Children are vital to God’s great plan to save the world: Jesus one said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15). But as simple and stark as this object lesson is, it also has packed into that simplicity, incredible profundity and complexity, and some huge challenges for all of us who belong to Jesus.
How can we best love and care for the precious gift of the children God has given us? How do we prepare them to grow and stand strong in a very uncertain and bewildering future? And what steps should we be taking to raise the next generation to be followers for Christ?
Links referred to:
- Articles by Tim Beilharz on the Youthworks website
- The 555 Challenge
- New City Catechism
- The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones)
- The Big Picture Storybook Bible
- The Tech-Wise Family (Andy Crouch)
- Birds and Bees by the Book (Patricia Weerakoon)
- Growing Up By the Book (Patricia Weerakoon)
- Teen Sex By the Book (Patricia Weerakoon)
- The Effective Ministry podcast
- The Shock Absorber podcast
- Our October event: Raising the next generation with Paul Dudley and Mark Earngey and Ruth Lukabyo
- Support the work of the Centre
Runtime: 1:06:33 min.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. But the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom like a little child will never enter it. And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
This passage from chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel is, without a doubt, one of the most striking and moving of Jesus’ teachings. To express the very heart and nature of his kingdom, he puts into the spotlight a little child. And in doing so, he confirms how vital children are in God’s great plan to save the world. But as simple and stark as this object lesson is—that the kingdom of God belongs to such as little children—it also has packed into that simplicity, incredible profundity and complexity, and some huge challenges for all of us, whoever we are, but especially those of us who belong to Jesus and are part of his kingdom.
How can we best love and care for this precious gift of children God has given us? How do we prepare them to grow and stand strong for a very uncertain and bewildering future? What concrete steps should we take to raise the next generation to be followers for Christ? That’s our focus on this episode of the CCL podcast.
DW: G’day and welcome to the Centre for Christian Living podcast. My name is Dan Wu. I’m a lecturer in Old Testament at Moore Theological College here in Sydney, and I’m stepping in for our CCL Director, Chase Kuhn, who’s currently on leave.
In this episode, I’m joined by Tim Beilharz, who is the Children’s Ministry and Primary SRE Advisor at Youthworks. I’ll be talking with Tim about the critical topic of raising the next generation of disciples for Christ. Tim’s been doing a lot of research and writing on this issue. I’ve already greatly benefitted from talking with him in the lead-up to today, and I’m delighted he’s able to be with us now. So welcome, Tim.
Tim Beilharz: Thanks, Dan. Thanks for having me.
DW: Tim, can you tell us a little bit about your family?
TB: Yeah, of course. To start with, I’m the middle child of wonderful Christian parents. I’ve got an older brother and a younger sister. Now, my own family: I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Ros and we have two children—a son who is almost 13 and a daughter who’s almost 11. So we live down in the south of Sydney—attend Soul Revival Church in Kirrawee.
DW: Excellent. Thanks, Tim. And for you, the whole issue of children’s and youth ministry is not just an academic or work issue; it’s also played a huge part in your personal journey to trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. So can you tell us a bit about how you came to Jesus?
TB: Yeah. So as I mentioned, I’ve got amazing Christian parents whose own faith was, in some ways, very normal, but also very real to us as a family. Knowing who God is; what Jesus has done for us in his death, life, resurrection; the praying before meals; reading the Bible before bed; making church the priority of the weekend, whether we’re at home or on holidays—all of these things were just the regular rhythm of our life together. And so, that was one way in which we were just raised to know that Jesus was Lord and saviour, and that was really evident, as I say, in very normal that very real ways in our family.
In terms of church, when I was born, we were first members of Sylvania Anglican Church, and then when I was about mid-primary school, we moved to Gymea Anglican Church, where I was blessed with a really excellent children’s and youth ministry, which continued to build up my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian disciple. And eventually, I’d gone into leadership at the children’s and youth ministry there at Gymea and ended up working for the church as one of two children’s ministers for about seven years there.
And then also, as I was growing up, I had the privilege of going to a Christian school from Kindy to Year 12. So all of these family and church beliefs and practices then had this, I guess, third context of—which it was reinforced. And then a number of teachers at school were particularly formative in helping me make my faith my own, and actually ultimately in pursuing ministry leadership as a vocation as well.
DW: Great. And so your role now is Children’s Ministry and Primary SRE Advisor for Youthworks. For those of our listeners who may not be familiar with those, what is Youthworks, and what does your role there involve?
TB: Yeah, so I’m on a team of a number of advisors for Youthworks. Youthworks is part of the Sydney Anglican Diocese. It’s effectively the children’s and youth ministry department of the diocese. So just like Moore College has a role in the diocese of theological education—ministry formation—Anglicare has a role the diocese for welfare, counselling, retirement villages, etcetera—Youthworks has the role in the diocese of particularly helping our diocese do really excellent and effective youth and children’s ministry.
So there’s a whole lot of different teams to Youthworks. Many people will be familiar with the camping and conference centre teams that run at Deer Park, Shoalhaven, Blue Gum. We have a publishing arm, which produces commentaries, youth and family ministry resources, SRE material that’s used in a lot of our public schools. There’s Youthworks College, which trains people for vocational youth and children’s ministry, and also has a Year 13 gap program for school leavers as they think about, “Okay: now that I’m an adult, what does it mean to be a Christian in my new reality outside of school and heading towards whatever I do next after school?” And then my team, the ministry support team, we’re a group of advisors—consultants, I guess—and we spend our week hanging out with other churches, helping them to do effective ministry.
One of our foundational beliefs is that the local church is where the action is. So while, in some ways, we kind of function like a parachurch organisation, we’re actually all about the local church. We want to do all we can to facilitate effective youth and children’s ministry at the local level. And so what that looks like, week to week, is the team of children’s and youth ministry advisors, we hang out with youth and children’s ministers—with rectors. We’ll go out for coffee and talk strategy. We’ll pray with people. Pastoral care. We do training for whole teams of youth and children’s leaders, for families, for parents. We’ll run conferences, which, again, helps people do effective local youth and children’s ministry. So it’s a whole grab bag of things that we do, and all of it is focused on, “Yeah, how can we help you as the local church do effective youth and children’s ministry?”
DW: That’s great. I mean, that’s just so comprehensive a sweep of things that you and Youthworks do. But I think one of the things that struck me as we chatted in the lead-up to today was just—this is reflected in your story as well—just the amount of input and the amount of different people that really impact on a young person’s life, and particularly for those of us who follow Christ, impact on their journey of faith as well. So that’s great.
Now we’re going to talk a little bit more about that whole network of people around our youth and children, and how vital that is to think about that well. We’re going to do that a little bit later in this podcast. But I wanted to begin with one of the several articles that you’ve written that are available on the Youthworks website, Youthworks.net.
And so one of those articles in particular caught my interest for this part of the podcast. And it’s the one called “Developing a theology of children”. And so you start by listing some things that we tend to think of about the children that we minister to—like, “Do they come from a Christian or a non-Christian family?”, “Do they come from an intact or broken home, public or private school?”, “What sorts of things are they into?”—questions like those. But then you point out that the most important question is actually, “Who are these children from God’s perspective?” And I really liked the way you put the questions: how does God view these little ones and what difference does it make? What is our theology of children? And what does God tell us about these children through the pages of the Bible? Great questions. And I wonder whether we could start there, where we should, with God’s word itself. And so, when you think about the parts of the Bible that help us get God’s perspective on children, what are the passages that come to mind for you, Tim?
TB: Yes, so there’s a number of different passages that frame the picture of what we have of children. So one of the most significant is the constant call throughout the Old and New Testament to pass on the good news—the good stories of God—particularly his amazing rescue stories—to the next generation. And so we see this—I mean, right from early on, we’ve got Abraham having to pass on the promises that God had given him to his children and his children’s children. So that’s the start of that.
You get to Deuteronomy or the whole Exodus experience, and as Moses brings the people—or sends people into the Promised Land, he tells them, Deuteronomy 6, to obey “the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your strength. And these commandments I give you today are to be on your hearts, and then impress them upon your children” (Deut 6:5-7). And I really like the multi-generational view that Moses has, which also comes through in a couple of the Psalms. Psalm 78, is a great one as well—you know, that we talk about the great deeds of God to the next generation, and we’re calling people towards that.
So that’s a constant refrain throughout the Scriptures. I really like a couple of passages—particularly in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 6, Exodus 12, Joshua 4—there’s a couple of different places where Moses or Joshua is explicitly talking to the people, and says, “When your children ask you this, tell them this”. There’s this expectation that you will be having these conversations with your children, and I think there we can read that as both within a home network—within the household—but also within the community, as the children of the community are asking this. “Tell them these things”. So there might be the Exodus episode. It might be the Passover. In Joshua, it’s the stones that they pulled out of the Jordan as they cross over and build a monument out of (Josh 4). There’s this constant expectation that the children will be told the great deeds of God, and that the family and the community will be a part of passing that on.
And then we see that continue into the New Testament. Ephesians 6 is a really great example—part of what we would call the household codes: children are explicitly mentioned. The idea that children are there in the congregation. So they’re hearing this comment: “Hey, children! Obey your parents as you would the Lord, because that’s right” (v. 1). And then he talks to the parents: he says, “Fathers, particularly: don’t stir up your children to anger. Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (v. 4). So that constant thread throughout the Old Testament is continued in the New Testament that, yes, continue to bring up children to know and love the great deeds of God. And now in the New Testament, we know that the greatest deed of God was the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. So that forms the foundation of what we then pass on to children.
DW: Yeah, great. And I guess extending that even to theology or, you know, God himself, just that importance of the father-son relationship to God’s person and character, and therefore, to his plan of salvation. I think those passages really show us the importance of children as part of God’s plan. And also, again, we found this really striking when we chatted last, but that Deuteronomy 6 passage where the first thing after impressing them on your own heart is “teach them to your children”. And so obviously, ministering to our children and raising up the next generation of disciples is actually a critical part of what we’re called to do as God’s people.
And it matches with our nature, which derives from God’s own character—that we are relational, that we’re stitched together as human beings. We’re connected by our relationships. And so we have a responsibility to the next generation that we are related to.
Now, on that front, then, you use another scholar’s work. So Marcia Bunge. And she had four points on the foundation of a theology of children, which, again, I found really fascinating—very, very helpful. And I wonder if we can spend a little bit of time just teasing each one of them out. I’ll say them out and we might just step through them one by one. Some of them are more geared towards the second half of our podcast, when we think about more church ministry. But the four points there are
- Children are vulnerable.
- Children are gifts from God.
- Children are still developing and sinful.
- Children, models of faith to adults.
So the first one is children are vulnerable. So what’s the importance of stating this point in terms of our understanding of children, Tim?
TB: Yeah, so this is a point that, again, we know intuitively, and anyone who has been around children knows that they are vulnerable. There’s a vulnerability there of being childlike. And it comes from the words of Jesus himself. So remember, Matthew 18, where Jesus says, “If anyone causes one of these little ones”—those who believe in me—“to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt 18:6). Jesus takes the vulnerability of children very seriously and has strong words against those who would harm children in any way.
And so we recognise that there is a vulnerability there of childlikeness—of childhood. And so they need to be looked after. They need to be cared for. They need to be loved and grown and discovered, and helped shape and mould.
So part of what we do as parents and uncles and aunties and church community is that we’re constantly trying to raise children well, knowing that they are vulnerable. And so we give them a combination for that. That’s one of the reasons that I know a lot of churches—our diocese, as well as many, many others—take Safe Ministry very seriously, because we want to make sure that all vulnerable people—and particularly children and teenagers—are cared for.
And we know that it’s the case that churches have not always been safe places for children and teenagers. And the recent Royal Commission has shown that, and we mourn terribly the damage that has been done to individuals and to the name of Christ—for those who have harmed children and teenagers under the name of church. But we want to make sure that we recognise the vulnerability and put in place all the great strategies that are there—great policies, great practices that keep children safe and keep them looked after, so that they can be cared for as we nurture them in the faith.
DW: And Youthworks really has taken the lead in this for the Sydney Anglican Diocese, hasn’t it. So yeah, that’s great that Youthworks is taking on that responsibility.
What about the second point, then? “Children are gifts from God”. So how does that affect how we approach children and how we approach ministering to children?
TB: Yeah. There’s something really lovely—a couple of points throughout Scripture, which highlight that children in and of themselves as children are really beautiful and fun and creative and good. They’re not just little adults. They’re not just adults, but different. And they’re not just adults-in-waiting. There’s actually something really nice about children.
So there’s a couple of Psalms that talk about children are a great blessing to their fathers—their households (Ps 127:3-5; 128). There’s the way that Jesus rejoices with children, and he points to children as a model of faith. That’s point four.
And then there’s a great little verse, which was only pointed out to me in the last few years, but Zechariah 8:5 is a picture of new Zion—new Jerusalem—and there’s this nice little throwaway line, almost, but that “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets”. And there’s this beautiful little image that in the perfect new creation, there are boys and girls being boys and girls. They are just being childish, because that’s how God has made them. And so I think there’s something really lovely about rejoicing that children are children.
And so there’s a vulnerability, as we’ve said, that comes with that. But there’s always just a joyfulness and a great frivolity that comes from being with children and celebrating children and enjoying them as children.
DW: Yeah, absolutely. Talking about children playing in the streets, the last school holidays, which have just passed, we spent a fair bit of time—obviously, ’cause we can’t go very far—but we found some skate parks in our local area. And just to see the kids bolting around and just having that unhindered sense of joy, but also, you know, instinctively, almost just knowing how to look out for each other, how to look after each other, but just having a great time, it really was beautiful.
Just on that front, though, I think one of the challenging things in terms of celebrating and rejoicing over our children as gifts from God—as you say, that is a wonderful thing to do. But I guess the flip side and a potential danger is that we can also fall over into somewhat idolising our children. So have you got any thoughts, Tim, on how do we celebrate and enjoy our children? How do we lift them up and rejoice over them without idolising them?
TB: Yeah, so we’re certainly in an age where children are idolised—where they, from a secular point of view, they are their own target audience and they’re advertised to in a way that idolises them. We look after our own kids. We’ve got—particular terms get thrown around, like the “helicopter” parent or the “snowplough” parent that is trying to move everything out of the way so our children have the best experience. And so, again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look after and rejoice and celebrate our children. But like any idol, an idol is a good thing that becomes an ultimate thing. And so, when we put our children as the ultimate thing in our lives, that is when we can idolise them and we can not actually recognise who they are, from God’s perspective, which is, yes, a great gift, but also, you know, they’re sinful, they’re in need of Christ—in need of redemption. They’re part of his church. And so, part of what it means to not idolise them is to also recognise who they are in relation to us, and also in relation to themselves and to God.
DW: Yeah, I think that’s so incredibly helpful, isn’t it—that perspective of putting everything in its right place under God, under his character, and under what he truly treasures and values. Because things like celebrating achievement or celebrating our children’s joy, they can be great things in and of themselves. But when they get out of proportion, or when they get out of place, I think that’s when we really need to watch it. And it’s so hard, isn’t it, because, in some ways, our children are extension of ourselves. And so a complicating factor is our own egos and [Laughter] our own desire to see ourselves celebrated through our children.
And so I think what you said earlier in terms of just making sure we bring everything back to a theology of children—that is, seeing things from God’s perspective—that, at the end of the day, we as the image of God can celebrate the image of God, because it points to the greatness of our God. And so as we try and align our rejoicing and celebration of our kids in tune with God’s character, and what he rejoices and celebrate in, I think that gives us a very, very helpful orientation. But it also raises the issue of then making sure that we continue to hear from God, and learn and grow in terms of our understanding of God’s character and what he truly values, so that we can align our rejoicing and our children’s rejoicing with those things.
We’re going to continue to talk about these things. Let’s move on. I’m going to jump to point #4 now, and we’ll come back to point #3 as we lead into the break. Point #4 is that children are models of faith to adults, and so we need to learn from them. What do we need to learn from children?
TB: Yeah, this is a really intriguing passage, and I don’t think I’ve mined it for all of its possible depths. But the context is the disciples arguing about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus doesn’t bring out the church planter, and he doesn’t bring out the theologian. He doesn’t bring out the adult disciple. He brings out the child. And he says, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). So there is something about that childlikeness which is a model for us as adults.
And so part of, I think, what’s going on there is that we notice that a child relationship is one of trust: they trust those who are in authority over them. And that is the type of trust that we are to have to our Heavenly Father—to our Abba, Father, which is what Jesus himself models as he is the Son, and the way that he relates to the Father. So that’s part of what we have to learn—that there is that child approach-ment of coming towards God, as he is the one that can provide for us. We just have to ask. And so, Jesus has a number of parables and sayings that relate to that as well.
There’s also the fact that children have got nothing of worth. And particularly in that cultural moment, there was nothing particularly of worth in children. And so, there is also a reminder that, because of our sin, we also have very little of worth to come towards God. And yet, it’s the loving action of the Father in sending his own Son to live, die and rise again, because “For God so loved the world”, that we actually have the relationship that we have. And so, when we see the vulnerability of children—as we see the fact that they have nothing of themselves to offer—that can be reminded of who we are in the kingdom—that we also have nothing to offer. But we just come to Jesus and we say, “Thank you”.
DW: Yeah, I found a quote from Eduard Schweizer, the New Testament professor at the University of Zurich, which I found quite beautiful and quite striking. He says,
the reason [children] are blessed—just because they have nothing to show for themselves. They cannot count on any achievements of their own—their hands are empty … they have no achievements … which can intrude between them and God …1
And as I think about that, I think it is a huge challenge: when you pause and think, I actually do put a lot of stock, often, in my own achievements—in my competencies. And we have this almost unconscious feeling that something about us should be impressive to God—what we achieve in life or ministry—that should count for something, surely. But I think, as you point out, one of the things that children can illustrate to us is, actually, that’s not the case at all—that we come before God empty-handed and receive openly from him everything.
TB: Yep. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Well, those who have nothing to make themselves great.
DW: Yep. Absolutely! And one other aspect, I guess, that struck me as I was thinking about this idea of children as models of faith and thinking about the way children operate is I think there is a wonderful transparency, isn’t there, to children—a lack of guile, in some respects, that, I think, as we grow up and become adults, we get better and better at throwing excuses and smoke screens over what we’re really thinking and feeling. And for me, I find this definitely in terms of evangelism, and confronting people with Jesus and my faith in Jesus. I find it’s easy to make up all sorts of very, very sophisticated rational excuses about why now is not quite the time to bring it up. I just need to build some more relational credit with them before I bring it up. Whereas you see some children who are just so bold and so transparent, because they just lack that guile. And it’s humbling, isn’t it—that they can just come up and say, “Do you know Jesus?” and just start talking so naturally. And yet, for us it can be such a huge challenge. That’s a real teaching point for us as adults, isn’t it.
TB: Yeah, that lack of self-awareness is a great, as you say, humbling thing that we can do. And I see it as well when, hanging out, doing children’s ministry and listening to them pray, in the way that they approach God and just pray—again, without any presumption, not really always knowing “These are the rules of how you should pray in a Christian church”. They just pray because there’s things that are on their mind and on their heart. And again, that can be a helpful reminder. The way they ask questions, the way that they investigate a passage with curiosity and wonder—there’s a number of different things that are a great blessing for me, being in children’s ministry—to see these things happen as children are exploring faith.
DW: Great, Tim! Look, we’ve still got one point to go in terms of children are still developing and sinful. And I really do want to spend some good time unpacking that idea of development, as well as the temptations and the sinfulness that is inherent in all of us, but it is also present in children. We might actually push that point to the second half of our podcast.
But just before we go to a break, I just wondered if we could turn to some concrete, practical tips. So Tim, in the light of what we’ve talked about in terms of understanding who children are from God’s perspective, have you got some practical, concrete tips? What do we do—particularly in the context of families? So if we’re parents or if we’re siblings, or if we’re aunties or uncles, what are some practical tips that we can take from what we’ve discussed and actually put into practice? And then, secondly, have you got any good resources that we can draw on to help us be equipped in this manner?
TB: Yeah, so the first thing to say is, from those different Bible passages we mentioned earlier, God has put the responsibility in households for the primary spiritual formation of children and teenagers. And so, that’s not something that parents—caregivers—can offset to someone else. It is something that God has given them a particular responsibility to do.
So like I said, with my own family, church was really essential. A Christian school was a great blessing to me. But it was what happened in the family that was really key, and actually is the most formative aspect of discipleship for children and even for teenagers. And so therefore, what we do in the home is really critical.
And so I think about family discipleship a little bit like the Couch to 5k running app. I don’t know if anyone’s familiar with that, but the idea is that you take someone who is not at all a runner and within about an eight or 10-week program, you can get them running 5 km. And I think of family discipleship in the same kind of way: we all have families in our churches—might have people listening today—who feel like they’re on the couch, metaphorically, in terms of family discipleship. They don’t know where to start. They’ve got no ideas on how to pray. They don’t know how to say grace with their kids. They don’t know what Bibles to pick up. And that’s okay.
Part of our responsibility—part of mine as a children’s minister and as I equip other children’s ministers as well—is to help those people and those families get off the couch. And it might be pick one meal this week where you sit down and you say grace. Can you say grace with your family one meal this week? That might be achievable for you. It might be a stretch. It might be like that first run on the Couch to 5k app. But it’s probably achievable.
You’ve got other families in our churches which might be doing half marathons every week. And that’s okay too. In which case, for them, it’s “How do we continue to equip our family well?” And so, wherever we are on the journey of family discipleship, the question is, “What’s the next step?” If you’re not yet saying grace around the table, just say a simple grace: “Thanks, God, for the food. Amen.” That’s all it needs to be. If you’re saying grace regularly, maybe add a Bible verse in there—open up the Bible. In my family, I’m the quickest eater, and so as everyone else is still eating, I open up the Bible and we read a small chapter or half a chapter, and just ask a few questions. And there’s lots of great resources for that. We’ve just been using the Youthworks 555 program, which is a challenge to see if you can get five minutes of Bible reading five nights a week for five weeks. And if you can do that, you’re starting to build a really good habit. So that’s one resource and one thing that I’ve been doing with my family recently.
And we’re about to move from there onto—it’s called New City Catechism. So that was produced by Tim Keller’s church in New York city a number of years ago. And a catechism is basically questions and answers: “Who is God?” and then there’s a rote answer that you learn. And part of that is, again, helping children—even parents—just learn basic understandings—foundational truths—which you then continue to grow into as you grow up. So that’s another resource. We’re about to do that as a family. So that would be great to look into for other people as well.
If people are doing that, maybe it’s children’s Bibles. Maybe it’s reading a chapter of a children’s Bible. The Jesus Storybook Bible is one that I highly recommend: it tells the stories of the Old and New Testament, but within a large, biblical, theological framework. So Jesus is there on every page. And so I think that’s really helpful.
A lot of the more traditional children’s Bibles tell these segmented stories that are almost like sitcom episodes: you could take them or leave them, read them in any order, and it really wouldn’t matter. But that’s not how the Bible is written. The Bible is written as a cohesive narrative, and that’s one Bible. The Big Picture Story Bible is another great one which holds it all together.
And so maybe it’s reading a chapter. If you’ve got young kids, maybe you think about reading the same chapter every night for a week, and then move on to the next chapter. That repetition will build it into our preschool kids’ minds. “Oh, that’s what’s happening! That’s what’s happening!” They love the anticipation. If you’ve ever been around preschool kids with a book, they say, “Oh, read it again! Read it again! Read it again!” They don’t get sick of that repetition. And so you don’t have to get sick of repetition with your Bibles either, or the prayers that you read.
So thinking about different ways. But like any of our spiritual disciplines, don’t feel you have to go from the couch to running a half marathon. You’re going to wear yourself out and you’re going to become exhausted. What’s that next little step? What’s the incremental change that you can make just to have a little bit more prayer in your family’s life—a little bit more Bible reading—a little bit more conversation around Jesus-oriented things about God and his kingdom that will help you and your family grow as disciples of Jesus?
DW: Great. Thanks, Tim. Yeah, some really good helpful practical tips there and some good resources for discipling our families.
We’re actually going to take a quick break right now. And as we do so, I just wanted to draw your attention to a few resources that CCL has for your own Christian growth. This year’s focus at CCL has been the responsibilities that belonging to Christian community brings. And our events have looked at different aspects of these responsibilities—from how we read the Bible together, to how sin and forgiveness work in real life, among many others. You can find our past events online at ccl.more.edu.au, where you can watch them, listen to them or read them.
But we’re also close to our final livestream event for the year, where we’ll explore more on today’s topic, “Raising the next generation” for Christ. And that’s going to be happening on Wednesday, October 20th, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. And we have the great privilege of being joined by Paul Dudley, chaplain at the Shore School, and Mark Earngey, Head of Church History here at Moore College, as they think further with us on raising the next generation in Christ—from both the up-close perspective of a school chaplain in the trenches, so to speak, and the invaluable lessons we can learn from how people have thought about and ministered to children throughout the ages. And so, whether you’re young or old, a parent, a sibling, or a friend, all of us need to be taking an interest in seeing the next generation of the church grow to be followers of Christ. So I hope that you’ll plan to join us on Wednesday, October 20th for that event. You can register yourself or even your church online at ccl.more.edu.au. We’ll be back shortly.
DW: Well, welcome back to the CCL podcast. My name is Dan Wu and I’m here with Tim Beilharz, who is the Children’s Ministry and Primary SRE Advisor for Youthworks.
So we’re going to turn our attention now from, really, a theology of children and children in the context of their physical family to now thinking about children and youth at church and as part of society. And again, how do we raise the next generation for Christ in those contexts? And so, when I think about church in particular, and kids ministry, my common memory is rocking up at church with kids in tow, we spend a little bit of time in the main service together, and then it’s time for the kids to go to their Kids Church—their kids ministry. And it’s like we really send them off into the ether—into a black hole, an alternate dimension, almost—where we do our thing; they do their thing. And then at some point in time, the stars align, they re-enter the atmosphere, and suddenly, they’re eating morning tea in front of us. But is that the best way we should think about kids and youth ministry? Tim, what have you been thinking about on that front?
TB: Yeah, so there are lots of different models of kids ministry, particularly, and what you’re describing is a fairly typical model. And there are lots of really great benefits to that model as well.
One of the great benefits of that model is that you’re starting together. So there is an expression of all-togetherness. So there is an opportunity there for all ages to be in the worshipping community together. And there are great benefits that come from this: children get to experience those who are older than them, singing and worshipping and praying; hearing the announcements; maybe, depending how long they stay in for, they may be saying some creeds together, or some formal liturgy together. It might be a time where, sporadically, they see other children being baptised. There’s a whole lot of community things that happen in that all age, all stage part of the gathering. So that’s really significant.
It’s also significant what we said at the first half about children being a model of faith to adults—that the adults in the congregation, they don’t have to be children’s leaders; they can just be there in among the midst of the children and they can see the children singing and praying and asking their parents, “What does that word mean?”, and colouring in and all the things that they are doing. So there’s a great opportunity there for all ages to be experiencing church and expressing faith together.
And in the second half, what you’re describing as the kids go out there, they’re then able to have age-appropriate teaching. You know, they would maybe sing some more songs, do some more prayers, and have a Bible teaching time, which they’re able to cater for their particular age, their language, their developmental stage. And so there’s some great benefits there.
It’s not the only way of doing church. The church that I was actually a pastor of at Gymea, we started separate, and the whole time, the kids were in their space; the adults were in their space. We call it Kids Church and, in some ways, that’s exactly what it was: there was adult church over there, at that side of the carpark, and there was Kids Church over this side of the carpark.
There’s other models of church where you do all in, all the time, and you don’t have segregated times for children and child-appropriate, language-appropriate teaching. So there’s lots of different ways of doing that. I’m fairly agnostic, in some ways, as to the model that you do.
But there’s a couple of key principles that I’m trying to communicate and help others to think through. The first one is that, as we said earlier, I don’t want parents to feel that they can delegate out the discipleship responsibility. It might be that as a parent, I want my kid to learn swimming, so I take him to a swimming coach. I want him to learn violin, take him to a violin coach. I want him to be a disciple of Jesus, I take him to the children’s minister. I delegate all of those responsibilities out, because there’s a specialist in each of those areas. And as we said at the first half, that’s not actually the case: as a parent, it’s my prime responsibility to disciple my kids.
And even the way that we do church, we don’t want to communicate, “Thank you, parents. We’ve got them now. We will be the ones who will disciple your kids. You sit back and do your thing. We’ve got our thing.” But too often, that is what is implicitly—sometimes, maybe, explicitly—said in the way that we structure church and the way that we do those programs.
DW: Yeah, yeah.
TB: So that’s one thing I want to be arguing against.
DW: Sure, sure. And you’ve actually given a label or a title to that model of kids ministry. Can you expand on that for us?
TB: Oh, you’re thinking about “the one-eared Mickey Mouse”?
DW: I’m thinking about the one-eared Mickey Mouse! [Laughter]
TB: Yeah, this is not my label. It’s a label that’s existed for a number of decades now.
TB: I’m not sure where it originates, but a number of people have used it. But it’s the idea that adults—if you can imagine a one-eared Mickey Mouse, the adult church is the big circle in the middle [Laughter], and children’s and youth ministry is, maybe, that little circle that’s over the side. And it’s kind of connected, but not really. And so, it’s a ministry that happens at the periphery to ministry that happens, and is connected, maybe, by geography: they happen to be at the same space, but other than that, they’re not really connected. And so, that’s another thing which, I think, is an unhelpful pattern of ministry: it doesn’t have a particular practice. They—it’s possible that a number of different practices could evidence that kind of a one-eared Mickey Mouse. And so we want to be careful.
It might be that—like the church that I was a pastor of, it might be that the kids leave the car and head in one direction, and adults leave the car and head in the other direction. That may be an expression of one-eared Mickey Mouse. It might not be. You might have all the kids in for 25 minutes at the start of the service. But still, functionally, you don’t think of kids as part of the church. It’s nice that they’re kind of around, but, really, once they go, then we can get on with the real ministry [Laughter]. We have meaty sermons and good Bible reading, and that’s where real discipleship happens. And it’s good that the kids aren’t there to interfere and distract us from good Bible teaching. That mentality would also be expressing that kind of a one-eared Mickey Mouse. So there’s no one particular expression, but it comes from the heart of the people that you’re amongst. So I want to be careful of that.
One of the things I do want to be helping churches think through as well is “What is some sort of intergenerational moment that you’re doing as a community?” So again, what you’re describing in your church, the first 20-25 minutes where you’re all together, that might be an intergenerational moment. When I use the word “intergenerational”, what I’m thinking about is the intentional bringing together of different generations for the sake of everyone’s growth as disciples of Jesus. And so, there is an intentionality there. We actually want every generation to be there in that moment—to be learning from each other and helping each other grow as disciples of Jesus. I think most churches I know are multi-generational: there’s lots of generations around. But sometimes we accidentally hang out with each other, because we just happen to be in the same building. Sometimes we, on purpose, separate out the generations. If you’re over 70, you go to that service over there. If you’re under 20, you go to that service over there. And if you’re somewhere in the middle, you can come to this service here. You’re intentionally separating and segregating the generations from each other.
What I’m looking for is I’m looking for opportunities to intentionally bring those generations together. Just last weekend, I preached on 1 John 2 for my church, and there’s that lovely little part in the middle of 1 John 2 where he says, “Dear children, I write to you because … young men, I write to you because … fathers, I write to you because …” And he’s talking to different generations. He’s talking to different people—have different experiences and maturities in the faith. And one of the joys of actually having moments in your community life where you’re bringing them together—where the seventy-year-olds and the seven-year-olds, and everyone in between are all in the same space at the same time, is really beautiful. Not accidentally, but intentionally. We’re trying to bring you together, because we know it’s really great for the 85-year-old to hang out with the 45-year-old and the 25-year-old and the 15-year-old and the five-year-old, and everyone benefits when you’re all there together.
And so, that’s another thing for churches to find those moments. It might be weekly. It might not be. It might be monthly. It might be seasonally. But trying to find some times where you can use [those] intergenerational moments to help everyone grow as disciples of Jesus.
DW: I think that’s so helpful. And the use of that word “intentional”, I think—the wisdom and the energy that’s required to do it well—it’s actually quite complex, isn’t it. Because you do have the one-eared Mickey Mouse, where it’s like you farm out the ministry to an external body and there’s really no involvement in the ministry to your kids at church. But then on the flip side, you can have a reaction against that and just say, “Well, no, that doesn’t sound right. So let’s have everyone in together.” But sometimes that actually just results in this smoosh of ministry that doesn’t serve anybody, because we’re trying to just do everything for everyone.
And so there may be times to do separate things, as you pointed out. But you also don’t want to miss the fact that we are organically connected to each other and spiritually connected to each other. And as you pointed out in the first half of our podcast, that we are there to serve each other, and be connected to each other. And so, I really like that intergenerational intentional moments there. And we’ll think more about what that might look like in real life.
But let’s just take that big idea of how we’re serving people intergenerationally. And I want to try and dovetail in that point #3 from our first part of the podcast—that children are developing—and we’ll also feed in the sinfulness aspect as well.
But you’ve also got some interesting thoughts in terms of a child’s development through church, and how we can actually connect them at different stages in that intergenerational move. And again, I was reading another one of your articles on the youthworks.net website that particularly focused on the development of children. And so, you lined up, really, the two big guns in childhood development: there’s Jean Piaget, who is big on the ideas of stages of cognitive development, and then the person that you focused on was Lev Vygotsky. Is that how you pronounce it?
TB: That’s correct. Yep.
DW: Great. And he has a theory or a thesis of what he calls “zones of proximal development”, which sounds a bit like a sci fi movie to me. But what does that mean? What is the zone of proximal development?
TB: Yeah, so Vygotsky: he’s a fascinating character. He and Piaget—here’s a bit of nerd history for you—but they were born in the same year. He was working in Russia and Piaget’s working in Switzerland on child development. Vygotsky—by a number of terrible circumstances: one is he dies really young—tuberculosis, I think it is. And secondly, he was on the wrong side of the Russian Revolution. And so his writings kind of get buried. Whereas Piaget goes onto a very long life of child development psychology. And what that means is that in the Western tradition, you have this voice of Piaget, who’s really strongly emphasising the stages and that you go through different stages, you develop along these different stages, and you are able to learn and understand different things as you grow up. That becomes a really prominent theory of educational and developmental psychology in the Western world.
And then somewhere in the late 70s/early 80s, Vygotsky’s work gets rediscovered. Over a number of years, [it] gets translated into English—starts to be read in the English-speaking world. And he comes with this interesting counterpoint—which is, yes, but people develop because they’re in relationship with those who are more advanced than themselves.
And this is really interesting. It’s one of the things that I’ve latched on to. There’s lots of really great things about Piaget. A lot of children’s ministry and education is focused around that idea of age and stage. But Vygotsky’s really interesting to me because of this idea that when you are in proximity with those who are further along than you, that’s when you grow up, because you grow up into the developmental stage of the community you’re around.
And I really like this from a faith perspective, because I think that what he’s tapped into, even though he was a Jew—not quite sure how faithful a Jew he was—not a Christian guy; not seeking to build a Christian experience. But so much of what he says taps into what the Old and New Testament express about humanity and anthropology, and what it means for us to be Christians in a worshipping community in the household of faith—that I really like this idea that it’s the intergenerational nature. It’s the fact that you have children, when they’re in proximity with those who are further ahead than them—teenagers, adults, senior saints—and it’s being around them and being brought up into that community—that that’s what actually grows them up into faith.
And so, his idea of “zone of proximal development” is “There are things that I can’t do yet without help, but I will do someday”. And so, he was interested in language development. But when it comes to the world of discipleship, I’m thinking about things like learning how to pray, learning how to read, learning how to be kind—express the fruits of the Spirit. What does it mean to serve in the church? It might be that the five-year-old can’t do certain things, but they might be able to do it with help. They might be able to be part of the welcoming team with help. And so, they can, with help, be part of the welcoming team at church. The 10-year-old might be able to be part of the prayer roster or the Bible reading roster with help. And so, as you help them grow in their spiritual gifts—as you help them grow in their service to church—as they hear others pray and they go, “Oh, that’s what it means to pray. Oh, I can talk to God like that”, they’re being been brought up into that zone of proximal development, and their own discipleship is being strengthened and developed and grown, because of the way that they are with those who are unlike themselves.
And so, how this flows into my understanding of kids and youth ministry is I want to be careful not to only have kids in age-segregated rooms, where they’re just with those who are exactly like themselves—at their own stage of spiritual, physical, cognitive development. There are times when it’s really important to have the preschool kids all together and to sing preschool songs and to read a preschool Bible, and just enjoy who they are as preschool kids. But there’s also great value with those preschool kids hanging out with primary school kids, and with teenagers, and with the 80-year-olds and everyone in between—the middle adults—because it’s through seeing those who are unlike themselves, they actually grow up into that faith.
So that’s where I have liked a lot of Vygotsky’s ideas and are trying to work out what does it mean to translate some of those into a Christian discipleship framework?
DW: So what are some of the conclusions you’ve drawn? What are some of the steps that we could take to actually raise children in this way, taking into account this zone of proximal development?
TB: Yeah, so again, it’s intentionally putting them with people who are unlike themselves. And so, that’s where, when we’re thinking about children’s ministry, if you’re in a small church, you might have a Sunday school class of five kids: the youngest is two; the oldest is 13. And that’s your Sunday school class. In that case, you’ve got a whole variety of ages and stages of development. And there’ll be something that’s really nice about that, because the three-year-old will be able to hear the 13-year-old pray and ask questions, and they’ll be brought up into that level of maturity.
The temptation is as we grow—as our children’s ministries get larger—we do more segregating. We bring down the class sizes so, “Oh, now I’ve got enough kids to just run a preschool room and an infant’s room and a primary room”. If you’re in a really large church, maybe you’ve got one for each year group. And again, there are some great things from Piaget that we can say: yes, there are developmental stages. There are ways of teaching—creativity. There are things that we can get them to do at their particular stage. But again, I’m looking for opportunities where I can bring them together. I’m looking for opportunities for the three-year-olds to learn from the eight-year-olds. So it might be prayer groups. It might be a buddy system. It might be where you get the Year 6 kids to go down and hang out with the Kindergarten kids, like they do in a lot of schools. And by being a buddy, you can help them to grow.
I’m also looking for ways in which we can have teenagers to serve in children’s ministry—grow them up as light leaders—give them an appropriate amount of responsibility. That’s also bringing those teenagers into a zone of proximal development. They’re learning—they’re stretching up into what it means to be a leader—to take on responsibility, to own the faith for themselves and to pass it on to others.
And I’m also looking for opportunities to bring all adults. One of the things that we do at church is we have a role in our children’s ministry called the Chill Leader. And a Chill Leader is—my goal is for every safe adult at church, who’s done their Working With Children Check, got Safe Ministry clearance—for every safe adult to be in children’s ministry as a Chill Leader, because what they’re doing is they’re putting themselves in the proximity with children. So it’s good for their discipleship, like we said earlier. But it’s good for the children, because they get to meet all these older saints in their church. They get to be known—there’s a whole lot of really great value about being known by your community—and they get to benefit from hearing and seeing all these different displays of what it means to be Christian. And that, again, will be shaping the kid—will be forming their identity of what it means to be a Jesus follower, and will help them to grow up as disciples of Jesus.
DW: Yeah, that’s great, Tim, and as I think about my own growth as a Christian, I can’t count the number of people that were like this in my life—who were a little bit ahead—that I looked up to—that I learned and grew from.
Actually, lockdown has brought this home to me: we do online church, and then our church has this great kids ministry thing afterwards where our kids do a little bit of a Zoom with their leaders and their peers. And it’s just a delight, ’cause we never get to see this, usually, when we’re at physical church, ’cause we’re in different physical locations. But it’s been a nice snippet of actually seeing how they interact and how the leaders love and care for them, and how that really just helps our kids to flourish and grow and look to “That’s the sort of person that I want to be around and be like”—those sorts of things. So important.
And for me, just to splice in what we’ve been talking about, I don’t know if you’re too familiar with Steve Biddulph’s work, but I read the book Raising Boys, particularly because I have three boys of my own. [Laughter] And it just strikes me that whether or not you want to follow him completely, his take on things of how children develop, moving from really looking to their parents for their primary input of how they’re going to grow—Biddulph says moving from the mother to the father, but you could generalise that out to parents—but then he says, as they hit the teen years in particular, it moves to peers and mentors. And I think, now that I’ve got a teenage boy, as you do, Tim, I certainly see this: you just start to see his eyes go to someone other than me to look to for his next stage of development. And so, this idea of bringing him into the orbit of people who you would want him to grow up like, you can just see how important that is almost physically.
So yeah, I think that’s really important. And really critical, isn’t it, for us at church to think about how do we think about our ministries? It’s not just for the function of passing on the content of the word, but actually think about them as forming contexts for stitching people into significant relationships. And so, as you said, can we get our young people in contact with people who are serving, maybe, a stage or two ahead? Such a critical thing for the health of our churches and for the health of our young people. So yeah, great stuff, Tim.
Now, in the few minutes that we have left, I just want to very quickly, if we can, turn our eyes outwards now and think about our young people in the context of our society. There’s a lot of issues that our young people face today. I think we all recognise just how quickly the world has changed in the last 15 or 20 years. So from when you and I were growing up, there was a simplicity to life that just is not there anymore. And that brings with it great opportunities and advantages. But it also brings with it great vulnerability and danger.
We just identified a few things. In terms of our young people really looking towards the future, I think there is an anxiety and a fear that is present from their awareness of so many things in the world. There’s the issue of technology—both the opportunities and the dangers that that brings. I mean, my eight-year-old is probably more tech-savvy than I am now. There’s the issue that is confronting us in the West—always in our face—of sex and relationships, and how we should think of ourselves as sexual beings. And then, just in general, we all feel this turn of the cultural tide against Christianity as an acceptable mainstream belief and lifestyle pattern. What are some ways that we can help our young people to face these issues and stand strong and be firm in Christ?
TB: Yeah, so great question and a great multitude of issues to talk through. Maybe some general principles to start with. One is our children will learn from us as they see how we respond to these. And so, if we respond in fear and anxiety, then they will learn that fear and anxiety are the right responses to these things. So modelling a faithfulness to Christ is really key—modelling a prayerfulness that comes to Christ and brings all these to him and to his throne—modelling that with them—praying with them—helping them to see when, for little kids, when they’re scared of the dark or they’re having nightmares, helping them to turn to Jesus—to remind them that Jesus is always with them and that he’s bigger than their fears, and he never leaves them, never forsakes them. And he is with them here in the bedroom in the dark. It’s a simple example. But helping them turn that fear into faith is a really helpful process, and something that we can be modelling to them. And then all of these things—how we are responding as disciples of Jesus ourselves—will shape our kids and will grow them up into little disciples themselves.
So the first one there: even, the future, the fear, the levels of anxiety. There’s a really helpful commentator who I’ve read on these who talks about one temptation when we get to fear is to try and turn it into control. And so, we fear something; we seek to then control it, because if we can control it, we can have mastery of it, and then we don’t need to fear it anymore. And that can become quite destructive because, again, it’s an idolatry of self. It might become an idolatry of political power. It might be an idolatry of how we present on our social media feeds. His response is to say, “No, when we fear, the right response is to turn to prayer, because we then lay all of our fears and anxieties at the feet [of the one] who can actually do something about them”—both ourselves—he can do something about our state of mind—and about the things that we are concerned about. And so, as we bring our fears and our anxieties to the cross, we bring them to the throne of God, that’s a really great thing to be reminded of—who he is in his sovereignty.
We were greatly blessed at our church: both the lockdown in 2020 and the lockdown in 2021, we’d already set out months in advance, our preaching program. It just so happened that our first lockdown coincided with preaching through the Book of Daniel. And there’s this great thread throughout Daniel that the Ancient of Days sits on his throne. No matter what happens—no matter what it’s looking like—the Ancient of Days is on his throne. And that was just really beautiful and comforting as we went through our first lockdown—our first experience of COVID, wondering what on earth is going on. As a church, to be reminded of that fact was really beautiful.
And then the same thing this year: the lockdown, we didn’t see it coming—Delta came [on] us really suddenly—we just happened to be preaching through Hebrews. And again, a constant thread through all of Hebrews is “It’s done”. Jesus is the better Moses, the better high priest, the better Melchizedek, the better sacrifice. He’s in the throne room of God right now. And in chapter 13, he promises “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” (Heb 13:5). “I’m always with you”. And that, again, was just a really beautiful reminder for us as a congregation to know that things seem really chaotic right now. We don’t know. We’ve got a lot of anxieties. And so, we’ve been able to take our children, as well as our whole congregation, through those topics. And that’s been a really wonderful thing. So future and fear: there’s a few things to be thinking about. Turn it prayer. Model what it means to be dependent on the Father. And that’s one of the ways that we can shape.
Just a couple of quick things on each of those other ones. In terms of technology, Andy Crouch has a book called The Tech-Wise Family. And what I really like about that is, again, he’s just building on the principle of “Think Christianly about technology”. And so he’s got lots of really practical things—all the sorts of typical things about how we use technology, the personas we have, safe uses of online spaces, etcetera. But thinking Christianly and modelling that as parents and as leaders is really, really critical.
In terms of sex and relationships, one of the phrases that I use with my family all the time is “God’s good design”. “God’s good design is for …” and then talk about his good design—male and female, heterosexual marriage, and that there are those who are not interested in living by God’s good design. And then there are those who seek to live by God’s good design, but because of their sin and their fallenness, fail in that sometimes. And so we talk about those different things and we talk about some of the issues that they come across—same-sex relationships, or they’ve got friends at school whose parents are getting married, and they’re like, “How does that work?” and we talk about those kinds of things. People who have divorced parents—all of the different relational and sexual identity things. My son’s about to turn 13; my daughter’s about turn 11. I’m sure there’s a lot more identity and relationship things that will come out in the next 10 years as we talk through these things more as a family. But coming back to that phrase of “God’s good design”, I found that to be a really helpful mantra to just be framing all these conversations in—to be able to do it with truth and grace as we talk about friends and family and other people, and what that means.
And, again, just to plug a couple of resources: Patricia Weerakoon has got a great series of books on sex and relationships for all different ages. Birds and Bees by the Book is for young kids to read through together. Growing Up By the Book is for 10 to 14-year-olds, and then Teen Sex By the Book is for 14 and upwards. And they’re, again, theologically grounded biblical expressions of what it means to think about sex and relationships from a Christian point of view.
And the last one there: the idea of an anti-Christian culture. One thing—and, again, this is still a growing idea—a budding idea in my mind, but I’m starting to think more and more about what does it mean to prepare our kids to grow up conscious that they are different? And again, as you said, that—we don’t have to go back very far—even probably to when we were kids—there was this assumption that Australian culture was largely in line with this vanilla Christian culture. I remember that shops weren’t open on Sundays, and when shops started opening on Sundays, that was really weird. And we had a conversation as a family. I was a primary school child. And there was, again, this recognition that “Oh, well, Sunday was the Lord’s day, but our society is starting to pull apart from being based on Christian values. And so, shops opening on Sunday was a new thing, but a part of that expression.”
We’re a long way from that now, obviously. But still, that idea that we’re helping our kids to understand “This is who we are because of who Christ is and what he has done for us. But we’re increasingly a minority, and that’s okay. We don’t need to be anxious about that. But we do need to recognise that we will be different. We will be different to many of your mates at school. We’ll do things that are different. We will prioritise things on the weekend that are different. We might listen to different types of music or not listen to some types of music. We might watch certain things or not watch certain things, because we’re disciples of Jesus.” But helping to have those conversations with kids early on. They just recognise, “It’s okay. Lots of our friends don’t follow Jesus. We’re different. And this is why.” And helping have those conversations in age-appropriate ways.
Something that finds a balance where I don’t want to shelter them so much that they emerge at 18, go to Uni and suddenly realise that not everyone’s a Christian. That’s really disconcerting for them. Neither do we want to expose them to lots of topics too early. But finding that right balance—the wisdom that comes from that.
And again, this is where an intergenerational church can be really, really beneficial, because you talk to those who [are] just that little bit step ahead of you. As I said, my kids are 10 and 12. We’ve got great friends whose kids are—the youngest of the three is about to do their HSC. And so there’s that next step ahead. And I’ll constantly have conversations: “How did you approach this? What did you do here?” And likewise, we’ve got families whose kids are three and five, and they’ll be asking us, “How do you do this? What did you do when this happened?” And the great benefit of hanging out with those who were just slightly ahead or slightly below, and being a help to each other. So use the Christian community—use your gathering of people together at your church to help fuel you in all those conversations—can be really brilliant.
DW: Great, Tim. Thanks so much. That’s so helpful. And just try to wrap up with a couple of reflections from the goal that you just gave us, then, one thing that struck me as you were talking, which has been shot all the way through, is the importance not only of teaching the truth about God from the Bible, but also matching that with the experience of life of his people. And if we want our children to grow up assured of God’s promises, then the importance of modelling our own confidence in those promises. If we want our children to grow up, knowing how to respond to these situations, we want them to be in proximity with people who have stood firm during trials—who are a little bit ahead, who they can look to, and actually draw confidence in the truth of what they’re hearing from our lips in the Bible. But so exciting and so encouraging—so challenging, at the same time, to think through how do we bring this all together? How do we serve our children well? How do we build and grow them into the next generation who will stand firm for Christ?
We need to wrap up now. Thanks so much for joining us today, Tim. It’s been such a rich and energising time to talk through what God says about these precious young people that he’s committed to our care, and so good to benefit from your hard work and insight into this area. And if people would like to read or hear more from you, as I mentioned, your articles are available at youthworks.net. And you’ve also been part of another podcast. So where can we find that podcast, Tim?
TB: Yes, there’s a couple there. So we’re just launching a Youthworks podcast called The Effective Ministry podcast. So you can find that on all your regular platforms. And me and a number of the other advisors will be co-chairing that—having conversations with local practitioners, as well as those who have thought more broadly about children’s and youth ministry. So that would be a great podcast to dip into to help you have that effective youth and children’s ministry in your local church.
The other podcast I’ve had the privilege of being a part of is called The Shock Absorber podcast, which is one run by a couple of guys at my church. It’s Soul Revival Church—Stuart Crawshaw and John McMaster—and we’re looking at what it means to be a shock absorber church, which is a whole another conversation. But there are three series so far of that. If you look up The Shock Absorber podcast—so that’s myself, John McMaster and Stuart Crawshaw talking about all age, all stage church, intergenerational ministry, the history of Soul Revival Church and what we’re trying to do as one example of a local context that’s trying to put some of these things into practice.
DW: Great. Thanks so much, Tim. Well, that’s about all we have time for. And so, for our listeners, a final reminder: our CCL October livestream event, “Raising the next generation”, Wednesday 20th of October from 7:30 to 9:00 pm with Paul Dudley, chaplain at Shore School, and Mark Earngey, Head of Church History here at Moore College, on how we might work to raise the next generation in the Lord. If you’d like to register for that event, you can do so at ccl.more.edu.au.
My name’s Dan Wu. Thank you so much for joining us for this CCL podcast with Tim Beilharz. And God bless you as you come to him like a little child. We’ll catch you next time.
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1 Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Mark, trans. Donald H Madvig (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1999) 206-207.