Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus – David M. Csinos and Ivy Beckwith
Csinos and Beckwith’s bold and provocative title, “Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus” made me wonder what this book would hold. Could the authors contend they have found out how Jesus would organize children’s ministry in our current context? Would this be like a WWJD bracelet around current ideas for children’s ministry? With an introduction entitled “Doing Children’s Ministry Differently” I was curious.
Perhaps the first wearers of the label “Christians” faced similar responses. We Christians do after all refer to ourselves as little Christs, as those who walk in the way of Jesus, with Jesus and his other followers. That can also sound presumptuous; because it is a bold goal, one we can only accomplish as Christ is increasingly formed in us. Yet that bold and even revolutionary goal is precisely what this book recommends as a paradigm for Children’s ministry. Children are to be accepted and regarded as disciples in training, with gifts and insights to offer while we accompany each other on our journey of faith. This journey embraces all aspects of church life and introduces all travellers to the wide and diverse family of friends that are attracted by Jesus.
This basic orientation grounds David and Ivy’s comprehensive book on faith formation. Its view of “children’s ministry” is therefore much broader than the age segregated educational model that dominated church life in the last century. This view of children’s ministry emerges from the authors’ solid grasp of the physical/psycho/social/spiritual development theories of the last fifty years and more, information which they effectively summarize for their readers.
This new approach to children’s ministry embraces honest questions, includes meaningful participation in the whole life of the church, and exhibits radical hospitality. It blossoms in an intergenerational community that practices transformative justice, and whose members seek to live holistic lives.
By building the paradigm of discipleship training in an intergenerational, intercultural, interracial group of Jesus followers, where children are understood to be an integral part of the worshiping, serving, learning, Christian community this book truly shows us a way forward for the whole church.
While the book has a good number of practical suggestions, it focuses on the big picture rather than on specific strategies. The authors’ vision is infectious, but for it to be implemented the book needs to be read and its ideas digested by a broader group of church leaders. And that’s where I see the challenge. How do we move toward implementation of this exciting approach of discipleship training?
Will whole congregational visioning teams agree to immerse themselves in a book on children’s ministry? I long to be surprised by such a reception. IF this can happen, it will be a transforming agent for the life of the whole congregation, and will help all ages grow as disciples of Jesus. Since Jesus said we should learn about the Kingdom of God from children, I suppose its bold title is exactly right, this is “Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus.”
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