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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Small Matters" (Greg Nettle and Jimmy Mellado)

TITLE: Small Matters: How Churches and Parents Can Raise Up World-Changing Children (Exponential Series)
AUTHOR: Greg Nettle and Jimmy Mellado
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (192 pages).

If youths are the future of the leadership of society, then what about those who are on the way to becoming youths themselves? In two words, the authors of this book have crystallized the importance: "Small matters." I would add, "It matters indeed!" Just like every little girl is a princess and every little boy a prince, everyone of us as children of God are royalty in the making. Taking issue at how young children are being ignored, abandoned, abused, and even manipulated, Greg Nettle and Jimmy Mellado believe that we must love and care for children in the same way Jesus did. For we battle not just against physical poverty but emotional, mental, and physical aspects too. From broken marriages to material greed, children are often helpless when they are suffering from the fallouts of flawed adult decisions. At the same time, there are external threats like gunmen shooting schoolchildren and terrorism that lurks at increasingly more places in our society. The authors' conviction is that every child needs a Church.

After making a case that the little ones matter more than mere words, Greg and Jimmy share their personal stories. For Greg, he admits having thought of children as a means to an end, like having kids to increase the membership of Church, etc. It takes a personal encounter with Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International to instill more care and compassion in the way he sees children. This caring is not just about one's biological children. It includes the foster kids as well. It includes children of different colour. For Jimmy, he describes his background, history, and work experience from running and getting frequently injured, to his stint with Harvard and Willow Creek Association. He too was influenced by Wess Stafford and to be reminded that his greatest work is not obtained by self-driven efforts but wholly upon God's work. He feels called to serve the world's neediest children. The big question was always: Where and how do we begin? Answer: Like Jesus. Small is big. The Bible is full of testimonies of how a small individual in the eyes of the world can become significant. This is especially so when love is the motivation for anything. We are reminded that the reason we minister to children is not about self-drivenness for achievement; nor to grow our communities; but to care for children. We need to inculcate a theology of enough not just within ourselves but also with the children we love. Having too much is a form of poverty, that one never feels enough. The later chapters are about specific applications on how to care for our children in our homes; our communities; and our churches.

There are many little gems scattered all over the book. Gems like:
  • Size does not matter as much. It's persons that matter more.
  • Greatness is not about building upward but about caring downward
  • When we love and care for others, often the byproduct is our own transformation
  • We cannot use children ministry as a means to our ends. Love and care for children must remain our key motivation
  • When we think of how "troublesome" children are, consider what if God thinks of us the same way we think of others?
  • Be aware of "cause fatigue" which dulls our care and compassion
  • We are saved as we save others
  • Caring for children means teaching them the importance of contentment
  • That we tend to do a lot for our children and less with our children

We learn about the REI (Relationships, Experiences, and Information) of discipleship at home. We learn about the four fundamental shifts about caring for children in our churches are worth the price of the book.
  1. From a “we can disciple your kids and you can help” attitude to “you can disciple your kids and we can help.”
  2. From "children’s ministry as a support ministry that provides child care while adults attend the worship service to children’s ministry that has a clear discipleship focus on training children to follow Jesus."
  3. From "age-segregated to age-integrated."
  4. From children “receiving” to children “giving."
The authors give us more description about how these can be done. It is a powerful book of illustrations and tips for anybody interested in the ministry to children.

So What?
The message in this book is about caring for those who are not able to help themselves. At the same time, we must let our motivation be one of love, care, and compassion, just like God's grace and mercy to all of us. Three things sum up my view of this book.

First, it is a necessary message globally. Very often, we are too discriminative about the way we care for children. We tend to pay more attention to our own flesh and blood, to the point that we minimize the importance of other children. We ignore the plight of children in other less privileged societies and poorer parts of the world. While we have organizations like World Vision and Compassion International working to reach out to young children in poorer economies, we are reminded that child abuse and child poverty can occur at home too. If we truly care for children, learn to gather information and knowledge about ways to help them. In our materialistic West, we can teach the value of enough and to learn the importance of contentment. Alas, adults themselves are guilty of being greedy and not easily satisfied despite their storerooms of possessions.

Second, for those of us involved in some ways with children, we need to check our motivations. Like the authors have put it in this book, they too were guilty of using children as a means to their ends. Churches throughout the world are concerned when the young are leaving the church and how the community are aging. They say that children are the future of the Church, to the point that children form statistics to maintain the numbers. I know of church leaders who tend to be so Church-focused that children become a component of their Church Growth strategies. It is true that the young are the future of the church. Yet, it is more true that Christ did not just die for the young, He died for all. We must love all, serve all, and care for all, as much as we can. Our motivations for loving children starts with recognizing inside our hearts the love of God for us as His children.

Third, beware of lopsided care for children. I think for some of us, the danger is not that we ignore the young but we put them too much into the center of our lives. This can be to the point of making them into our idols. This book focuses more on the children of the world, even though the last three chapters of the book give practical tips about reaching out to children in our communities and churches at large. It really comes back to the reason for caring for children in the first place. I suspect that the reason why parents make idols out of their children is because they themselves had not really experienced true care when they were children many years ago. In doing so, a common way is for parents to over-compensate their lack and to lavish plenty upon their children. It is a reminder that to truly care, we must first experience true care. This is something which should motivate us to take time to be quiet before God, and to ask God to show us what we have missed in our busyness of life.

I wish more books like this would have been written years ago. Nevertheless, at least we have it now. Better late than never.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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