The Great Shepherd of the sheep said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). In their shepherding work, how can elders care for and feed the lambs of God?
Develop Scripture memory among the youth. Little ones are like sponges as they soak up what is being presented to them. Directing the pure waters of God’s Word into their minds through Scripture memory is important work. How can this be accomplished?
Elders can develop a memory program that the whole congregation is encouraged to follow. Church classes can be structured so that memorization of the Bible is part of the curriculum. The need in family worship to memorize Scripture by recitation or singing psalms can be emphasized. The youth can be encouraged to memorize books of the Bible and rewarded when they do.
Explain the Scriptures simply. From the pulpit and in other settings, pastors and elders need to work hard at teaching the Scriptures so that young children who are present can understand them.
God’s Spirit blesses children in loving the Bible as it is taught to them in age-appropriate ways. Telling stories with enthusiasm from the pulpit can cause wiggly little ones to suddenly grow still. Young eyes widen in horror as they hear of Cain’s killing his brother Abel or Daniel’s being tossed into a lions’ den. Whether preaching, leading family worship at home, or teaching Bible studies, there is nothing like a parable or story to bring truth home. Is that not how the Bible is written? Is that not how Jesus preached? And is this not how the leaders of the church should feed the lambs?
Preach the visible gospel to them. A great teaching moment for children occurs when the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are observed. Just as Israel was instructed at the Passover to explain what was happening “when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ ” (Ex. 12:26), so also the elders of the church should teach the coming generation the gospel through the sacraments. Explaining the Spirit’s washing at baptism and the spiritual food of communion in ways that children understand is essential during these special seasons of the church’s life. Families can be encouraged by the elders to discuss the sacraments with their children.
Develop special Bible training for the youth. Too often, churches are satisfied with little instruction besides the sermon each week. But the need to deeply train the coming generation with more than sermons is significant. During the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards testified that it was youth earnestly searching the Scriptures through extra sessions with him that created a revival that affected thousands.
Offering young people classes, immersive Bible studies, and teaching videos are all ways to feed richly the growing lambs in Christ’s church.