry. Or maybe we are thinking about this from all the wrong angles. Maybe the healthiest church IS the children’s ministry? Maybe that is where Jesus already is?
Maybe we need to spend more time “downstairs.” Lead pastors, elders, and parents need to make it a healthy habit to visit…to serve…in the children’s ministries of their churches on a more consistent basis. And be reminded of what Jesus loves the most.
And so, with a friend’s words fresh in my thoughts, I pray for our children’s pastors. I pray specifically for those gathering on Thursday at Northwest Children’s Ministry Fusion Leadership Conference. I am grateful for these leaders of leaders. Many of them are instrumental in the spiritual formation of my own children. Week after week, they encourage and embody the faith of a child. They exemplify the Kingdom. And they are doing it downstairs.