Let me introduce you to my new mantra:  




I have found myself saying this phrase again and again lately to just about everyone who will listen.  From Lead Pastors to lay members, I want everyone to know this essential truth.  There are a few reasons why I believe this statement is fact; allow me to share those reasons. 


1: KIDS ARE OUR GREATEST CHANCE TO IMPACT PEOPLE:  We know statistically there is no greater opportunity to impact the journey of an individual than when they are a child.  Period.  It is not even a competition.  The years prior to the age of twelve are like no other where it concerns human development.   Ask any psychologist, corporate marketer or school superintendent and they will agree.  What we learn as a child - whether through direct education and training or through indirect experiences and influences - shapes who we become. There is no denying this fact.  It is one of the greatest opportunities  of the local church.  In my opinion, THE VERY BEST, SMARTEST AND BRIGHTEST STAFF MEMBERS should be Kids Pastors.  Why?  Because we should do everything in our power to not miss the greatest chance to impact the journey of an individual.  


2: EVERY INTERNAL CHALLENGE A PERSON WILL FACE HAS ITS ROOTS IN CHILDHOOD.  Whether that is the fear of public speaking, an inability to clearly share a personal opinion, an inability to NOT share a personal opinion or even the gregarious qualities of individuals we often refer to as "Great Leaders"; all of these qualities, the good, the bad and the ugly, are forged in these formative years. The Triumphs and Traumas that we experience in life become a sort of time-capsule for how we think.  In his book, Changes That Heal, Dr. Henry Cloud talks about "Good Time and Bad Time."  Here is an excerpt from one of the stories.   


When parents are absent or abusive, we take that uncompleted aspect of our personality out of time. It goes underground and does not change until it is called out into good time, into time affected by grace and truth, when it can go through normal development. When the true self comes into grace-giving relationships, that self can develop over time. Katherine’s real self was stuck at twelve, and her false self was “playacting” at adulthood. When her true self came into the light, she began to integrate as a person and then she could be a “true adult.” She was no longer faking it. 


Cloud, Henry. Changes That Heal (pp. 47-48). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.  

(emphasis added) 


This idea is the basis for this new statement of mission:  

ALL MINISTRY IS CHILDREN'S MINISTRY.  Whether we are dealing with a 10-year-old or a 40-year-old, we are often dealing with the inner child and the stage at which they find themselves stuck.  With the 10-year-old, we can identify the markers of being stuck and help them keep moving.  With the 40-year-old, we have to rewind to those moments and find a way to tap into the barriers they have yet to deal with and become unstuck - moving forward into their now-adult life.  The longer they have been stuck, the more work it will take to become unstuck.  This emphasizes point 1: KIDS ARE OUR GREATEST CHANCE TO IMPACT PEOPLE THE SOONER IN LIFE WE HELP PEOPLE GET UNSTUCK, THE BETTER.  Our best shot is to do this work as early as we can in the developmental cycle of the individual (while they are children).  We see a child in a situation that could create stuckness, and we walk them through it.  Potentially avoiding their ever being stuck. 



Luke 18:16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 

Luke 18:17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 


I know we can extrapolate this scripture into - "BE LIKE A KID!"  We can talk about the qualities of innocence, belief, awe and wonder.  Those things are certainly true.  It is MUCH easier for a kid to believe something than an adult who thinks it's "just crazy."  But doesn't that quality also make kids susceptible to lies?  Isn't it just as possible for them to believe something dangerous?  What if what Jesus is referring to here goes beyond innocence and speaks more to vulnerability.  What if what Jesus is secretly saying to the adult world is, "If you are going to inherit the Kingdom of God, you must become vulnerable again?"  


In other words, if we are going to be whole, healthy and live the God-empowered life, we might have to climb back into some childhood wounds, become vulnerable about them and let Jesus do a healing work in our hearts.  Then, we can get on with our adult lives.  Until then, we might find ourselves stuck. 


This weekend, as you walk through the halls of your church, allow yourself to see the adults around you through this lens.  Ask yourself: "I wonder how their inner-child is doing?  I wonder what stories are advising how they face life's challenges and triumphs?" 


Think about what this perspective could do for your own focus and mission.  Seeing adults in this light may help you recognize that the work you are doing through your ministry to kids is like rewinding that person's life and helping them overcome those moments in real-time, as children.  That is a powerful notion, and truth. 


A final thought.  This is relatively fresh territory for me.  There are pieces and parts of these truths I have known and believed for years.  But over the past several years it has become more and more real for me as I have dived into understanding the process of human development and spiritual formation, and even navigated parts of my own story.  In other words, this is a revelation in progress.  I share this with you here so you can join me on this journey.  In the end, I believe what we will understand more than ever, with greater clarity and life-changing potential, is… 




Tom Toney