The decline in church attendance has actually led to churches re-centering on the gospel.
Gospel Centered Kids Ministry
By Brian Dembowczyk
Is the Church Doomed?
The statistics don’t look good for the church in America today. Most quantifiable indicators of church health are in decline. Attendance. Participation. Giving. You name it. So is the church really in that much trouble? Are we witnessing the death spiral of the American church? No, we are not. Not at all.
I am greatly excited and optimistic about the church’s future. I don’t want you to misunderstand my deep concern with the dropout rate as doom and gloom for the church. Yes, we have a serious problem to address, but that doesn’t mean we need to be pessimistic. I’m more hopeful for the church than I ever have been before. And I’m not alone.
Many of us look at the landscape of the church and see something beautiful and encouraging taking place. We see a movement toward gospel-centeredness. Churches and individuals are intentionally focusing on the gospel story of God providing Jesus as the one and only solution for sin. The gospel is no longer being seen as merely a five-minute explanation of how to become a Christian; it is being taught as the sustaining foundation for what a relationship with Jesus looks like.
We see churches fighting to be authentic in conveying their desperate need for a Savior. A vital part of the gospel is recognizing our deep sinfulness and overwhelming need for God’s grace. The masks of perfection that many have worn in the church are being thrown aside in favor of living authentically with one another as redeemed sinners. Sin is not celebrated, but it isn’t swept under the rug either. People are not afraid to be who they really are—recovering sinners being transformed by God’s grace.
Churches are also embracing their missional calling. The gospel always calls us to action; we cannot sit still. We’ve experienced the lavish grace and love of God, and we want others to experience it also. Everyday life takes on new meaning. The grocery store is not simply the place where food is purchased; it is a mission field. Our neighborhood is not just a comfortable place to live; it is a mission field.
Our kids ministries need to overflow with gospel-centeredness. For some, this will mean changing what we teach or the way we teach. For others, this will mean changing or even ending programs that are not driving kids toward the gospel. For still others, this will mean fostering authentic community with kids, families and volunteers. And for others, this will mean getting outside of the walls of the church to be on mission.
It won’t be easy. In fact, most likely it will be hard, demanding, controversial, tiring work. You may be tempted to question if it is worth it. And the answer will always be yes. Yes, it is worth it. The gospel is always worth it.
For the remainder of this book, we are going to delve into the following five key areas of kids ministry to see how we can be more gospel-centered in each:
Gospel-Centered Teaching. What is the gospel, and how does it impact the way kids live for Christ as his followers?
Gospel-Centered Transformation. How does the gospel change us, and what is our reason for living differently because of Jesus?
Gospel-Centered Mission. How can we cast vision and train kids as missionaries right now?
Gospel-Centered Leaders. What does a gospel-centered kids leader look like?
Gospel-Centered Parents. What is the relationship between the church and the home? How can churches best partner with parents in a relationship of mutual support and encouragement?
There is so much to be excited about. But above all, I’m optimistic and excited because of what Jesus said: “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18).
Gates are defensive. If gates fail, it’s because an aggressor attacked and overcame them. However, Jesus intends for us to be on the offensive. He intends for us to take the fight to the enemy. He never intended for us merely to duck and cover. As we charge toward the battle and fight for our kids, we do so with optimism and hope.
Gene Kranz of NASA may have had high expectations for the success of his program, but Jesus said it best when he told his church, “Failure is not an option!”
Excerpted from Gospel Centered Kids Ministry by Brian Dembowczyk. Broadman and Holman Publishers. Used by Permission. Copyright 2018.