by Lisa Kohno
Take a moment to imagine a cute animated bear’s face on a robot’s body. Now imagine that this “care bear robot” is not just a toy to buy for your child, but it’s actually life-sized and designed to take care of your child. In this day and age, this is not an imagination but rather a very real reality in Japan where these Baymax-like robots are currently being introduced to Japanese nurseries in response to the nation’s acute scarcity of childcare workers (Advisen). Certainly these amiable automations have been programmed to be able to greet a child, comfort them, record their temperatures, and even monitor their general health, but they are far limited in their ability to care for the most important aspect of a child’s life: their soul.
In contrast, our Fireflies Nursery ministry is concerned with both the material and immaterial needs of the infants and toddlers of our church family, as we recognize that caring for a child is not merely ensuring their physical wellness and growth, but most importantly nurturing their spiritual maturation and shepherding their hearts to know, love, and worship Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Yes, a typical day in nursery will entail playing with the children, having snacks, consoling those who are crying, and changing diapers, but what I so highly admire about Lighthouse Bible Church is how we seek to uphold a high view of God and His Word at every stage of life, and this by no means is watered down for our Children’s Ministries.
Thus, from early on we want to set the tone that our Lord is intimately involved in the young ones’ everyday life by emphasizing time to pray, participate in worship, rehearse Scripture memory verses, and teach lessons from the Bible. Some unbelieving friends and coworkers have expressed bewilderment that we actually instruct the children at this young age, but it’s crucial to remember that although their minds may be limited, their spirits are assuredly active and able to grasp simple truths of God. Just as it is with newborn babies and physical food, although we don’t endeavor to feed them a buffet right from the beginning because it’d be impossible for them to intake everything doesn’t mean we don’t feed them at all lest they should starve. Rather, we start with consistently feeding them milk as the basic building block to feed and nourish their growing bodies. Likewise with spiritual food, although they may not be ready to comprehend deep theology and feast on the riches of hermeneutics at their age, it is still vital that they start by feeding off the pure spiritual milk of His Word that they may grow up into salvation until they are ready for more solid food (1 Peter 2:2; 1 Corinthians 3:2).
With this knowledge in mind, particularly on N-2 which is comprised of the older walkers to potty-trained three-year-olds, we teach basic lessons from Scripture about God’s character, remembering that the only sure foundation for the little ones is Jesus Christ (Isaiah 28:16). Because at this age repetition is key, we go over the same lesson for the entire month using pictures, felt boards, and sometimes crafts, seeking to impart great truths of our awesome God in simple words. Some examples of our rotation of lessons include:
- God is Good
- God Made Everything
- Jesus is Alive
- God is Everywhere
- Jesus is the Boss
- God Knows Everything
- Jesus Loves Me
- God Always Wins
Although we recognize the young children may not be able to understand every phrase and lesson immediately, we believe that with time and constant reiteration they can grow in their familiarity and comprehension of these basic truths, especially as they mature and move on to the older Children’s Ministries. This is an important place to start since how can they come to love Someone they do not know? Therefore, little by little we seek to help usher them towards a greater awareness of who our God is so they can eventually come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Though it will take patience and perseverance, we press on and will not cease to declare the “sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:2-4). It’s been my great joy to personally witness how shakily waddling one year-olds with blank stares and bad separation anxiety who slump down in their chairs, soon become stable and confident three year-olds who follow along with the motions to our memory songs and enthusiastically proclaim, “God!” or “Jesus!” with shining eyes as we ask them who created them / provided for Elijah / brought the Israelites out of Egypt / stilled the waters and waves / died for our sins and is alive today / etc.
Serving on staff as a single lady has also offered a unique perspective as I am reminded that my mission in life is to make disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20) and be poured out to testify of the Gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24), whether that is through marriage and shepherding my own children one day–which isn’t a guarantee–or not. Learning how to joyfully submit and lead the life to which God has called me to now (1 Corinthians 7:17) in His infinite wisdom, incomparable love, and infallible sovereignty, I’m grateful He has graciously placed me in different spheres of influence to carry this commission out in my current stage as an employee / daughter / sister / friend. But I especially give praise that without even having children of my own or knowing the future, He has already granted me the gift of becoming a spiritual mother through this ministry, that I may play a small role in impacting future generations unto Christ. Although not always glorious and definitely with its share of challenges, it is a sweet joy and tremendous privilege to help plant the seeds of God’s truth in the fertile hearts of these little souls and have the honor of partnering alongside the parents in the discipleship of the most precious people in their lives towards our one sure Foundation.
All this to say… if you have been waiting for a sign to join our Fireflies Nursery ministry, THIS IS IT. (Just kidding!) But if you are a female member who loves God and children, I highly encourage you to at least try observing and prayerfully consider serving our church family in this way, especially as splitting to two services now offers more opportunities to get involved and practically apply all that you are learning through the preaching of His Word. Not only is this a valuable ministry to get to know and come alongside solid, like-minded sisters from all different affinity groups (and develop a deep respect for what parents do 24/7 with no break!), but it is also a great way to tangibly live out the “Passion Statement” to love God and people (Matthew 22:37-40) week to week and grow in your own worship of our Lord. Again, it may not be the most esteemed position, but what will you learn through Fireflies Nursery you ask? Well, let me share with you just a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained through the past four blessed years…
It’s learning that love is doing the hard work and truly sacrificing for the sake of others rather than simply loving them when they are lovable (Romans 5:8). This means not just holding the adorable babies when they are sweet, docile, and cuddly, but also changing exploding poo diapers and catching spit-up with your bare hands,. It also means patiently consoling an emotionally distressed toddler as they push you away and your ears ring from their screaming, and most importantly, gently but firmly instructing their hearts of their sin and need for a Savior as cold defiance grips their wills and hot selfishness drives their choices. And to do this all being empowered by the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) as we get a small taste of how much God loves us as His own children (1 John 3:1) and bears with us compassionately in our mess and rebellion as well, to remember that He likewise disciplines us as a loving Father that we may partake in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).
It’s learning the paradox of what it means to be great in God’s eyes by becoming last and serving the least (Luke 22:26-27), as we lovingly (and literally) stoop low to minister to the children and esteem it the highest honor to be entrusted with their souls. It’s learning from and being challenged by the kids too, whether we run to our Abba Father as gleefully and desperately as they do when they see their parents walk through the door, or if we are like the ones who hold on to lesser toys/snacks/things of this world thinking they will satisfy us more than the presence of the One who has made us and treasures us. It’s learning to grow in awe and childlike wonder of who our great God is and all He has done for us. It’s learning that God’s laws and boundaries for us are for our good and protection, just as we seek the children’s highest welfare even if that makes them think we are not after their highest joy at times. It’s learning through tears like the children who eagerly await their parents’ return and keep asking where they are, to trust that He is coming back again for us even when we cannot see Him, that we can cling to His character, hope in His promises, and rest in His love for us at all times.
Frankly, it’s a lot about learning our own deficiencies and helplessness too, that God is sovereign when it comes to salvation and it’s up to the Spirit to change hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). Although it has been mentioned serving in Children’s Ministry is sometimes difficult for this very reason as you may not see the fruit of your efforts right away, I trust that God is faithful and I’m thankful knowing the harvest of this ministry may take a few years to see which has taught me to all the more depend solely on God, the power of His Spirit, and persevere in the priority of prayer as we remember, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).
And ultimately, I have learned that when you love anyone, the greatest way we can show them this reality is to love them not in word or talk, but in in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18) all the way to God Himself by consistently pointing to Him and investing His Word into their hearts. So let us do this with abounding joy and confident hope in the power of the holy Scriptures that from childhood are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15). Let us behold our King and pass on the greatness and glory of God to the next generation, laying a firm foundation in Jesus Christ that we may train up an army of little image-bearers to proclaim all His praiseworthy deeds!