One of the great joys of being a pastor in the local church is being able to minister to children. Without question, there are few things as humbling and as exciting as coming alongside children as they grow and mature in Christ over many years. To play influence their spiritual growth and formation from the time they learn to walk, through their elementary and teenage years, leading to that day they graduate from high school, there is nothing quite like the role a pastor plays in shepherding these young souls. Gift and privilege: That’s what it is for a pastor.
But good shepherding always begins with knowing the sheep – and this includes knowing the children under a pastor’s care. So let me offer three things pastors should know about every kid in their flock.
1. Know their name and basic info
Few things are as powerful as knowing and using someone else’s name. I can remember as a little kid how much it meant to me when my pastor would call me by name. I couldn’t believe he actually knew who I was! This should be the norm in the relationship between pastors and children in a congregation. We must know their names, and then use their names, each time we see them. Of course, this takes work and intentionality, but it is worth it.
Along with knowing the names of the children, pastors should also know basic information about each child: How old are they and what grade are they in? Where do they live? What school do they go to? How many brothers and sisters do they have? How long has their family lived in this community? This type of basic information helps pastors to not only know children better, but to shepherd them more effectively.
2. Know what they enjoy
One of the ways pastors can build a deeper relationship with the children in their church is knowing some of the things each kid enjoys doing. Whether it is playing sports, playing an instrument, drawing pictures or eating at a particular restaurant – whatever it might be – knowing specific things a child enjoys helps a pastor to better connect with them and therefore build trust with them over time.
One of the most powerful things you can do as a pastor is to attend sporting events or school activities. Of course, the parents will be grateful you cared enough to show up and support their son or daughter but, I promise you, the child you are going to support will be blown away! What a cool thing that their pastor would come just to see them! This is a very simple and tangible way to show you care deeply for kids in your church. Just show up and encourage them like crazy!
3. Know where they are spiritually
As a pastor, you want to do the very best you can to have the spiritual pulse on every individual in your congregation, including the children. Part of shepherding children well is knowing, as best you can, with the help of their parents, where a child actually is spiritually: Do they love Jesus? Have they surrendered their life to him? Have they been baptized? Do they struggle with doubt? What things are hindering their spiritual growth at this stage in their life? What types of things do they want to learn more about when it comes to Jesus, God, or the Bible? What do they need from me as their pastor? Answering questions like these will help a pastor better understand where a child is spiritually. It also will help a pastor more effectively shepherd these children and their families toward greater maturity in Christ.
Practically, this is why I recommend pastors regularly teach some kind of Bible study or baptism/basics of the faith class for the children of their church. Great wisdom builds, into the yearly rhythm of a church’s life, some kind of learning environment where a pastor can connect with kids to encourage them, teach them, laugh with them and get a more accurate feel on where each child is spiritually. The class or study can look different, depending on the size of your congregation and the ages of the kids who are represented.
Whatever it looks like, pastors must find ways to connect with the children under their care. And this should be a joy and delight, never a burden!
Published March 15, 2023