It’s safe to say, many adults in our churches today grew up hearing a well-intended invitation to follow Jesus that started something like this: “Now, all you have to do to become a Christian is…”
Perhaps at a young age, they “became Christians” and staked their spiritual identity on praying a prayer, walking the aisle, or signing a card. Unfortunately for some, their experience of faith formation as children fell short of nurturing the soul’s sense of awe and wonder that sparks desire for life in and with God.
How many adults in the church today—or distanced from it—still don’t grasp what it means to identify and live as a follower of Jesus? Sure, they attend or bring their kids to church on Christmas and Easter, or maybe a time or two a month. But desire for God seems to be so easily overshadowed by other pursuits that fill up family calendars. The same may be true for some who serve as volunteers.
When we encounter adults who come from this kind of experience, we see the need and opportunity to make children’s faith formation a whole-church priority.
Faith Formation Happens as We Follow Jesus
“Flip back to New Testament days,” writes Carey Nieuwhof, a pastor and church leadership advocate. “You didn’t attend Jesus. You followed Him.” There’s a big difference.
Danish theologian Soren Kirkegaard draws the difference this way:
“The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, will not reconstruct his life, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. Not so for the follower. No, no. The follower aspires with all his strength to be what he admires.”
This is why faith formation needs to happen holistically through the church and not be compartmentalized in kids’ ministry. Even as adults, we are all at various stages on the spiritual journey of learning to live in followership. The casual fellowship of church attendance may be more comfortable, but it’s so much less than what Jesus invites us to.
Adults who are growing in identity and faith as followers of Jesus will invest with more passion in kids’ lives, both in parenting and ministry roles. We will embody a church culture of disciples making more disciples, which is exactly how Jesus promised the church would multiply (Matt. 28:16–20).
Ideas to Make Children’s Faith Formation a Whole-Church Priority
1. Showcase the importance of personal Bible reading to connect with God and experience the wonder of who He is.
Doing so benefits everyone, including parents, volunteers, staff, and other adults who are investing in children’s lives outside of kids’ ministry. Consider tools like a reading plan or Bible app to help your church grow in reading God’s Word—not as a legalistic standard but as a source of discovery and wonder.
2. Beyond teaching what is in the Bible, also teach about the Bible.
Churches cannot assume that adult attenders—even key volunteers—know why we value Scripture as a source of divine truth. Even if they do know, they need to be reminded and equipped to talk about matters of interpretation that often come up as people dig deeper into what the Bible says.
3. Make room for wonderfilled experiences.
Alongside developing knowledge of the Bible, invite families to dwell in the profound truth of it. As an example, you can take advantage of the free Wonderfilled Journey Guide and related resources for a church gathering, special event, or family engagement tool. In preparation, you can also receive a week of awe-inspiring mini-devotionals delivered daily in short text messages.
4. Invite open dialogue about doubts and questions.
Skeptics and new believers will have questions, for sure. So will regular church attenders and even key volunteers. And what about us as leaders? Do we have safe places to explore what we’re wrestling with? Let’s not be afraid to take an honest look at hard questions about God, the Bible, and faith.
Nieuwhof cautions that in many churches, legitimate doubt is prohibited. But it shouldn’t be. He writes:
“It is very difficult to have an honest conversation in many churches today. In many conservative churches, legitimate questions get dismissed with pat—and often trite—answers. In many liberal churches, there is often so much ambiguity that questions that actually can be answered are left unresolved—as if leaders were taking people nowhere. Church leaders today simply have to get better with handling the tension that comes with questions.”Carey Nieuwhof
We need to remember that the struggle with doubt is real, and sometimes getting it wrong part of the journey of faith formation in children and adults. If you see no struggle, be afraid. Apathy is the slow death of faith. And, if adults aren’t bringing their questions out of the shadows, kids won’t either.
More Ideas and Insight for Your Church
Our children’s faith formation will be influenced by the overflow of our wholehearted devotion to Jesus. From their parents, our volunteers, and the community of believers we worship with. We don’t want to miss the opportunity for this kind of discipleship.
That’s why we’re share insight and ideas as a community of children’s ministry leaders inside the Wonder Ink portal. Please join us!
Today, you can also download our free guide: What If We’re Failing Kids at Faith Formation? (And How Not To).
 Carey Nieuwhof, “5 Reasons Engagement Will Drive Almost All Future Church Growth,” Carey Nieuwhof (blog), accessed July 8, 2019, https://careynieuwhof.com/5-reasons-engagement-will-drive- almost-future-church-growth/.
 Soren Kierkegaard, “Followers, Not Admirers,” Plough, accessed July 8, 2019, www.plough.com/en/ topics/culture/holidays/easter-readings/followers-not-admirers.