Kids as active members of your church – by Jane Dixon
A church needs children. Not just because it’s a healthy indicator of a growing church but because they can be involved and enhance a church’s ministry.
Once discipling children has been established in a church, the next outworking of faith between leadership and children is enabling children to serve and participate actively in church life. To empower children to participate would involve training them in a skill or service, then giving them reasonably supervised opportunities to perform that service where it is needed in the church and wider community. It would also involve providing them with the accountability and feedback that they will need so they can continue to grow in their service. Empowerment comes from the competence and confidence that children will develop, for a task that is accompanied by the trust of their church family as it gives children opportunities to perform that skill or service. This recognition that a church needs its children increases a child’s sense of belonging to that church family. It makes churches re-evaluate children from the decorative and interesting to dynamic and contributing members of the body of Christ.
Here is a quick list of some kids from the Bible whom God used early in their lives for the service of the Kingdom;
- Samuel went to serve in God’s house (cared for Eli) as soon as his mother stopped nursing him.
- John the Baptist, Isaac, Samson and Jesus were born with specific promises for their lives that were fulfilled as adults.
- Miriam was a just a young girl when she saved her brother’s life. Her quick thinking had her mother brought in as Moses’ wet nurse.
- Moses went into the household of Pharaoh as an infant and although shy and always reluctant to put himself forward, he was taught/modelled national leadership from the daughter of a king of the greatest country, in its Golden Age.
- The Prophet Samuel anointed the boy David as King although he was the youngest child in a family of impressive brothers.
- Noah at birth was given a name of ‘hope to save’ and grew up with that expectation around him.
- Josiah was made king at 8 > 18 years later he found the book of the Law and turned his nation back to God.
- Jeremiah started prophesying at about 20. So he had good preparation to connect him closely to God.
- Joseph at 17 had the dreams that bothered his family so much, but showed that God had a plan to rescue his whole family many years in the future. And even as a slave child and later as a man, he served and honoured God in Egypt.
- Joash at seven years of age was made King of Judah. Under the tutelage of the Priest Jehoiada, he collected taxes and used them to repair the temple. Reading his story in 2 Kings 11, you see that he needed care, protection and teaching, and was powerful for God and for the good of the Kingdom of Judah.
- Mary, a young girl verging on womanhood was visited by an angel of God and informed of her upcoming pregnancy; trusted God to do what he should, and went to visit with an older woman of the faith who she trusted. And this is only a list of named children in the Bible there are so many more;
- Children shouted in the temple and waved branches too during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem Matt 21. 14-16. Children were traditionally trained to join in worship and joined in shouting praises as the crowds acclaimed Jesus.
- The boy who shared his loaves and fish — Jesus used it to feed 5,000 people. John 6.8-9.
- The many children who found their way to Jesus, to be shooed away and used an example by Jesus; to be held and blessed.
Something that strongly suggests itself in looking at this list is;
- Children were identified (by God or by his servants) at a young age and prepared for ministry.
- Children grew up knowing some of those expectations that God had for them (e.g. from their names and from their training, or they were placed in temple service).
- There was an obvious role in God’s community for children. Adults expected at least some of these roles to be given to children.
- God works with willing tools in each situation. Sometimes that will be children.
- All these children needed care, discipline, protection and teaching, some of these teachers and mentors were named, and many weren’t.
While I do recommend structuring opportunities for churched adults to recognise, enjoy and value children more, I firmly believe that real relationships will develop, and real valuing will occur where children participate in church life shoulder-to-shoulder with adult members of the congregation. It gives children a voice, a share in the work, and an opportunity to commit to a life of faith and service at a time when society’s expectation of children as contributors grows less and less. And it gives adults opportunities to be helped in their service, and to be ministered to by children. They also ensure that they share what their generation has learned with the next.
So how do we do it?
Train kids in a skill or service, then give them reasonably supervised opportunities to perform that service where it is needed in the church and wider community.
Interested children could be trained in technical support to help run sound, PowerPoint, pre-recorded music, video footage etc. Try some compassion projects; get children to fundraise – design Christmas Cards, get them printed and sell them to fundraise for a cause of their choice. Involve them in collecting clothes, food etc for a mission organisation. For creative opportunities, why not train them in puppetry/drama/music and encourage them to put on a show for their School Assembly?
What else can be done?
Give children opportunities to volunteer for the regular roles and tasks in your church and prepare your church family for their help and participation. Some examples would include;
- Kids joining prayer teams
- Kids going on help/hospitality/ministry rosters for church, sound, welcoming, help with morning tea/supper.
- Doing Bible readings, leading prayer, joining the music team to sing or play an instrument.
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