Linda Koh talks parenting and ministry to children

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Dr Linda Mei Lin Koh is Director of Adventist Children’s Ministries for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, and has served in that department for 18 years. She is also an author and has a wealth of experience as a teacher, having taught all ages from elementary to college. Dr Koh spoke about her recent books.

Can you tell us about your role as Director of Adventist Children’s Ministries for the General Conference? 

I am responsible for training and resourcing the children’s leaders in the 13 divisions and three attached unions and field. We run Leadership Certification courses each year to train our division directors, who then train their union and conference counterparts. We continue to develop resources such as books, videos and animations for children and leaders. Unlocking Children’s Hearts for Intimacy with God is one of those resources—describing how to organise prayer conferences for children.

What changes to raising children have you seen during your time in ministry?

Raising children is more challenging these days. The Gen Z and Gen Alpha children and teens in our Sabbath schools, Bible camps and other programs today are digital natives. They get a lot of information from the internet, social media and other electronic gadgets. They need a lot more guidance, communication and effort put into building relationships with them. So we must train children’s leaders, teachers and parents in how to work with them effectively, so that they will continue to grow in their faith. This generation asks more difficult questions about God, but it is important we answer them and help them know and experience God.

Are there predictors of which children stay in the church?

Much research from our own Adventist professionals, as well as Barna and other faith-based organisations, has indicated some important correlates: close relationships in the home and at church help provide a safe environment for questions about God and life; family worships play an important role in demonstrating the importance of God being the centre of their lives; intentional discipleship of children and sharing in family outreach deepens faith by seeing it lived out; and participation in the life of the church, such as allowing children and teens to take part in church activities, the worship service and community outreach gives them a sense of belonging in their church. 

Were there any lessons from God Loves Me 28 Ways—teaching kids about our fundamental beliefs—that stand out to you in particular?

I really love every one of them, and believe that helping children see that God loves us in so many ways, such as giving us salvation, teaching us to live healthily, and giving us many spiritual gifts and talents, is important to get us ready to live with Him in heaven.

How has faith made a difference in your own family?

Having a faith in God directs everything we do in the family, whether training our children, investing in Christian education, or reaching out to serve the community. Knowing Christ has brought us joy and peace, as well as greater trust in Him even through difficult times.

What opportunities do you see for families as they come out of the current pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered growth in many families, including more time spent together. Families have connected through neighbourhood walks, jigsaw puzzles at the dining table, new hobbies, and more. Parents have learned to be more proactive in finding resources to engage their children in spiritual and academic affairs. As we come out of this pandemic, I believe that the “new normal” practices will be with many families, for they have tasted the goodness of closer family bonding and have developed a deeper appreciation of their children and each other. 

If you were to give new parents one key tip for helping their children know Jesus, what would it be? 

Connect with your children and engage in daily family talks about life and how God has blessed and worked in their lives. Let children share their feelings and ideas. Children need our quality time as well as quantity time.

Unlocking Children’s Hearts for Intimacy With God and other book by Linda Koh are available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online.

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