Generation Z are digital natives, and it’s easy as a parent or teacher (who remembers life before the internet!) to feel out of touch with children who are so connected. I have a message of hope for today’s teacher and parent. The Gospel never gets old and building authentic relationships with children is still your most effective resource.
GOD REMAINS RELEVANT
Our eternal God is not caught off guard by the changing times. We cannot outgrow our need for God, and we cannot advance beyond God. Solomon put it this way: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Just because the Bible was written generations ago, does not mean that God remained in the past! Therefore, the teacher and parent, who are in touch with the Holy Spirit, need not fear that they are dull or irrelevant. God might not be a ‘modern’ concept, but God is ahead of the times, all the time. God who sees the future, knows today’s child.
The Triune God is as relevant now as He has always been. He is the inventor of relevance. It is up to the dedicated teacher and parent to find creative ways to present our relevant, eternal God, too today’s child. “How do we do this task?” I hear the reader thinking…I offer a simple question in return: “Is the human psyche too modern and advanced to appreciate authentic relationships?”
CHILDREN ARE SPENDING MORE TIME IN ISOLATION
In fact, the advance of technology has further widened the canyon of human relationships. Children of this computer generation spend far less time in community, and more time in isolation. They hunger for someone to take a genuine interest in their lives. They long for affirmation, belonging, friendship, mentorship, and fellowship. The effects of too much interaction with counterfeit or computerised ‘personalities’ has deepened their desire for human contact.
In short, our children need love. Technology cannot hug a child. An iPad cannot listen to a child’s fears and offer comfort. A Game Boy cannot tell our children that they are loved no matter what – whether they win or lose, they are number one in our books.
Mega churches can boast about the sophisticated media they employ in their children’s ministries, leaving smaller churches feeling like they do not measure up. I must confess that I do enjoy using lights, sound-effects and smoke machines to entertain children, but I am convinced that there is no substitute to that of a genuine relationship with a significant adult. These relationships jet-propel the spiritual development of a child. They change children’s lives. They are available to children in small or large churches, as long as the adults in those churches will step up to the task. This task does not depend on the churches resources, or lack thereof. The success of this critical task lies squarely on the shoulders of adults willing to be available to the children.
THE VALUE OF RELATIONSHIPS
It is not my presentations that children remember most in later years. Young adults I used to teach as children, now tell me how much our relationship meant to them. By showing up consistently on Sundays (as best prepared as my resources allowed at the time), I was a message in flesh and blood that they matter to God. When children are given the opportunity to build a strong, meaningful, long-lasting relationship with a significant adult, this opens up their hearts to truly experience God. They find a safe, caring environment in which to learn to trust God. The bells and whistles are a bonus, but it is the relationship that is the true minister. Children first learn to trust adults, before that trust is rendered to God.
CHILDREN NEED OUR BEST
I do encourage creative teaching though. I love novelties and gimmicks. It is part of my way of relating to children. God gave us the arts as a revelation of how awesome He is, and I fully intend to develop the arts to do just that. I want children to be so captivated by our God that they want nothing in life more than to desire Him. I want children to develop their own creative gifts, as an act of worship. There is no glory in lazy teaching or parenting. We cannot hide behind laziness before Solomon’s words, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). If I am to teach or to parent, I am to do it with might, force, power and capacity!
It may seem that I have presented here a paradox, arguing for relationship over the use of technology, yet on the other hand demanding for the mastering of and use of whatever creative means (including technology) one can employ in order to teach and parent children. Perhaps a merger of relationship and method is required. The merging into one of a learning, growing teacher and parent, who is willing to give children their time.
YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE
I leave you to consider your own teaching and parenting style. No two people are alike, or used alike by God. I encourage you to “fan into flame the gift of God that is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). I believe children’s ministry is not for a few selected ‘called out’ ones, but rather for every adult to be involved in the spiritual journey of a child. There are as many different types of children as there are adults, each of whom may be impacted by your unique set of gifts.
Ask God how you can contribute to the spiritual development of the children in your church. You have a significant role to play in children’s lives. Whether your work takes you ‘behind the scenes’ to operate a sound booth, to intercede, to raise funds for resources, to build props, to host events, or any multitude of support tasks available outside of the classroom pulpit, or whether you are called to teach in the classroom.
Today’s child is similar to yesterday’s child in this way – both depend on dedicated adults to take them seriously, and to teach them seriously. God is concerned about today’s child, are you?