GraceLife Church of Pineville

Grace alone. Faith alone. Christ alone.

Creation, Corruption, and Consummation: How They Inform Children’s Ministry

Table of Contents


In my previous sermon (kicking off Vacation Bible School [VBS] week at GraceLife), we connected each of the anchor points of world history that our children would be learning. These anchor points of world history are anchor points of the Christian worldview, which answers some of the questions of why the world is the way it is, and, consequently, how we can and should both think and act within our world.

I previously framed the anchor points using the child-friendly concept of “sailing the seven Cs”—each anchor point beginning with the letter C. Each C tells a story.1Creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, cross, and consummation.

But we stress that the stories of Scripture—and the overarching story of Scripture as a whole—is not just pedagogical pap fit only for children. It’s true. So we do well to understand it with intellectual rigor while not sacrificing its literary and literal wonder.

I want to take advantage of the ongoing opportunity to speak to a philosophy of ministry as it relates to our Christian worldview and, given our current focus, emphasize some aspects of how we approach children’s ministry at GraceLife. I will use the framework of the same 7 Cs the children learned to speak both to a Christian worldview as it pertains to children and also to our vision of children’s ministry at GraceLife.

Most of what I say will focus on the first 2 Cs: Creation and Corruption; that’s because the majority of our worldview and theology are formed by our opinions on these first two matters. We’ll take up these two Cs, but with the understanding we gain from the last Cs: Christ, His Cross, and the Consummation of all things.


The story of creation teaches us about the nature of humanity, and thus, it also teaches us about the purposes of humanity. Here’s a look at creation from the first chapter of the first book of the Bible:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.” God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:26–28 NET)

We are created in the image of God—that is our nature; and thus we find purpose in fulfilling our nature. In our mature form, we reflect God in our ability to create and recreate; we reflect Him as we act in accordance with our unity and in our diversity; and we reflect Him in our charge to worship Him, which is to obey Him.

God’s first command to people was not the command to avoid a certain tree. His first command was to be fruitful and multiply; to subdue and fill the earth (see Genesis 1:28).

What does this tell us about children?

  1. The presence of children is a reminder of God’s desire for His image to be perpetuated (eternally magnified) on the earth.
  2. The creation account also tells us that childhood is not our perpetual calling. Note that Creation begins with adults, not children; it begins with adults who were to become one flesh, to join together with the result of recreating another in the image of God.

Look at the end of Genesis 2:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This one at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become one family. The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed. (vv. 18–25)

There is in place a model for how and where and when children are to thrive in this world. And this thriving is built upon a pattern that future children would follow in this pattern—that they would also one day mature beyond childhood, leaving father and mother to form their own families. Living solely as children in relation to earthly parents has never been our calling.

Living solely as children in relation to earthly parents has never been our calling.

How does this inform children’s ministry? It provides a few principles from which we try to operate.

Principle #1: We treat children with the dignity of their intrinsic value as image-bearers of God Himself; and we treat them as fully human in nature.

Principle #2: We simultaneously recognize children as not fully formed in terms of development.

Christian thought stands against the world’s mishandling of these core principles. What happens when your worldview confuses or ignores the distinction between that which is fully human in terms of essence but not fully formed in terms of development? You begin to ask silly questions such as:

  • “At which week should abortion be illegal?”
  • “In which scenarios would it be acceptable to take the life of a child?”

Don’t think for a minute that that’s just the fodder of election season. It’s something that we in the church must consider. In keeping with our charge to be obedient to God, we must affirm our commitment to guard life in the womb at all stages. That means we recognize that the essential right to life for the fifth grader who will move on to our youth program following this summer is the same essential right to live that exists for the newly conceived human.

The circumstances of conception cannot erase that right to life.

The convenience of contraception cannot erase that right to life.

We stand firmly against all forms of abortion, extending even to chemical contraception, and encourage you to adopt the same view. Pastors and other leaders in the church must especially adopt this view, because the Bible describes our relationship in this way: We’re charged with keeping watch over the souls with whom we’re entrusted, as those who must give an account (see Hebrews 13:17).

We don’t watch over the souls only of those who can take care of themselves. We don’t watch over the souls only of those who make our lives more convenient. And we don’t watch over the souls only of those who have reached or maintained peak physical status.

The fertilized egg is fully human in essence without exception.

The fertilized egg is fully human in essence without exception. The fundamental charge to the childcare provider is to recognize that the nature of childhood rests in the fact that future development is required and must be nurtured and protected. Do not entrust your children to those who are nine months too late in recognizing this fact.

Principle #3: Parents bear the responsibility of primary caregivers of their own children.

Children and youth programs within churches can provide vital support; but ideally speaking, spiritual foundations and nurturing should begin in the home. I recognize this world isn’t ideal, and so this situation isn’t always possible. (I’ll speak to that more in a moment, when we discuss Corruption.)

Now for a fourth principle of children’s ministry that builds on the previous three.

Principle #4: Children and youth programs exist to shepherd children toward mature, joy-filled Christian living in keeping with recognizable developmental stages and the contextual needs of the individual, the family, and the community.

This means we minister to children in a way that recognizes the dual necessity of ministering to them as children as well as ministering to them as human beings who will not remain children. Their whole goal is not to be good children but to be good children who mature into good adults.

The modern Christian church is in danger because we perpetuate childish expectations into adult ministry. I grow weary of the cultural expectation that the focus of church should be the careful coordination of age-based social groups. If a church is healthy enough to supplement its core program with demographically arranged ministry and still maintain biblical unity, that’s fantastic. But too many churches confuse core program with supplemental ministry. The reason we make extra efforts (at GraceLife, as at many churches) toward children and youth ministry is because we realize—and please don’t take this derogatorily—that children and youth are incapable of functioning as adults. It’s the nature of childhood, and that’s okay. But outside of these programs, all other groups fall into adult ministry and come with the expectation of adult attitudes toward ministry.

The focus of an unhealthy church or immature church member sounds like this:

  • “What’s the church doing for young adults?”
  • “What’s the church doing for seniors?”
  • “What’s the church doing for men?”

These questions are wrong—they have the wrong focus. The right questions sound like this:

  • “Men, what are you doing for your church?”
  • “Seniors—you who are supposed to be the example of mature Christian living for the church—what are you doing for your church?”
  • “Young adults, marrieds, singles, working professionals, retirees, empty nesters, and so on, what are you doing for one another?”

Sometimes, a church may seem to focus on ministry to young children to the neglect of other ministries (this has, at times, been an accusation at GraceLife). Keep in mind, children’s ministries exist for the dual purpose of providing spiritual care to children but also for providing spiritual care to adults whose development would be near impossible if children were always present.

A church’s leaders has to consider its current state (current numbers, current maturity, current giftings) to determine what (and how much) it will do, programmatically as a church. Each pastor has limited time to minister to various demographic groups, collectively and on individual bases, as the Lord directs and in keeping with ministry priorities. Deacons can be a great help to elders to meet the needs. But know this as well: The vibrancy of all areas of ministry in any church will depend on the maturity and obedience of the existing adults in the congregation (not only on its official leaders) who answer the call to serve.

The vibrancy of all areas of ministry in any church will depend on the maturity and obedience of the existing adults in the congregation … who answer the call to serve.

As pastor, I will do my best to cast a vision for the church I lead (GraceLife) that expands our reach after having established and stabilized a foundation from which we can grow. But in the event that we can’t achieve the growth we desire, at the very least, we can invest in children’s ministry in the hope that at least 18 years from now, GraceLife will be better positioned to achieve godly growth. 

I don’t expect our philosophy of ministry to be agreed with by all. At times, I wrestle with it myself. But I do hope my congregation will at least understand it—and understand the reasoning and purposes behind it. 


Nothing highlights both the goodness of creation and the extent of corruption like the child. The dignity and depravity of humanity stare back at us with the face of the innocent. To fail to recognize the depravity of man is irresponsible; to fail to recognize the dignity of man is irreverent.

Nothing highlights both the goodness of creation and the extent of corruption like the child. … To fail to recognize the depravity of man is irresponsible; to fail to recognize the dignity of man is irreverent.

Our ministry to children will be undeniably flawed; I’m sorry. We will end up serving some better than others (not intentionally). We will be ill-equipped to minister to some in whom the effects of the fallen world are more obvious; that is heart-breaking. As caretakers, we’re limited, and in this world there’s no shortage of corruption in the worst sort of ways.

I wish we as a church were equipped for more therapy, more counseling … more, more, more. But I recognize, too, that the more, more, more is ultimately inadequate to solve the corruption that exists in our minds and bodies. But I recognize, too, that the Spirit of God equips our ministries in ways that are nevertheless sufficient to fulfill that which God has called us to. Working under any other power is futile. We must acknowledge that parents are the primary caretakers, but that we all exist in community as good but corrupted creations.

Here are some ways as parents you help spiritually shape your children with the knowledge that both you and they exist as fallen creatures in a fallen world. In doing so, recognize that our philosophy of church ministry to children will include our beliefs about what should be taking place in families’ homes in conjunction with their participation in the church.

Know this: The image of God is marred in each of us. But it is not erased. Your disposition and actions toward your child must recognize that fact. You are both subject to failure and success; but we who live as new creatures in Christ are capable of godly parenting.

So here is your chief charge if you’re a parent: Do not outsource your parenting.

Following are three main ways I see this happening in our corrupted world. (All of these are controversial to some degree—pastoring, preaching, and exhorting in general are controversial. But maturity demands challenges.)

3 Ways NOT to Outsource Parenting

#1 Don’t Outsource Parenting to Modern Medicine

Don’t hastily medicate your children. I am not saying all medicine is bad. And I’m not saying to take your child off current medications. I am aware that I am not a doctor. I have not devoted my life to the healing of the physical by means of medicine. But I have devoted a good portion of my life to considering the nature of humanity as it pertains to the unity of body and soul. It is true that the treatment of the human person while overemphasizing or ignoring either the body or the soul is damaging—often irreversibly so.

Do not ignore that the Scriptural picture of the fall of humanity is decidedly physical and spiritual, and perhaps even a story of the unfortunate triumph of the lie that a higher plane of spiritual existence will be attained through physical means.

Genesis 3:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (vv. 1–7)

What we see in these verses is a spiritual decision to engage in a physical act of rebellion against God, and it resulted in the separation of the physical and spiritual—which we call death.

What we see in [the Garden of Eden at the Fall] is a spiritual decision to engage in a physical act of rebellion against God, and it resulted in the separation of the physical and spiritual—which we call death.

And as we march toward the grave, our minds and bodies and the world itself grow older and more corrupt in comparison to our former Garden home. It’s all because of the decision of our parents, our common ancestors. We all, to some extent, exist with neurodevelopmental disorder. Welcome to the corruption of the human race. It is a good to want to overcome disorder. But it is a legitimate question to consider, Where do we draw the line when it comes to using medication to help us in overcoming disorder?

Here is what I am warning against specifically: When it comes to medicines that target neurological function, do not make them the first option without having considered other factors. You will damage and hinder your child if you run into this decision hastily. There are those who outsource parenting to a pill because they want their child to sit in a chair longer, or talk less, or because they believe their child needs an 85 on a test instead of an 80, or because parents don’t want to deal with the fundamental reality of sadness that must exist in a corrupt world. Don’t medicate your child because you need more calm in your life, or because you need to look more successful as a parent, or because you think every mood must tend toward pleasure.

The world we live in is inconvenient. Parenting is inconvenient. VBS is inconvenient. We don’t do it because it’s convenient. There are uncomfortable realities we must all live with in a corrupted world. Wisdom is required to know how and when to do battle here. Wisdom also tells you that the battle will be eventually lost—you will die. Some pills will delay it, but no pill will ever stop it completely.

You children of God who have been entrusted with earthly children, I beg you to first make use of all spiritual weapons at your disposal; I implore you to make use of the material world with a view to holistic effects upon how you function—mind and body; I exhort you toward decisions that first exhaust basic human disciplines regarding your diet, routine, habits, community, and environment. Then, with all options exhausted, consider the manufacturer, purpose, short- and long-term side effects, known and unknown science, and the purported mechanism of action of any chemical you subject your child to.

Don’t outsource your parenting to modern medicine.

#2: Don’t Outsource Your Parenting to the Screen

I’m not going to rail on all screens or all forms of digital media. I’m not a Luddite (if you don’t know what that is, look it up on your phone). I once worked as president of a media company. I worked to help develop apps and websites and videos. They all have their place.

Expecting parents, there are some things you should determine to do right now; things you should determine to never allow.

Existing parents who have messed up in this area, you still have the power to change immediately.

There are two main areas of concern associated with the overuse or unwise use of screens: (1) damaging neurological development and (2) damaging spiritual development. These two areas aren’t unrelated; it’s just a way to categorize them. Let’s discuss each a bit more.

Concern Area #1: Neurological Development

Neurologically speaking, screen overuse is more damaging at stages of pronounced development. So it follows that damage done early is potentially more severe.

Do you know what happens to the 1-year-olds who are overexposed to screens? They become the 2-year-olds with developmental delays, and the 3-year-olds with developmental delays … and so forth. (But don’t worry, if you’re a child with compounded developmental delays, there’s a pill for that!)

If you outsource your parenting to the screen and adapt your child to a life that he controls at the push of a button for his pleasure, and then expect your child to function well in community, forget about it. That’s a dopamine pleasure high we can’t and won’t replicate in church.

What’s the remedy? In the developmental years, give preference to the analog over the digital; physical, sensory, and personal interaction should be the primary mode of interaction.

In the developmental years, give preference to the analog over the digital.

Concern Area #1: Spiritual Development

As to spiritual development and screens (even though this actually has to do with neurodevelopment as well, especially as I consider not just younger children but older children and youth), do some light reading on the prefrontal cortex and mood regulation. By the way, that part of your brain doesn’t mature until you’re in your mid-20s.

As to spiritual development, here’s just one action item: If you are choosing to let your child (youth) have a smartphone, do not let your child go to bed with his or her phone at night.

Do not let your child go to bed with his or her phone at night.

Talk about a tree of knowledge of good and evil. If children are allowed to take that device to bed at night with them, you expose them to every form of predatory action in the world in the confines of their bedroom, in plain sight, and in the reach of their own fingertips.

Let them hate you; take their phone at night. The other option looks much more like you hating them.

Don’t outsource your parenting to medicine, and don’t outsource it to screens.

#3: Don’t Outsource Your Parenting to the Institution

It is the mother and father who are called by God to form the institution from which to parent a child—the nuclear family. That calling is not upon the government. It’s not even upon the church as an institution.

The government was never a good substitute. Even in its best forms, we now live in a culture that rejects the basic definitions of marriage and family, and of the basic nature of man and woman. Artificial intelligence (AI) will bring us into a world in which some cannot even differentiate between man and machine. I understand the advantages of public educational systems. I urge parents to enter them with caution. Parents of public schoolers, you better act quickly to influence the system. At the very least, dispel any notion that you are sending your child into a neutral setting. You are not, and the same is unfortunately true for many private schools.

As to the church, for some, this is perhaps more dangerous than even the government. That’s because there’s no corruption like religious corruption. Our program for children is only as good as we are, and it is only as good as its ability to fulfill its purpose. The church exists for the glory of Christ and the edification of its members in the service of Christ. Surely, children are part of that service, but not as superseding the role of the parent. The moment you expect the church to supersede that role, you contribute to the decline of the church and your family.

The moment you expect the church to supersede that role [of parent], you contribute to the decline of the church and your family.

As I think about the ways in which a corrupted world affects human existence, know that all of these issues are exacerbated in a post–COVID-19 world. We have a world today in which too many of our children grew up in isolation, a world in which we outsourced too much of our children’s lives to medicines and screens and institutions. Ask any childcare worker whether their work is different post-2020, and they will almost certainly say “yes.”

These are factors we must think about as a community of believers called to love one another, to build one another up in our roles as parents, as children and ministry leaders, and as fellow members of the body of Christ


This sermon has been a sobering way to wrap up a happy week of VBS at GraceLife. But if you’ve read the Scriptures, you know we only get two chapters of “happy” before everything is spoiled. Even the coming of the promised one, the Christ, is not without the horrifying shock of the Cross.

But the Consummation of the ages is coming. And the last two chapters of Scripture speak to an unending happiness and a promise of our Lord’s return. It’s a promise that’s been present throughout the ages for those who believe. And it’s a promise to all ages for those who believe, adult and child. It’s a promise stemming from the tender growth of the Christ child, whose full maturing brings to us the blessed promise of completion in Him. It’s a consummation in which corruption is reversed. Catastrophe and confusion are no more. And the child of God is free to become who He really is in Christ.

I will close with the promise of Christ given to the prophet Isaiah:

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.

Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:1–20)