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During the two last decades in the body of Christ, a favorite recurring theme has centered on what has been dubbed the "five-fold ministry gifts." Those gifts are identified in Ephesians 4:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ....
(vv. 11-12)
In some Christian circles for a season, those verses seemed to be quoted more frequently than even John 3:16! It is a truth, which has been dissected 1,000 different ways.

But there is one aspect of this subject that has not been fully explored. This is in the area of children's ministry.

The Barna Research Group recently posted results of a survey with teenagers asking them what they experienced at church when they were children and adolescents (You may read the full discussion by visiting www.barna.org).

Eight out of 10 identified something that they felt was an important insight or a category of lessons. One-fourth of teens (26 percent) said they received general information about God, such as claims regarding His existence, information about His attributes or teachings about the life of Jesus Christ.

One-sixth of today's teens (17 percent) said their church experience had imparted core religious beliefs from the Bible. One out of every seven young people (15 percent) said they learned important lifestyle principles, generally in relation to obedience to God's laws or moral direction for their life.

Smaller numbers of teenagers recall developing important relationships or relational skills at church (8 percent) or general ideas about the role of faith and church (5 percent). One out of every five teens (21 percent) said they did not learn anything of value during their time attending Christian churches.

What Do These Figures Mean?
I don't know how you evaluate these statements, but I find them very disturbing. I would like to believe these kids were attending traditional, denominational churches, and certainly not the one you and I attend!

The unfortunate truth is that this survey no doubt covered all of them. In ministering around the nation, I'm appalled to find, for instance, that only a fraction of the children being raised in Charismatic or Pentecostal churches are even filled with the baptism in the Holy Spirit! (If they don't get it in our churches, where in the world are they going to get it?)

There is never one simple answer to a problem such as this, but as a children's minister, it is of grave concern to me to watch our kids across the body of Christ—our cream of the crop#&8212;grow up with such weak spiritual foundations.

I've pondered this a great deal, and have come to the conclusion it has to do predominately with how we view children's ministry and those that minister to them. According to the Bible, the saints are perfected and brought into maturity as a result of the influence of the five-fold ministry gifts.

And yet they are rarely found in any children's ministry anywhere in the world! So we shouldn't be surprised at the low level of spiritual maturity in many of our kids, even the ones coming out of very strong spiritual churches.

Often, those who are ministering to our children are dear saints who are just "taking their turns" with the kids until someone else comes along. That's how I got started! I had no intentions of staying in children's ministry for the long haul.

Many times, parents who have children in the church get involved because they want to see to it their kids get some type of spiritual food as compared to nothing, so they will jump in and take the lead, whether they are gifted for it or not.

And then there are the little grandmas who have faithfully taken the challenge through the decades, and we've praised God they were there, because no one else wanted to do it! It was the least desirable job in the church, next to the nursery! Many people would rather be the church janitor than work with the kids!

A Children's Pastor?
When I was raised in the church, we'd never heard of a children's pastor. We had "Sunday school superintendents" in my denomination—volunteers who were in the position for the power they wielded over a huge section of the church including the pastor. (Let's get honest with ourselves!)

But thank God things have changed dramatically in many places. A significant number of churches now have either part-time or full-time paid staff. But even then, just because an individual is paid to be the children's pastor doesn't make them a true pastor. Sadly, they are often hirelings who just love kids and are good with them!

Too often head pastors realize they need someone to oversee that area of their church, and they may truly believe in the value of children's ministry for it's own merits, but it usually stops there. I wonder how many head pastors actually hire their children's workers having the slightest clue whether or not those individuals are a five-fold ministers, or if that's even a consideration in their process.

I ask you—should it be?

A head pastor once told me that children's pastors couldn't be five-fold because "children's pastors" were not listed in Ephesians 4:11, and he was serious! My question to him was, "Why would you even want somebody on your staff that wasn't a five-fold minister?"

Could it be that one big reason our kids are no further developed spiritually than they are today is because there is no one truly qualified to help perfect them as defined by Ephesians 4:11-12?
Some might argue if there is a pastor, or evangelist, or teacher in the leadership of the church itself that it's good enough—the kids will get it by association. I challenge that thinking.

If it were true, we should be getting different results in our kids and teens than we are! But our kids are not being perfected, nor are they being equipped for ministry work in most places.

I remember many years ago being struck by the thought that, as the children's pastor in my church, I had to "do it all." When it was time to evangelize, I had to do it, because there was no one else to do it for me. When it was time to teach, I had to do it, because there was no one else to do it for me.

When prophetic ministry was needed, it was up to me, because there were no "children's prophets" to be had, and so on. That is not to imply that I had the mentality that no one could do things as well as I could, or that I didn't know how to delegate, etc. It was that I had a real understanding of the five-fold gifting, and I looked around and realized we were on our own!

Not even our head pastor stepped foot in our doors to say hi! There were no "children's apostles" coming around to help us get established. If we were going to get established, it was falling squarely on my shoulders.

We were like the rest of the church body—we only recognized three of the giftings anyway—the pastor, teacher, and evangelist. Most of the children's evangelists traveling full-time were no more five-fold evangelists than the man on the moon! They were simply traveling ministers. It was just standard procedure to have salvation altar calls every service with kids, thus the title of evangelist.

The gift of children's teacher seldom existed. We had a lot of so-called teaching going on, but God help us if we ever lost that Sunday school quarterly on Saturday night!

If our children and teens are truly going to be perfected, equipped, and take their proper place in the kingdom, then they must be exposed to their own five-fold ministers. That means raising them up in our children's ministries!

How do we do that?

We must start, first of all, by realizing there are such things. Then we begin dignifying the offices so those who are true five-folders won't be embarrassed, even ashamed, to be called to children's ministry! We have got to put a stop to the mentality that children's and youth ministries are merely a stepping-stone to some greater calling in the church!

I've been told that the average length of time a children's youth pastor stays at any one church is about two years. How can kids ever be spiritually matured with that kind of instability for leadership? But a lot of it has to do with how the position is viewed, and it sends talented, called young ministers scrambling for something with more credibility and dignity.

If there are no five-fold ministers to be taken advantage of at this time in our children's ministries, then the least we need to do is somehow incorporate adult five-fold ministers into the children's services at least periodically if at all possible.

That is, when you have an apostle, prophet, or evangelist visiting your church, ask them to address the boys and girls in their own services. These ministers do not have to don a clown outfit or learn some magic tricks to amuse the kids. They simply need to walk in their office and talk to our young people directly with truth and challenge them in their walk with God.

Kids are not looking to be entertained. They crave the guidance of adults they respect to speak into their lives.

Finally, head pastors must begin looking differently at men and women who are working with their children and youth, and begin nurturing their giftings. Many of them truly are five-fold material, but no one has worked with them, tried to coach them, or even simply affirmed them in what they're doing.

Undeveloped talent has no value. It's true in the business world, and it's true in the church world. They're willing workers, and they want to progress and advance in their calls, but it's going to take mentors and fathers and mothers in the faith to draw them up to their next level.

A pastor might say, "My children's pastor isn't five-fold. I can tell!" Really? If you really believe that, why are you letting them touch your kids? Get somebody who is, then train them! On the other hand, why not just treat them like they are, and they may surprise you! People will rise up to your expectations of them.

This is an entirely different subject, but it needs to be addressed here, and that's the fear some leaders have of all other fivefold ministers, whether it's from a fear of competition, or past bad experiences. But whatever it is, head pastors have got to get on top of this mental blockade and begin raising up younger ministers under them.

Children's ministers must be raised up to higher standards in their callings, and many times, their progress begins and ends with the guidance and affirmation of the head pastor.

One of the most striking examples of the impact of the five-fold ministry gifts working together to equip the little saints came recently at a kid's camp I held in North Dakota. It was designed to be a week-long school of ministry for kids. For four hours daily we sent the kids to classes in evangelism, intercessory prayer, worship, healing the sick, and prophetic ministry.

We had different teachers in each class. Then in the evenings we had revival services. It was an exciting balance of both the Word and the Spirit. The days were full of rich teaching of adult topics on a child's level. The evenings rocked with some of the most powerful moves of the Holy Spirit I have ever seen.

As the week progressed, those of us who were ministering began to realize that, completely un-premeditated on our part, all five of the five-fold ministry gifts were present and in operation in our team, or among the adults that attended the camp. Some were children's ministers, but at least two were not.

We had each taken our place, and the anointing was amazing. The impact on the children during that week, and the lasting impact in the weeks and months following, were thrilling. Several parents told us when their children returned home and walked in the door, they could see they were changed.

Kids since then have been laying hands on the sick, evangelizing their friends, getting their playmates filled with the Holy Spirit, and more. The testimonies are still coming in.

That is what will happen when children are exposed—equipped and perfected—by the five-fold ministry gifts. There is lasting fruit like none other! That's because it's the way God planned it!

Copyright © Kids In Ministry International
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Becky Fischer
Web site: Kids In Ministry International
 
Becky Fischer is the founder and director of Kids in Ministry International (KIMI), a multi-faceted ministry that trains children to walk in the supernatural power of God and equips adults to work with children in the same way. Becky, who served as a children's pastor for ten years prior to starting KIMI, received Jesus as her Savior and the infilling of the Holy Spirit at an early age. She knows first-hand that children can be touched and used by God and recognized early in her ministry career that children are hungry for a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit.
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