These two simple words can be found together hundreds of times throughout the Bible.
“…and then you will be able to serve Me.” Jeremiah 15:19
“And then the Lord your God will…” Deuteronomy 7:20
“Andrew…heard…and then followed Jesus.” John 1:40
Every time the phrase is used, you know something happened first in order to set the stage for the second thing to be fulfilled.
Children’s ministry is a world of “and then.” Sometimes we get stuck in the mindset that the age we work with is the be-all-to-end-all. We forget what happened before the child stepped foot into our classroom for the first time. And we forget that God has an and then in store for our few when they step out of our classroom for the last time.
Before that bright-eyed four-year-old came into your class, he heard the foundational truth that Jesus loves him in his three-year-old class.
Before the spunky third grader volunteered to lead the class in prayer, someone taught her how to pray to our Father.
Before the toddler well… toddled their way into your arms, she was prayed over and loved as a physical representation of the love of her Father.
Before that confident five-year-old marched into your room by himself, a dedicated small group leader took the time and effort to show him that your ministry is a place of love and safety.
You have become part of your children’s and then. You’ve been building a foundation that is getting them ready for what God has next in their lives. Aren’t you grateful that God doesn’t stop with the now but consistently gives us the opportunity for an and then?
Don’t get trapped in the now, either.
You’re not their last and then.
You’re preparing them for the next part of God’s story in their lives.
You may be getting ready for many of your precious ones to transition from the preschool ministry into your elementary ministry, or from elementary into youth. Enjoy these last class times with them. Hug them an extra time or two and look them in the eyes as you repeat those truths to them one more time.
God loves you.
God wants a relationship with you.
But don’t cling to them.
Let them go.
And be ready to celebrate their and then.