DR. BILL WILSONBIOGRAPHY CHILDHOODAbandoned on a street corner by his mother at the age of 12, young Bill Wilson sat and waited for her at that corner for three days. She never came back. A Christian layman who was on his way home from work stopped to help him. Though anyone could have stopped, it was the Christian man who did, and after getting him a hot meal, this gentleman loaded the little Pastor Bill into a church van and sent him to a Sunday School camp. It was at this camp where he gave his life to Christ. This was the start of his incredible walk with God – one that would affect hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world. MISSION TO HELP HURTING CHILDREN Because of his appearance from having been neglected for years even prior to being left on the corner, a young Bill found that no one would pray for him at the altar of that camp. It was then that he told Jesus “My mother doesn’t want me; now the Christians don’t want me either. But if You want me, here I am.” He never forgot the promise he made. Pastor Bill developed a heart of compassion for suffering children everywhere and he knew from his own experience that the emptiness and pain could only be filled by the love of Christ. As a teen, Pastor Bill’s ministry started with loading a van full of needy children in Florida, and bringing them to Sunday School. From there, Pastor Bill eventually conceptualized and developed several bus ministries in the United States. Every week, thousands of children would be picked up and brought to church to participate in a unique Sunday School program that became the pattern for curriculums, books, seminars ad college classes. FOUNDING OF METRO WORLD CHILD Pastor Bill established Metro World Child (formerly Metro Ministries) in 1980 in what was one of New York City’s roughest neighborhoods, most commonly known for its history of gang violence, crime, drugs, and poverty. Pastor Bill has been beaten, stabbed, shot shot in the face and the back. Despite everyone telling him that these tough areas could not be reached, he persevered through the extremely difficult times and refused to leave the city or give up on the children growing up in such an environment. Pastor Bill’s unique concepts of outreach and Sunday School programs, along with training courses and curriculum development, are now replicated globally. This ensures that as many children as possible come under the sound of the Gospel and experience the love of Christ as he did. What started in a small building on a corner in Brooklyn has now grown into an international ministry that reaches over 200,000 children weekly. Metro World Child currently has Sunday Schools around the world including Kenya, Philippines, Peru, South Africa, Colombia and Haiti. After 50 years of full time ministry, Pastor Bill has authored many books including his bestselling autobiography, ‘Whose Child is This?’ Holding a Ph.D. from the university of Wales he speaks and lectures regularly at universities and seminars. He also travels weekly receiving invitations to churches, conferences, television and radio programs where he shares the vision and mission of Metro World Child and that one person really can make a difference.
Bill Wilson : Whatever it takes !
Jesus makes reference to children saying: unless one is like a child, he won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I think there is an element of innocence, openness and faith in children that causes Jesus to often use them as an example or as a point of reference. And unfortunately, the older we get, the more doubtful we get. You can tell a child a story of Noah’s ark and they will believe it; you tell that same story to a 50-year- old person and chances are they are not going to.
And I think Jesus always has a spot for children, because they are easily reached. Children are very easily influenced and molded, and it is critical for the church to understand that. Unfortunately, there are so many programs in the church that are not really teaching programs for children–it’s more baby-sitting. And we need to get the church out of that mindset. Kids can learn, they can be shaped and molded. It’s not about just having the class for them when their parents are in church. It has got to be more than that.
How have changing social trends in society affected the way you do ministry ? I think because we are living in the technology age, the attention span of a child is shorter than it used to be. It used to be anywhere from five to six minutes some 20 years ago, now it’s down to two minutes. Because of MTV and video, everything is just instantly there and kids are used to that. So instead of saying we can’t communicate the gospel anymore because their attention span is shorter—I would disagree with that—I would say let’s take the tools available and use them to teach kids the gospel. I have been in this for 44 years and have watched communication tools evolve these 44 years, what we did in the old days may or may not be the best communication tool today.
But having said this, it is not so much the technique as it is the person that is using the tools, and I think that is a very important point for people to understand. For instance, I can still take a flashcard, get up in front of the kids and still communicate. It’s not so much the tool but the people using the tool. It would be no different than a person working in construction: a person can have the best tools but if he doesn’t know what he is doing or why he is doing it, it is not going to matter. So it still comes back to the heart of the teacher. Even though we may not have money to get the best technology, we can have people that have the hearts to reach kids. They can take a straw and use it as an object lesson to captivate kid’s attention. So I don’t want for people just to think that times have changed and because we don’t have certain things, we can’t communicate. It’s in the heart of the teacher. Always has been, always will be.
If you have the heart to do something, you’ll find out how to do it all by yourself. When I first started ministry, tapes were not even invented. So we were the pioneers in doing filmstrips. For instance, I made my own slide stories and I had a series on the fruits of the Spirit called The Adventure Of Fruits. I made little characters, animated them, told stories. This was where the folks who do Veggie Tales got their idea from, the things I did with the still characters. We were the pioneers who took everything we could and use it to capture the imagination of a child. So we have always been on the cutting edge. We were able to take the simplest things, turn them around and communicate with them.
Through your ministry, how do you help children to be godly yet connected to the world ? Our mandate is to reach, to win, to disciple, to get them involve in reaching others–that is the pattern of New Testament evangelism. When you talk about affecting a child, particularly when we minister to them—whether in a garbage dump in the Philippines or in different areas in India, America or Eastern Europe— it’s always about relationship. If people don’t like you, they are not going to listen to you. It’s very simple; it’s true with kids, teenagers and adults.
To me, Sunday School is great, it’s important, but it’s only the icing on the cake. Once you build a relationship with these kids by visiting their homes, going to their schools, checking on them every week, they will be receptive when you talk to them. You guys can come to New York and say the same things as I’m saying, but it’ll not be received as well as if I said it. That is because they don’t know you, they don’t have the connection. But when I say it, it carries weight because there is a connection. It took me nine years to earn the respect of the drug dealers, prostitutes and everybody in the neighborhood where I live. I was the only white person over there when I first reached that place. So the question they asked was: who is this white man? Why is he here? What is this white person doing? I had to earn the right to speak and earn the respect of these people. Now we have it, but it took us nine years. But we know that most Christians won’t spend nine years, they don’t want to pay the price, to invest (the time).
Now spending time is different from investing time. Spending time is just talking chatting, mindless chatter, with no long-term, long-range goal or intent. Investing time is like investing money. You can spend money or you can invest money, same principle. You are investing time with a long-term goal of bringing this child into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
What is the best advice to give to a child who is struggling with a school bully ? It is easier said than done. Well, we always teach the children to be in the world but not of the world. In another words you can take a stone and put it in a glass of water, it can be in the water but it’s not affected by the water. We need to have a close relationship with the kids, teaching them to understand the word of God and applying those Biblical principals in their daily life. It’s not easy for a kid, especially those who come from non-Christian homes because they have no support; the only support they have is us. When we have close relationships with the kids, they are very quick to share things with us and ask questions. Like the one you’re asking me: “Pastor Bill what do I do when someone bullies me?” I’ll tell them, “Go tell your teacher. If that
doesn’t work, let us know and we’ll tell your teacher. We’ll deal with it.”
It is about teaching them not to react but to respond. Usually kids in the gather are raised rough, they react. When somebody hits them, they hit back, that is a reaction, it’s normal. We teach them to respond according to the Word of God. It takes a long time, it is a process. You’ll learn that everything in life is a process, nothing comes easy.
You travel weekly and run a busy schedule, how do you still manage the biggest children’s ministry in the world so well ? I surround myself with great people and that is the key. I have invested in great people all round the world. I think City Harvest is a classic example. Years ago in 1995 or 96, I met Connie and Eileen for the first time in KL. We clicked, they got the book, took the principles, started learning, and then we kept a close relationship. Just like I have invested in this church, I have also invested in people all around the world. Now if you go to New York City, we have 140 full-time staff and these are people I have invested in. So whether I am there or I am here, the ministry goes on. But then again, it is a process, an investment, and training. There is really no substitute, whether working with kids or teenagers or adults. Reach, win, disciple, involve.
How long does it take to train someone ? Depends on the person: some people get it, some people don’t get it. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince. Some Christians have it up here (pointing to his head), and some people have it in here (pointing to his heart). People usually have it in either their head or their heart; it’s rare to find people who have both. That’s what you have to find, the word I use is invest-able people. I have no problem investing in somebody if I feel that they are invest-able. I am not going to waste my time in someone not invest-able, show me you’re invest-able and I’ll invest in you.
What is one piece of advice you would give to people, whether parents, siblings or ministry workers, who have to deal with a difficult child ? Never give up. That has become the message that I preach over and over again.
I have a message that I preach from Amos 3:12 where it talks about two legs or a piece of an ear. The old prophet Amos visualized this lamb caught in the jaws of the lion, and the shepherd came in, took a leg and pulled it off. He didn’t give up, went back a second time, pulled off another leg. Even though he saw that the thing was dying and knew that it didn’t make sense to go back a third time, the Bible said the shepherd did and he grabbed an ear. So what does it tells us? The prophet is looking through the eyes of the Spirit: that we should never give up on people.
My advice to ministry workers and parents, who are dealing with troubled kids or not-troubled kids—because they go through phases as well—is to love them and be there for them. Let the love of Christ continually come through them, through their words and actions. The Bible says very clearly (in Proverbs) that when we raise a child in the way they should go, they will not depart from it. They may go astray, this way or another, I’ve seen all throughout my life, but somewhere later in life, they will come back.
For more information, visit www.metroministries.org, or follow Bill Wilson on Facebook (search ‘Pastor Bill Wilson’) or visit https://pastorbillwilson.org/
The church is made up of many different ministries. All of them are vitally important. Children’s Ministry is one of the most vital. Here are ten thoughts on Children’s Ministry.
Children’s Ministry was a priority for Jesus. The disciples didn’t think it should be, but Jesus did. He made time to minister to children.
Children are the greatest mission field. Statistics show that 85% of people who come to Christ do so before the age of 18. We must invest our time and resources where we will see the biggest harvest.
Children’s ministry can be a major growth engine for your church. When you reach children, you reach parents. We can have the greatest worship and messages, but if the children are not connecting, mom and dad won’t stick around for long. There’s a reason people stand in line for hours waiting for their kids to see Santa.
One of the best investments you can make for your church is a great children’s facility. It will pay for itself many times over by the families it brings.
Children’s Ministry is not childcare. It is ministry at the most critical time in a person’s life. The early years are the most formative.
Staff your Children’s Ministry well. There is no “slow” time for Children’s Ministry. Summer is our busiest time and we go from that right into the fall. A good ratio is one full-time person for every 100-125 kids. Your Children’s Ministry staff is one of your most valuable partners in ministry. Take good care of them.
If your Children’s Ministry space is at capacity, your church will stop growing. It doesn’t matter how much space you have in the auditorium. A full Children’s Ministry space is a lid for the entire church.
Student Ministry is vitally important, but don’t let Children’s Ministry get lost in its shadow. Remember, students can drive themselves to church. Children are brought by their parents. If you want to reach families, reach kids.
Children are not the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today. A healthy family is made up of grandparents, parents, and children. Involve them in the life of the entire church. Give them opportunities to lead worship, greet, pray, read Scripture, serve, and more.
Make the Children’s Ministry budget one of your largest budget items. God will pour out His financial blessings
I see Children’s Ministry as one of the core ministries of the church both for today and for the future. We are organising this conference to motivate our children’s ministry workers and our church leaders to greater heights. Pastor Bill Wilson, if you get to know him, is a man of passion. He has spent his whole life in Children’s Ministry all over the world. We want him to share his passion to impact our leaders and children’s ministry workers. We want the pastors and leaders of the congregations to catch the vision and passion, and then take up the challenge. The LCM is willing, and is supporting children’s ministry at the local level. But we need the local leaders to take up the challenge. If we can win the children, we can win the families and we can reach out to the community. Eventually we can see transformation for God’s glory. The Lutheran Church in Malaysia is grateful to the Sisters’ Women Ministry (SWM), Bro. Alex Seet & his team in organizing this Children’s Ministry conference with Pastor Bill Wilson. The NEED is the CALL
LCM Leadership and Children’s Ministry Conference with Dr Bill Wilson (23rd August – 1st September in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh)
From the 23rd August to 1st September, Rev. Dr. Bill Wilson was with the Lutheran Church in Malaysia, leading a seminar on Leadership and Children’s Ministry. Pastor Bill, as he is fondly known by thousands of children all around the globe, has a Sunday School ministry that reaches out to more than 200,000 children worldwide every week. Together with his team in Metro Child World, Pastor Bill trains children’s ministry workers worldwide even as he and his team reach out to children in some of the harshest and most challenging places in the world.
While in Malaysia, Pastor Bill taught leaders on the process of envisioning and the need to respond to the call of God with everything they had. Pastor Bill has been visiting Malaysia for over 25 years and it was good to hear his passion and commitment again with some of his most well-known phrases such as “The message is the same, but the method must change”, “The Need is the Call” and “Whatever it takes!”
The first day was followed by Children’s Ministry training led by the Metro World Child team from the Philippines. Participants were shown the effectiveness of the Children’s ministry approach and then taught the Children’s Church concept conceived by Bill Wilson.
Finally, the participants attended Children’s Ministry Live at Setapak Lutheran Church. The whole programme was then repeated in Ipoh at New Life Lutheran Church.
Overall, there was positive feedback by the participants, particularly concerning Pastor Bill’s unwavering commitment that has led to 50 years of ministry to children. Ms. Karen Choy of Taman Midah LC said, “To be God's witnesses, we are to recognise the NEED to take up the work. It's not necessarily the call of God but the NEED .... be ready for the defining moment.”
While Ms Chee Ling, also from TMLC, had this to say: “"Dare to be different in Jesus' Name! is what I think describes Dr. Bill's compassionate ministry to the children.” Indeed, many seemed impressed by the straight-talking style of Pastor Bill and his very obvious compassionate heart for children. They were also struck by his repeated emphasis on the need to rise above emotion in order to be truly committed. As Bro. Mak Hon Weng commented, “Yes, our commitments have to be greater than our emotion. We cannot do it unless we submit ourselves to Christ. Action is indeed louder than words.”
Some of those involved in ministry had been wondering about Pastor Bill’s staying power, and were grateful for his tips on building enduring commitment. As Ms Adeline Lim (Bangsar LC), put it, “I had been thinking of late, and wondering about sustainability for the long-haul. E.g How does one stay focused and motivated, instead of being disillusioned or distracted after many years of serving, when tested to a breaking point. I found his sharing very personal, to the point — as it answered these questions. And the principles that both empowers and sustains one in ministry was very helpful.”