Part of the Body
In Sam’s sermon - We grow in Maturity - he mentioned how we want our kids to be a part of the church body and not just church consumers; for them to grow up not seeing church as somewhere we come just to have our own needs met, but as a place where we come to serve and encourage one another. We want our kids to grow up seeing church as a bring-and-share family meal rather than a McDonald’s drive-thru for one!! But practically, how can we go about doing this? Here are a few thoughts.
1. Lead by example
I support Southampton FC, why? Because my Dad does. I barely ever follow a recipe when cooking, why? Because my Mum hardly ever does. Whether we like it or not, oftentimes we grow up following our parents’ example. So if we want our kids to have that other-person centred approach to church, let’s as a community and as parents, model that. The more and more our children see their parents and lots of other adults at church: leading their kids groups, serving the tea and coffee, giving everyone a friendly welcome, chatting to the newcomer, praying with that person going through a tough time after the service etc etc; the more that just becomes what is ‘normal’ for them, and so the more likely they are to get involved themselves. Don’t underestimate how formative seeing a joyful, servant-hearted attitude to church is for children.
2. Encourage small beginnings
Children will be developing and growing in their spiritual gifts from a young age and while rightly they won’t be teaching their own kids group or chatting to newcomers at the door yet, they can be exercising gifts of friendship and welcome and encouragement particularly amongst their peers. Perhaps over Sunday lunch you could chat and pray about who, in Lanterns, your 6 year old might be able to be especially kind to because you know the family are going through a tough patch? Or maybe you could chat and pray with your 9 year old in Torches about trying to befriend that kid who was there last week for the first time? Also, be encouraging children to be praying for friends and their families who you could invite along to church- maybe you could have them round for lunch beforehand. Again, forming these good outward-looking habits and thoughts helps shape kids’ thinking, just like the writer of Proverbs says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Prov 22:6)
3. Take the opportunities
Our Spotlight series has shown us loads of different avenues for service in church life, and where it is appropriate and safe to do so we should be encouraging our children and young people to get involved. It’s a joy to see our teenagers already playing in the music group, helping with the kids groups, managing the tech! And there are other opportunities too, even for our younger ones: maybe our Beacons group could join the tea and coffee rota? Maybe your whole family could join the welcoming team? Maybe you’re leading Candles and you could get your older kids to help you set the room up and prep the craft? All these things and many more are just little opportunities for our young people to really contribute to church life. And as they arise, encourage our children to serve joyfully showing them how this is all part of God’s plan for church.