Children’s Work (1): The Mandate

The New Testament says nothing about a Sunday school.” This is true. “I never read in the Bible about a special meeting for children.” No you don’t. So is there a Biblical mandate for children’s work? Yes, there is. The mandate can be clearly seen when these four principles of Scripture are carefully considered.

The Great Commission

The risen Lord Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature [all creation]” (Mark 16:15). The Lord did not tell us to preach merely to a particular race or social class or age group; He told us to reach out to everyone. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13). Children are included in the “whosoever” and they are included in the great commission. A similar principle is observed in the parable of the sower. The seed was to be sown on all types of ground, and the Word of God is to be shared with all, including children.

While we are not saying that each and every evangelist or local church is required to do children’s work, we are saying that reaching out to children with the gospel is within the scope of the Lord’s commission. It should be no surprise to us, then, if “the Lord of the harvest” (Matt 9:38) calls some to focus their service for the Lord in evangelizing youth.

The Open Door

In Colossians 4:3, the Apostle Paul asked Christians to pray that he would have an open door for the Word. Presumably, if the Lord opened the door, Paul would take the gospel through it! He observed another open door in Ephesus (1Cor 16:9), which he said was an opportunity for “effective work.” Open doors are opportunities for the gospel that we should seize, and the Lord has given many local churches the opportunity of reaching children with the Word of God. In many areas, children’s work is not as simple as it used to be, due mainly to a changing world. But that makes it all the more incumbent upon us to take advantage of the opportunity while it still remains to us. This door may not always remain open. Laws may change. Insurance requirements may become more restrictive. Parents may become less willing to entrust their children into our care. While the door is open, seize the opportunity for an effective work. Many young people have an open ear for the gospel now that they may not have in ten years’ time. Sometimes, where no one else will come to hear the gospel, children will come. And, sometimes, this opens the door to others in their family. Children’s work is often a door that the Lord has opened.

The Example of Timothy

While Timothy may have been saved as a young man during the Apostle Paul’s preaching in Lystra, it was from his mother and grandmother (2Tim 1:5) that he first learned the Word of God as a child: “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2Tim 3:15). God has been careful in His inspired Word to give us this shining example of the value of children’s work. Though seemingly without a believing father, he learned the truth of God in his youth. It stayed with him, and a little later, the good seed of the Word of God produced fruit; in fact, abundant fruit. Admittedly, Timothy heard the word in his home, not at a separate meeting. That is Scriptural, for a common theme in Deuteronomy is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children the truth of God (see Deut 6:7). So Deuteronomy and Timothy make clear to us the importance of children learning the Word of God. But may I ask you – who is teaching the Word of God to the children in your neighborhood? Do you expect unbelieving parents in the world to do this? Should we be content to let the children of the world grow up and drift along with no spiritual truth? Or in love, should we step in and attempt to instill God’s truth into their hearts? What people learn as children obviously has a tremendous influence upon their perspective as an adult (Prov 22:6). We do our community a great service by teaching them the gospel in their youth. Timothy’s upbringing and conversion are part of God’s instruction to us to teach the Word to children.

Children Were Brought to the Lord Jesus

There is a beautiful account in the Gospel records (Matt 19:13; Mark 10:13; and Luke 18:15) of people bringing little children to the Lord Jesus that He might touch them. The disciples thought the Lord wouldn’t have time for children. They were wrong, and the Lord was not happy with the disciples. Who would forbid people from wanting children to meet the Savior? The Lord says, “Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Then, “He took them in His arms and blessed them.” This is obviously what children’s work is all about – bringing children to the Lord, that they may experience His blessing. God has recorded this event in Scripture three times. Do you think the Lord values work among children?

It would be an interesting project to do a survey among the saints with whom you fellowship: How many of them were saved before their teenage years? It is common to find that a very high percentage of people in local churches today trusted the Lord in their youth. This simply supports what we have already seen in Scripture, that children’s work is a wonderful and important way to spread the gospel and is consistent with the principles of God’s Word. Our God is a Savior God, “Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Tim 2:4) – and that includes children.