Children as Team Members

by Nick Pauls1

Children are what our job is all about. Nick Pauls does a good job of showing how important children are to our lives and our ministry.

A Benefit Biblically

Children strengthen our global effort immeasurably as the impact of their childlikeness is woven into the fabric of individual and corporate lives. Their contribution is a message from their heart—a loving heart, a hopeful heart, a fearful heart, an angry heart, a learning heart—delivered in an honest and sometimes “messy” way. It is the contribution of their “presence” that provides an essential component of family completeness and organizational balance. They offer a sense of wonder, a freshness, a curiosity, and a zest for life and learning which blesses as well as challenges us all.

With Jesus, I praise the Creator for the things He has hidden from the wise and learned and revealed to children (Matthew 11:25). Though I wonder what all the “hidden” and “revealed” things may be, I’m confident they include the positive childlike attributes such as unconditional love, ready forgiveness, enthusiasm for learning, simple trust, boundless hope, implicit faith, and countless other virtues Jesus wanted His disciples to embrace when He answered their question about greatness in the Kingdom by calling a child to stand among them.

His comment that, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” drives home the reality that there was something Jesus wanted twelve grown men to learn from a child. Just as a child strengthened Jesus’ communication with the disciples, children also strengthen our ministry.

I can only imagine how encouraging it must have been for Jesus to hear the words, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:15) coming from the mouths of children the day He entered Jerusalem on a colt and faced the angry merchants in the temple. Yet in the turmoil of the chief priests’ arrogance and hatred, children had the courage to spontaneously sing words of praise to Him.

When the unhappy religious leaders asked Jesus if He heard what the children were saying, He responded with the question, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:16). How many times have the lips of children reminded adults of “right” in the midst of turmoil and despair? How many times have children offered encouragement when, for adult reasons, others kept silent? How many times have the simple words of a child revealed profound truth? How many times have their innocent questions forced us to examine and refine our assumptions?

A Benefit Overseas

Children are an important common denominator in cross-cultural human relationships and, as such, expedite the development of communication and understanding. The mere presence of a little child can change frowns into smiles, bring cheer to a discouraged heart, and help overcome barriers of mistrust and suspicion. I have heard it said and wholeheartedly agree that “children live to soften and purify our hearts.”
Observe, if you will, the co-worker who intentionally takes his infant child along into an unfriendly government office so as to “soften” the harsh atmosphere. Or consider how the exchange of smiles between two mothers, each with a babe in arms, communicates understanding in a foreign market even though they cannot speak each other’s language. Such is the mystery of childhood, which bridges gaps in communication and opens doors to enrich our life and ministry.

A Benefit to Christian Living

The presence of children helps to keep our life on track by holding us accountable for what we teach them and by honoring us as their “heroes” (at least for a while). Consider the powerfully positive impact of a child saying, “I want to be like you, Dad (or Mom or Uncle or Aunt or Neighbor or Teacher), when I grow up.”

If “parents are the pride of their children,” as Proverbs 17:6 tells us they are, then parents (and any other significant adults in the child’s life) have a mandate to live worthy of the pride children invest in them. It is this high expectation, this intrinsic accountability to those who follow, that urges us as adults to take the high road in all we do, including our ministry. Clearly, the mirror children use to reflect adult behavior contains a refining light.

“Training a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6) has a dual blessing since the child’s training simultaneously becomes the parent’s retraining. Repeated opportunities to help a child refine such attributes as love, patience, and kindness provide occasions for mutual growth as child and parent, student and teacher, or young citizen and neighbor look for ways to apply these attributes in daily life. And when, in spite of our best efforts, a child chooses to depart from “The Way,” we learn painful lessons in humility, forgiveness, unconditional love, fervent prayer, and unwavering hope for the day when the prodigal will return.

Child rearing is a ministry within the broader ministry of any organization. When children affirm their parents’ and organization’s work with agreeable attitudes and appropriate behavior, that work is enhanced. (Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.) Additionally, the observable interaction of our parents, teachers, administrators, or community members with children is an open channel through which vital principles of Christian living are modeled and communicated to an attentive community.

A Benefit to Life

Children bring balance to our sometimes heady adult world by causing us to “smell the roses,” listen for the birds, play, smile, and laugh. Their presence gives us license to relax, to think outside our work responsibilities, to wonder, and to free the “child” hidden within our adult hearts.

Children open our eyes to the “abundant life” we so easily overlook. We look at their innocent faces in sleep and receive a clearer definition of peace. We recognize their simple trust in us and pray that we will live worthy of it. We notice how readily they forgive and are challenged to do the same.

We see the wonder with which they live and longingly follow their gaze. We enjoy the friends they bring into our lives, and our world of relationships is expanded. We consider their carefree life and refine our understanding of freedom. We observe their immunity to “political correctness” and are reminded how liberating it is to communicate openly. We contemplate their future and are sobered to realize the message we write on the tablet of their hearts today is the message our generation (our organization) is sending to a time and place we cannot reach.

We pray with our children as they grow up and find them praying for us and our ministry the rest of our days. We invest in their lives and find the model, which was sowed, in the fertile soil of childhood and youth bearing a lifetime of fruit.

When it comes to recognizing MKs, I, for one, want to acknowledge the important role they played in my life and in the global endeavor we are about. I want to thank them for “being” who they are — children.

Permission to copy, but not for commercial use.