Train the Children in the Way They Should Go: Insights from Pastor Jonathan, a former Children’s Ministry Pastor
Pastor Jonathan Yeoh has dedicated the past 30 years of his life discipling children for Christ. In the last 11 years, he worked as a full-time pastor in children’s ministry at a local church in Kuala Lumpur. In this interview, he shares insights on how Christian parents can help build a resilient faith foundation in their children.
A call to empower our children today
Right at the start of our interview, Pr Jonathan proclaims: “People often speak of children’s ministry as preparing the next generation, but I view children not as the ‘next’ generation but as the ‘now’ generation.”
This powerful statement explains his passion for empowering children to be engaged in church life at their current stage – not sometime in the future. “Children believe in the same God as adults, so aren’t they empowered by the same God living in them?” he asks, referring to Philippians 4:13.
The spiritual formation of a child, however, is not the sole responsibility of the children’s church ministry team. Parents and caregivers can play a more essential role in building a child’s spirituality. Here are 5 ways:
(1) Build relationships through conversations
Jesus reached out to His disciples by striking up a conversation and then building trust and relationship with them. That’s how He did it with Peter (Luke 5: 1-11), Andrew (John 1:35-40), Nathanael (John 1:47-51) and the two travellers to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27).
Every relationship begins with a conversation, and there is no discipleship without a relationship. Parents can be intentional about doing this from an early age. Pr Jonathan asserts: “If we don’t have an established relationship, we have not earned the right to speak into their lives.”
(2) Set a good example and be a role model
In the New Testament, Jesus lived with His disciples for three years, serving as a living example. They followed Him, ate, slept, and observed Him, as values are often caught rather than taught. Paul also emphasised that we should “set an example by doing what is good” (Titus 2:7).
Our children’s behaviour often mirrors our own, regardless of whether we have taught them to imitate us or not. Therefore, let’s live out a lifestyle of love, justice, compassion, holiness, and truth; one that mirrors how Christ lived on earth, and encourage our young ones to do the same.
(3) Pray constantly for the Holy Spirit’s guidance
The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is our advocate, teacher, counsellor and guide (John 14:26). There will be many things in life – and our children’s lives – that are out of our control no matter how hard we’ve worked to protect and educate them. This includes external factors, other peoples’ behaviours and actions.
Pray always for the Holy Spirit’s intervention in every domain of their lives: the cognitive, affective, behavioural, and spiritual. He will reveal the master plan of God for their lives, and enable us as earthly parents to continually teach and guide them.
(4) Partner with the children’s ministry team
As parents, we sometimes think that sending our children to Sunday School or kid’s ministry will be enough to instil biblical values and build godly character. However, we can do more and see ourselves as ministry partners.
We can proactively engage with the teachers to understand our children’s progress, and together, develop ways to firm up their beliefs. After all, it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s a team effort to raise our children in the Lord’s way.
(5) Practise regular family devotions at home
Having regular family devotion at home will create a dedicated space to discuss faith matters with our children. Here are some things that personally worked for Pr Jonathan’s family:
- Use age-appropriate resources. Pr Jonathan has been using Our Daily Bread resources as his family devotion for about 30 years. For him, Give Us This Day (GUTD) for children is a good starting point.
- Let children participate. Pr Jonathan suggests letting children read the stories and Scriptures aloud. This would be their first encounter with God’s Word, and they can also take turns leading the devotion weekly.
- Create a safe and comfortable environment. “When the children were younger, we wanted them to enjoy devotional time and feel comfortable,” says Pr Jonathan. “So we let them bring their pillows, blanket and favourite toy along!”
- Keep it light and let them ask questions. Give every family member the chance to lead, read, talk about their week, share testimonies and prayer requests. Assign each person one prayer item, and let conversations flow naturally as the Holy Spirit leads.
In Pr Jonathan’s experience, “Occasionally, gor gor (the big brother) might bring up grievances about mei mei (the little sister), and vice versa. The parent’s role then becomes a mediator’s as these are opportunities to teach them valuable lessons. In the end, they learn to forgive and accept each other, looking beyond their differences.”
Even though his children are young adults now, Pr Jonathan’s family continues to meet weekly for family time, utilising Our Daily Bread resources such as the Journey Through Series and Discovery Series.
“Without a doubt, Jesus takes children’s ministry seriously,” Pr Jonathan said, referring to Matthew 19:13-15 and God’s love for children. Just as we follow Christ, let us, as their teachers, parents and caregivers learn to engage our ‘now’ generation and walk with them in their faith journey as the Holy Spirit leads.
Pastor Jonathan Yeoh is an itinerant minister based out of Kuala Lumpur. He is currently the Malaysian Director of Mission Ventures International. From 2011 to 2021, he served full-time as a Children’s Ministry Pastor in a local church. Previously working in the chemical industry, he continues to pursue God in obedience to be a father to the fatherless, ministering to children and families.
About the Author
Celine Heo contributes to the content marketing of Our Daily Bread Ministries. She writes a blog called “One Kind of Vessel” and loves studying people through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Her motto in life is Dolce Far Niente – seeking carefree relaxation so she can give her best at work after being recharged.
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