In kids ministry, if relationship isn’t very good, discipleship isn’t very good.
Even Jesus did much of his discipleship through relationships. You see him with his disciples — talking, boating, praying, walking, eating. He chose to be with children and bring them into his circle. He was physically closer to children than others. He took time to know what they were doing and to engage with them at their level.
We know that most research points to relationships, rather than content, as the main source from which kids learn. Certainly, we need to teach kids scripture, but without building relationships, much of that learning won’t make disciples who make disciples. Kids follow people more than they follow principles.
Here’s how I see it. I’d rather have leaders than curriculum. And I’d rather have leaders who are connected to Jesus than just any leaders. I know that, often, kids are going to follow their leaders to Jesus. And that means, if their leaders are in the Word, they’ll be in the Word. That means, if their leaders are connecting with them, they will learn from their lives. If their leaders are engaged in the church body, they’ll be engaged in the church body. They will learn scripture and how to live Scripture.
And, if we are walking in the same grace and humility as Jesus walked, they will begin to see how kind and generous and loving he was. They will, even as infants, see the goodness of the Lord through the tenderness and dedication of people living under the mercy of God through Christ.
Now, I’m not saying throw curriculum out the window. Using a good, well organized curriculum can actually lead to greater relationships because less time is spent writing and organizing and more time is spent engaging with volunteers and kids. What I am saying is, it’s not as big a deal as we make it. Getting the curriculum exactly right isn’t as important as passing on a culture of saving grace through grace-filled people.