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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

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Connections: Scott Berkey

Empowering a Generation

Scott Berkey serves as the national director of the Children’s Ministries Agency (CMA) for the Assemblies of God. Prior to coming to the CMA, Scott and his wife, Sarah, served for more than 10 years as children’s pastors in Frisco, Texas, and Summerville, S.C. Scott has a desire to see kids reached and changed by the power of God, and he understands that can only be accomplished by equipping and developing leaders to do the work of the ministry. He truly believes in the mission of the CMA: “Reaching kids — one leader at a time.” He recently spoke with Scott Harrup, managing editor.

evangel: At the World Assemblies of God Congress in India, Pastor Nam Soo Kim told delegates if church leaders do not give priority to children’s ministry, there really is no future for the church. Why do you see children’s ministry as vital?

BERKEY: I believe with all my heart that children are our greatest asset; our future rests in the next generation. We have an opportunity right now to minister to the generation of kids who could quite possibly reach the entire world with the gospel.

Unlike any generation before it, this generation is born with technology in their hand. The use of smart phones and tablets and other devices of that nature allows kids to communicate all around the world beyond even what my generation was able to do. So this generation truly could spread the gospel throughout the entire world.

We need to do everything we can to prepare them to minister in a way that is most effective and help them to gain not just the head knowledge, but also the heart knowledge and passion they need.

evangel: How is the Assemblies of God demonstrating a commitment to reach children with the gospel?

BERKEY: We are making some major changes here at the National Office. We are trying to present to the field a more unified front unlike anything ever seen before. Girls Ministries, Royal Rangers, BGMC and the Children’s Ministries Agency are working together on a team to impact the next generation. And we’re working to develop resources — such as Faith Case and other incredible tools — that the church can use to really teach kids doctrine and how to live for Christ.

I am so excited about the direction in which we are headed. We are working together to make a difference for the local church and the local leaders so that they can impact the next generation.

evangel: What can parents do to more effectively connect with the children’s ministry team in their church?

BERKEY: Up until a few years ago, I thought it was the mission of the church and the children’s pastor to truly disciple kids. But over the last few years, as I have had children myself and gone through the process of being their “children’s pastor,” I have understood the role that I play as a parent is far greater than any role any pastor could play in the life of my child.

I believe the parent has to be the primary discipler of the child. The parent has to be willing, even in situations that might be uncomfortable, to lead the child through the journey that faith is.

Our national ministry team has to do a better job of putting the tools that parents need in their hands — tools like devotionals and the Fire Bible for Kids.

I’m so excited about the Fire Bible because I can take it with my 6-year-old and she can read through some of those devotionals on her own and we can talk about them together. It’s so important for me as a parent to help her through that process.

The fact is, our family goes to church on a regular basis, but my daughter is seeing her children’s pastor and children’s leaders only two or three hours a week. She’s with Mom and Dad a lot more.

Deuteronomy 6 captures this picture of a parent’s incredible responsibility. When we get up, when we walk around, throughout our day, we’re to be teaching our kids about the Word of God and how to have a love for that Word.

evangel: What can a senior pastor or pastoral team do to prioritize ministry to kids?

BERKEY: As a children’s pastor for more than 10 years, it was challenging at times because it’s easy to slip into a mental separation where the children’s service being held in another part of the building almost becomes a church within a church. In my early ministry, I kind of took that model and ran with it. As I matured, I realized we are part of the body of Christ.

As senior pastors and senior ministers at a church realize the value of the next generation and the value of pouring into them, and from time to time bringing them into the adult service to use their gifts and talents, that will do two things: First, it will show the children that Mom and Dad are having church and are worshipping. Children can lose that exposure if they are too completely segregated off to have children’s church. Second, it will encourage the children’s leaders. It will communicate that the church values what is being done for the children.

evangel: With the continuing breakup of the family in our culture, how can children’s ministers serve kids who come from challenging home environments?

BERKEY: More and more we see kids coming into ministries from broken homes. As a children’s pastor it was challenging for me because I had to provide environments where mentoring relationships could take place.

For example, we had several single dads who would bring their daughters to church and several women from church who would pour themselves into those girls’ lives. Those girls weren’t getting that at home. For a couple of them, Mom lived on the other side of the country.

And we had men as well who lovingly mentored boys from single-parent homes. Even if Dad or Mom is out of the picture at home, this kind of mentoring ministry on a gender-specific basis creates huge benefits for these kids and their single parents.

evangel: If you were to identify the most significant potential roadblocks to sharing Christ with children, what would they be?

BERKEY: A lot of times we want to share the gospel with kids in a way that we understand as adults. That’s perfectly natural. But when we communicate to a child a picture of God within our own frame of reference, we can forget that God’s Word calls us to have faith like a child ourselves.

When Sarah and I served in the local church setting, we strived to do three things with children before they turned 5. We wanted them to understand, first of all, that Jesus loves them. We wanted them to know that Jesus created them. And we wanted them to know that Jesus loves everyone around them. In driving those three basic principles home to children before they turned 5, it allowed us to set up a foundation on which we could build everything else.

evangel: If you had less than a minute to motivate a pastor or a parent to engage children with the gospel, what would you say?

BERKEY: I would say that more than anything else, it is the role of the church and the role of the family to teach kids to love the Word of God and to live in the Spirit. If kids can have a passion and hunger to truly love God’s Word, that Word will never leave them. It will be an unchanging foundation. And then to live in the Spirit, I believe, will lead kids into the operation of the gifts of the Spirit and living out the fruit of the Spirit. That will change a generation for the kingdom of God.


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