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Discipleship vs Christian Education

If you are like me, you have searched high and low for the best curriculum you could find for teaching children in the different churches where you have served. I found myself looking for a resource that was developmentally appropriate for each age group.
Discipleship vs Christian Education

I quickly learned if the cover looked fantastic it did not mean that the curriculum was fantastic. Many times, the nicer-looking covers resulted in the shallowest materials. In all my efforts, I discovered that most resources are developmental- and education-based. How do I know? Because we divide up our church into age groups and teach in a classroom setting, just like the school system.

Discipleship is not knowledge-based; it is relationship-based. We can have all of the knowledge about God but have no relationship. Jesus came to Earth to restore our relationship with God through His death on the cross. At the point of salvation, the believer in Christ—including children—moves from sinner to saint.

  • They are sealed by the Holy Spirit at the moment they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord. It is not a “baby” Holy Spirit; it is THE Holy Spirit.
  • They receive a spiritual gift(s) from the Holy Spirit.
  • They are empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry and missions.
  • They are ambassadors of Christ.
  • And the list goes on…

What does this all mean?

  • For many children today, when they accept Christ, it stops there.
  • They are asked to just sit and listen and are never discipled in how to walk with Christ on a daily basis.
  • They have gifts, but they are not allowed to use their gifts within their church.
  • Their teachers view them as children who are to be seen and not heard—the church of the future.

However, THEY ARE THE CHURCH TODAY! They do not need to wait; they have everything they need now to become an effective part of the body of Christ today.

One of the challenges we face in the church today is our model of ministry. What does yours look like?

Education:

If you have an education model, children will sit and listen to someone teach and minister to them from birth–18 years of age.

  • Your curriculum will be written in a way that embraces the developmental learning styles of children, moving them from concrete to abstract thinkers.
  • Children will gain Bible knowledge. However, knowledge-based education leaves out a key factor—relationship. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God.

Discipleship:

A discipleship model recognizes that the Holy Spirit does not discriminate because of age. He works in all believers, young and old. They do not receive a “baby” Holy Spirit at new birth; they receive THE Holy Spirit. Discipleship helps children learn spiritual disciplines, which teach them how to walk with Christ daily. True discipleship occurs when the teacher becomes a mentor whose goal is to move students (mentees) to being mentors—like when the player becomes the coach. A discipler helps children discover their spiritual gifts and finds places of service for children to express their gifts.

I learned that discipleship is a process, and when properly put into place, it will transform the lives of children.

  1. Parent Involvement: I began to focus on equipping parents to make their child’s spiritual growth their personal priority. We built accountability that had their children reading and studying the Word of God daily.
  2. Discipleship: We trained our leadership to move from teaching to modeling and mentoring like Paul did with Timothy. This is where we saw the greatest fruit.
  3. Ministry Involvement: The more we got kids involved in ministry, the more we saw their spiritual gifts manifest before our eyes.
  4. Missions: We trained children to be missionaries. We trained every child how to share their faith and provided ways for them to do so in the church, community, and on mission trips.

This became the game changer. I stepped out of the education box and into a new realm of discipleship and equipping children for ministry today.

Hi, my name is Dr. Clint May. I have been serving in children’s ministry for more than 33 years now. What an amazing journey it has been. Twenty years ago, I started writing devotionals and disciple group leadership materials for children in 1st-6th grades. Little did I know that what I started in my church would spread throughout the U.S. and now internationally.

If you are looking for an effective discipleship process that has been proven to work for more than 20 years, we are here for you. We have learned that this is a huge paradigm shift in many churches today, so we suggest:

  1. Get proper training to implement this process in your church.
  2. Cast the vision with your leadership
  3. Plan in advance. This is a big shift from the norm, so it will take time to implement it.
  4. Pay it forward. L.I.T. Ministries offers our resources at no cost once you have participated in our training. If your church has a budget for resources, we invite you to pay it forward for other churches that cannot afford it. This also helps us cover the cost for our international work. If you have no budget, it’s free to you.

You can sign up for our next ETNG (Empowering The Next Generation leadership training event by clicking here.

While education focuses on a knowledge of God, discipleship focuses on a relationship with God. We show children how to walk with the Master daily through prayer, Bible study, and serving.

In discipleship, the teacher moves from being a teacher to a mentor. The goal of the discipler-mentor is to move the mentees to become mentors themselves.

You train and equip children to be missionaries in their neighborhoods and at school.

In the summer of 2002, I stepped out beyond the norm and taught children how to walk with Christ on a daily basis. I am a child evangelist at heart, but what I was not seeing through the curriculum that was available to me was a way to teach children how to walk and live for Jesus every day.

From what I had been taught, I felt this was key for children to learn and grow in their faith.

For more than 20 years, L.I.T. (Leaders In Training) has developed tools to disciple children. Most curriculum today focuses on knowledge-based education. Children just sit and listen to someone minister to them from birth to 18 years of age. L.I.T. focuses on discipling children to have a personal relationship and daily walk with Christ. We help leaders move from being teachers to disciplers with the goal of mentees becoming mentors. Our engaging discipleship resources provide your leaders with the tools to move their small groups from just sitting and listening to leading. Can you imagine your small groups being led by kids? Check out our discipleship resources for your church. 

If you are unable to attend a live event you can also go through our online training at your convenience. Click here for more information. 

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