Written by Eric Provost, associate director of Awana International Canada
When I was young, I remember attending church and listening to my Sunday school teacher walk us through a felt-board presentation about why Jesus needed to die on the cross. Our teacher was an incredibly tall man named Mr. B. He had large sausage fingers that struggled to pull the felt away from the board. But I don’t ever remember him struggling with his words.
His message was clear—we had a problem as humans, and Jesus was the answer. Mr. B was also a Christian Service Brigade leader every Wednesday night. He helped us finish tasks to get badges and taught us how God wanted us to live as young men. He was a good man and we all listened to him intently. There weren’t many people I listened to so intently back then.
Mr. B was engaged, helpful, caring, and humble. These characteristics were constants in his life, regardless of what we brought to the table each week. I don’t ever remember getting in trouble (no doubt though that I did), but Mr. B never made us feel “bad” or “difficult” but rather forgiven and loveable. Very much a reflection of the kind of love I was learning about in the Bible. Sacrificial love.
He shared the gospel through his words, but he showed the gospel through his life.
Do you have a Mr. B? Who is that someone who first shared the gospel with you and taught you the meaning of the words?
In our last Awana article we presented the idea that there are five core values necessary for an effective children and youth ministry.
The gospel must be at the centre.
As I consider Mr. B, my own children, the culture they live in, and my experience working in youth ministry, I become more and more certain that there is little value in a ministry that is not centred on the gospel.
It must be shared often.
More than ever, church attendance has become irregular. A new person or child attending your church may come back or they may not. Their first time could be their last.
Don’t forget to share the reason you do what you do, every night you meet. Learn to incorporate the gospel into your message whether it’s 5 minutes or 30 minutes—maybe even in your hallway conversations with the kids as you wait for someone to come out of the bathroom.
I also believe the gospel must be shared urgently.
Few would deny that kids today are struggling in ways generations before them can scarcely understand. Our human encouragement, love, and advice will never be enough.
“What a shame it would be if our youth learned that lying, cutting, and porn are bad, but never heard that God loves them so much that He died for them,” says Jon Imbeau, executive director here at Awana.
How can we effectively deal with such issues without the foundational truth of God’s love? When children’s worldviews are formed around this truth, they are equipped, with your help, to handle the rest. Share urgently.
I didn’t become a Christian in Mr. B’s class. Actually, I didn’t become a Christian for many years following, but that doesn’t change the impact of his message and living example.
“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” — Isaiah 55:11 (NLT).
I was reminded of Mr. B after attending a leader training night about four weeks ago. The field trainer stood up in front of the group and set a cardboard diagram on a stand beside him. It was the Gospel Wheel. He proceeded to hand out cards to the group with verses on them and asked each person to read when called upon. It struck me that the message shared by this 73-year-old man is as relevant today as it was over three decades ago when he started.
Most Awana club kids will tell you that game time is their favourite part, but it’s our alumni and club parents who thank us for teaching the gospel so consistently through the years. As we age, we tend to reflect on the things that have impacted us the most, and few can deny the impact of the gospel in their lives once they have accepted its truth.
So, will you share the gospel with kids this week? Consider how you can personalize the message by sharing examples from your own life. Be a living example of Christ in the lives of the children that you serve. Find ways to share—maybe old-school felt-boards or maybe something creative and new. When you share the word of God it will not return void.