The elders at Cornerstone believe that the spiritual growth of the church occurs as the entire body of Christ interacts with one another (Eph. 4:15-16). This means that, generally speaking, Cornerstone does not endorse a demographic-specific approach to ministry, choosing instead to endorse corporate assemblies that encourage all the unique personalities, backgrounds, experiences, and abilities of the church to interact with one another for the building up of the body. However, we also recognize that God has assigned unique roles within the church through the order of creation itself, which therefore dictate the need for a more demographically-oriented approach to ministry on a few select occasions. We believe that men’s, women’s, and children’s ministries fall within this concept.
THE BASIS FOR CHILDREN'S MINISTRY
We recognize that God sovereignly gives children to parents, and we recognize that God therefore intends for the primary context of a child’s training and education to take place in the home. While families are free to supplement this training by carefully and diligently delegating a portion of this training to others, a child’s family (and the child’s father, in particular) is ultimately responsible for his or her education, not the church, a school, or any other organization (Eph. 6:4). This comprehensive responsibility includes not only a child’s training in the practical skills necessary for life as an adult, but it includes instruction in the spiritual knowledge necessary to have a vital relationship with God (cf. Deut. 6:4-9). In this sense, we recognize that children’s ministry really begins in ministering to the parents, and we believe that the best way that we minister to the children of Cornerstone is by helping parents become the kind of godly leaders in the home that God has called them to be. However, while the family is primarily responsible for the training of children, we also recognize that the church has been given the biblical mandate to make disciples of all people, including children (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). We, the elders, therefore believe that we are responsible to shepherd and edify the children who attend Cornerstone with the same kind of intentional care that we provide for any of our members. Moreover, given the obvious disparities in both knowledge and maturity between early childhood and adulthood, we believe it is wise to offer education in the church specifically to children which otherwise might not be as beneficial to Cornerstone’s adult members.
THE PURPOSE OF CHILDREN'S MINISTRY
Children’s ministry exists because we recognize that there are inherent differences between the children and the adults at Cornerstone which deserve to be addressed. First, Cornerstone’s children attendees are likely different from our adult attendees in their basic spiritual state before Christ. We make the assumption that our adult members have already placed their faith in Jesus Christ and structure our programs accordingly. We cannot make this same assumption with the children in our church. Instead, we assume that the children in attendance are unbelievers until they have made a profession of faith in Christ. Second, Cornerstone’s children attendees are likely different from our adult attendees in their basic understanding of the Bible. We assume a certain level of biblical knowledge from our adult attendees since most of our adult members have been in Christ for several years. This is not to say that every member is going to meet this basic threshold of biblical understanding, but, as most of the church has studied the Bible for several years, we structure the content of our adult teaching around this minimum threshold. Young children as a group clearly do not have that same experience. Therefore, children are in many ways ill-equipped to process much of the church’s adult instruction without a core set of biblical knowledge to work with. Essentially, we believe that the children at Cornerstone are unprepared spiritually and/or intellectually to participate in the regular adult ministries at Cornerstone. Therefore, the primary purpose of children’s ministry is to help Cornerstone’s children assimilate into the regular body life of the church.
THE CONTENT OF CHILDREN'S MINISTRY
Again, we believe that the best way to minister to the children of Cornerstone is by ministering to their parents. Thus, we believe that the primary objective in discipling the children of Cornerstone is to faithfully instruct parents in the art of biblical parenting through both corporate teaching and through one-on-one discipleship. However, we believe the church’s corporate ministry to children should focus on two core objectives. First, our children’s ministry aims to convert Cornerstone’s children to Christ through evangelism. The church meets primarily for the purposes of worship and edification. However, a child cannot fully participate in this aspect of the church’s corporate ministry until they have placed their faith in Jesus. In short, they simply cannot be a full participant in the local church until they have been placed into the universal church by faith. Since everyone is born into the world apart from Christ and since children are initially brought to church under the direction of their parents, presumably apart from any saving relationship in Christ, it makes sense that the first step in our children’s ministry is to evangelize those children that are present. The bulk of the activities and instruction in our children’s ministry is therefore aimed at directing children to saving faith in Christ by sharing and explaining the gospel. Second, our children’s ministry aims to instruct Cornerstone’s children in foundational biblical knowledge. This is a secondary priority to be sure. There is little use to knowing the Bible apart from knowing Jesus. At the same time, we also recognize that some children may already have saving faith. We want to prepare these children for full participation in Cornerstone’s other ministries by giving them the foundational knowledge necessary to confidently and competently engage in these ministries. Further, we believe that all of the Scripture ultimately points to God’s plan of salvation. Therefore, we believe that by instructing even unbelieving children in foundational biblical knowledge we are laying the seeds for future faith in the gospel. Thus, the activities and instruction of our children’s ministry is also aimed at instruction in basic Bible knowledge.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF CHILDREN'S MINISTRY TO THE CHURCH
Any activity that is initiated by the corporate body of Cornerstone is under the governing authority of Cornerstone. This means that all of Cornerstone’s corporate ministries are under the authority of the elders of the church. Cornerstone’s children’s ministry is no different. Therefore, as is the case in all the church’s ministries, we believe that direct elder oversight is critical to the health and function of our children’s ministry. As such, Cornerstone will assign one elder to be directly responsible for the oversight of the children’s ministry and to serve as a representative for the children’s ministry to the rest of the elders. It should be noted that participation in any of Cornerstone’s children’s ministries is strictly optional. Parents are always free to choose their child’s level of participation in Cornerstone’s children’s programs.