September 02, 2023

By Russ Ramsey

Want the gates of hell to tremble? Here’s an idea: serve in your church’s children’s ministry.

“Let brotherly love continue,” the author of Hebrews writes. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:1–2). Children’s ministry is, at its core, a ministry of hospitality. I’m not suggesting every kid you encounter will be an angel, but Hebrews is touching on a principle from Ephesians 3:20: God is always doing immeasurably more than all we ask or think. Always.

Some of the benefits of serving in children’s ministry are obvious. The Lord uses it to help kids hear and respond to the gospel. A safety-conscious children’s ministry provides a context for friendship and for safe cross-generational relationships that are healthy for children and adults. Kids learn about the content and centrality of Scripture. A thoughtful children’s ministry can nurture in kids a foundational desire to come to church. And yes, it’ll be good for your own heart to serve; it supports the ministry team, pulls you out of your comfort zone, and helps you get to know other kids and adults in the church. All of that sits on the surface of why it’s important to serve in children’s ministry.

You Never Know Who You’re Serving

But let’s go deeper. Let’s look at the “brotherly love” and hospitality part—the part where God is doing more than all we ask or think.

I’ve been a pastor for 20 years, serving four churches in three cities. When I consider what I’ve experienced and the stories I’ve heard, I know the Lord uses children’s ministries to save families, souls, and sometimes even lives.

When you serve in children’s ministry, you’re not just serving children; you’re serving the people who bring those children. Who are they? Here are some examples I have seen over my years of pastoral ministry.

  • A couple of parents whose marriage is on the brink of divorce, who are returning to church in an effort to keep their family together and reconnect, or connect for the first time, to God and a community of faith.
  • A newly single parent without resources, community, support, or time who works two jobs to make ends meet and sees Sunday morning as a sacred window to seek the Lord in stillness and leave in the strength he provides.
  • People who appear to have it all together on the outside but inside are terrified they can’t rise to the standards they see all around them. Sunday morning feels like theater, a performance long engrained in them. They’re terrified their kids will misbehave and embarrass them, but each week they sit under gospel teaching and lean in to hear the freedom that’s theirs in Christ, asking the Lord to give them courage and faith to believe it.
  • A recent widower with young children who has been a member of the community and now feels a strange combination of need and dread as Sunday draws near. He comes to sort out a complicated range of emotions before the Lord and do the slow, hard work of learning a new way of relating to his church family.
  • A person on a path to recovery from addictions that jeopardize her ability to retain custody of her children. Corporate worship is part of her 12-step process, tethering her to community by putting her in the paths of people who look her in the eyes, know her story, and love her.
  • Grandparents who’ve been given legal custody of their grandchildren as their own children walk through recovery or, tragically, continue in destructive habits. Out of love, these grandparents have accepted the responsibility of care, but they’re heartbroken and tired, and they know they need help.
  • A single dad who’s been hurt by a church. He’s trying to navigate the complexities of knowing it’s good for him to be part of a community of faith, but he doesn’t want to get hurt again. He’s taken the risk of cautiously dipping his toe back into the water, but he’s a bundle of anxiety when he drops off his daughter.
  • A nonbelieving mother who’s having God-haunted dreams that wake her up with the conviction that she needs to investigate Christ’s claims. She carries some unavoidable stereotypes of what Christians are like, and she’s been cautious. But this marks her third week attending, and she’s finally ready to check her child into the preschool.
  • An unchurched person who recently learned of a terminal illness and is taking painfully disorienting steps to prepare for death. He’s never thought of himself as a “church person,” but he doesn’t know how to face what lies ahead without community support for both him and his children
Long Ministry of Hospitality

These stories represent only a fraction of who I’ve seen drop their kids off in the local church’s children’s ministry. The need for people to serve in children’s ministry is always there—and not just because the volunteer coordinator has a certain number of slots to fill. Our world is a broken place, but the local church is a hospital for the hurting and hopeless, many of whom are parents or guardians.

Our calling as Christ’s body is to welcome them, and one of the most effective ways is to be ready when they walk through our doors—ready to invite them into a community that desires to walk with them through anything that comes their way.

Children’s ministry is an expression of brotherly love. It’s a long ministry of hospitality—eternally long. Only God knows all you’ll get to be part of when you serve, but this much is sure: it’ll be more than all you could ask or think.

Russ Ramsey is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. Originally published by The Gospel Coalition, August 29, 2023.


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