Kids and Kingdom Growth

By Sherry Bennett, Children and Families Ministry Director, CBWC

You’ve heard the numbers—the ones relating to the stage of life when most people first make a decision to follow Jesus. Most people make this life-changing decision before they leave their teen years. That’s amazing to me, and an obvious indicator for the need for ministry focused on kids and youth in our neighbourhoods.

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Yet for many of our churches, our budgets and ministry efforts reflect a focus on adult-oriented worship and discipleship. While we don’t want to value one generation over another, neither do we want to ignore the reality that those who are in their early years of life are particularly soft to the things of God (“let the children come to me”…Jesus said that!) and are so impressionable and moldable (“faith like a child”…He said that, too!). So what do we do with this?

The Time is Now
It’s time for our churches to appropriately respond to the reality that the younger generations are not just the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today – right now! If we are not seriously engaging children and youth, guiding them into the path of Jesus, discipling them and helping them grow their gifts and skills, we will fail to see kingdom work be carried on into the future and our churches will surely fade out.

We want to care for parents and other adults. And the more mature amongst us are valuable and necessary for the work of the church. But we must not undervalue the time and dollars spent on and with children and youth. We are currently in a time when, for the first time ever, the majority of the children and youth in Canada have little or no experience of the church and God’s people. For many, there is not even a curiosity towards the things of God because they have never even been exposed to Christ and His body. This should sound an alarm that we must rethink how we approach the work of the church.

Kids and Church Planting
What about children and youth in the context of church planting? Are the needed resources for reaching out to children and their families and engaging them in the life of the church better used somewhere else? Aren’t we further ahead if we invest our finances and time into adults? While focusing on adults is often the default work of the church, perhaps we need to consider flipping that on its head!

Imagine adults and kids together praying for a new work, walking a neighbourhood and asking God what he wants to do there. Picture families connecting with other families and inviting them to participate in life together in communities of peace. What could it look like to care for families in our neighbourhoods and equip them for spiritual growth and mission?

Good Work in Our Midst
Is it possible that focusing on kids could be one of the best ways to plant a church?

Southside Community Church thinks so. They began a work in Albania over a decade ago focusing on children – day camps, art and music lessons, sports. Yes, there are classes for adults as well but the way into the community was (and still is) through the children. Now, many years later, the very kids who first heard about Jesus when they were 6 or 8 or 10 are loving Jesus and serving their community as young adults.

A church is being established where the majority of those gathering and serving are under 21. Imagine the excitement when the first of these young people graduated from Bible College recently! Passion for Christ grows, as a dozen young people are about to take part in baptism classes and continue to be discipled and equipped. This Albanian church plant has effectively raised up a new generation of leaders.

Awaken, in the Bowness area of Calgary, understands the importance of intergenerational action. They intentionally involve kids in the life of the church, and not just when they gather on Sundays. One way they regularly bless their neighbourhood is to serve a monthly community meal where people of all ages are working alongside each other in preparing, serving and interacting with guests.

“The kids are great means of building bridges between us as hosts and the guests. The kids have an opportunity to know people outside their usual spheres,” says Pastor Bill Christieson.

It is through this type of action that kids are introduced to serving others and begin developing their own passions and gifting. Some of these same kids go on to engage in intentional discipleship and leadership training through working alongside adults in their church and participating in Gull Lake’s Leadership Training program.

Summerland Baptist has embraced a strategy called “Orange.” They use the resources and curriculum provided to disciple children, to equip parents to help their families deepen their faith and encourage them all to worship, learn, serve and be on mission together in their homes and in the larger church body.

Our churches and neighbourhoods benefit from the intentional interaction between generations and focused discipleship and equipping of our families.

Here to Help
The Children and Family Ministry of the CBWC advocates for the engagement of children and families in the life of our churches. We work to offer resources, network churches with each other, equip leaders to challenge generations in the local church to worship, learn and serve together.

If you would like to talk to someone about helpful resources, strategies for equipping all ages, or issues such as abuse prevention, please contact me at sbennett@cbwc.ca.

What Kind of People are You Planting?

By Sherry Bennett

When we think of planting and growing church–and by that I mean the people– do we think of the intergenerational nature of it?

The default for many churches from the get-go can be towards the adult contingency, with the kids and youth being the afterthought, or even at times, a distraction from the “real work and ministry” of the church. Children are sometimes even valued mainly as a ministry tool: an “in” to connecting with our neighbours so that we can in turn build the “more important” ministries that cater to adults.

But when we think about God’s intent for His Church, we must recognize that the authentic body of Christ is only fully present when all ages are welcomed, valued and invited to engage and participate. The challenge for us as we consider what church is, is to appropriately wrestle with the place of children and youth, as well as the adult generations, in our midst.

CC BY-ND 2.0 José Manuel Ríos Valiente

CC BY-ND 2.0 José Manuel Ríos Valiente

There is a buzz lately around the perceived exodus of young people and young adults from our churches and several pieces of research have emerged that reflect and review this trend.  It is being noted that those young people who have grown up in the Church and then continue on as committed and functioning members of the body are those who have benefited from healthy intergenerational communities of believers with parents, older youth and other caring adults building into them, discipling them and mentoring them in ministry. These young people know that they are part of the functioning of the church; they feel valued, they have ownership and they appreciate the discipleship they receive.

As a denomination we recognize the value of planting new churches. We also recognize the value of children and youth in the planting and growth process and having them deeply involved from the very beginning. It is critical for us to consider our ecclesiology as it relates to children and families even at the very early stages of church development, if we want to establish communities that accurately reflect the nature of Christ and His intentions for His Bride.

There are several resources available that can help with the process of evaluating and determining the foundation and trajectory of our ministries:

If you are interested in reading one of these books and reviewing it for this blog, email Cailey at cmorgan@cbwc.ca and she’ll send you a copy of the book for free.Sherry Bennett

Sherry Bennett is our Director of Children and Families Ministries. Through seminars, one-on-one support and providing various resources, Sherry helps equip CBWC churches and church plants for effective intergenerational ministry for God’s Kingdom. She can be reached at sbennett@cbwc.ca.

Kids and Missional Community: A Third Place

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE VERGE FAMILY CHANNEL. THANKS TO AUTHOR JOHN MURCHISON FOR ALLOWING US TO SHARE IT HERE. 

 

We’re continuing our series on how to involve children in Missional Communities. At The Austin Stone, we encourage our Missional Communities to pursue three main practices:

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While I know not every Missional Community follows this model, my hope is that you will be able to take some of the principles in each of these types of gatherings and apply them to your Missional Community rhythms.

We’ve already written on the first two of these practices. This week, we are focusing on the practice of gathering as missionaries in a Third Place.

What Is a Third Place?

Most small groups in churches meet in either a church building or in a home, which are great places to deepen and build relationships in Christian community. In our experiences with personal evangelism, however, we have found these two places (church and home) to be an intimidating place to invite your non-believing friends when you want to introduce them to your Christian community. That showed us the need for a Third Place – a place where your Christian community and your friends that do not believe in Jesus can connect with each other. Our prayer is that through the Third Place gatherings, relationships can be built that will open the door for personal evangelism to happen naturally.

As your Christian community demonstrates the love of Christ for each other, we pray that our unbelieving friends will be drawn to want to know more about this God that causes such sacrificial love for others. To learn more about the Third Place, check out this post by Todd Engstrom, Executive Pastor of Campuses and Communities at The Austin Stone.

The Dependable Third Place

Many Missional Communities choose to set a dependable time and place for their Third Place. Their group chooses a certain event or location that they will all try to go to at an agreed upon time, whether that is weekly, every other week, or once a month. The advantage of having a regular time and place for your Third Place gatherings is that you always have something to invite a coworker or friend to if the opportunity presents itself. In addition, your group will have the opportunity to meet and get to know other “regulars” at that location.

For groups including families, here are a few Third Place gathering locations that have worked for a dependable, regular meeting time:

  • Playgrounds on Saturdays
  • Restaurants with playgrounds during dinner on weeknights (finding a “Kids Eat Free” night is a bonus!)
  • High school football games – this is especially effective if some of the group members have children on the team
  • Grilling burgers in a group member’s front yard
  • The neighborhood donut shop on Saturday mornings
  • Swimming at the neighborhood pool on Saturdays in the summer

In short, find something you and the other families in your Missional Community would have fun doing on a regular basis, then do it, and be intentional about inviting neighbors, coworkers, and others to join!

The Spontaneous Third Place

For some groups, having the whole group meet at the same time and same place on a regular basis works great. For others, it can be hard to get everyone’s schedules aligned. For those groups, I recommend pursuing what I call “the spontaneous Third Place.”

To have a spontaneous third place, ask the following two questions about the things on your calendar:

  1. Can I include members of my Christian community in this event or task?
  2. Can I include some of my unbelieving friends in this event or task?

If the answer to both is “yes,” you have a Third Place!

Let’s look at a few different ways this could play out.

Your Kids’ Events. For families with kids in school, much of your calendar may revolve around school events, from fundraisers to festivals to performances to sports practices. Be intentional about meeting and building friendships with some of the parents there. There’s a good chance that you’ll run into them again at events in the future. In addition, invite along a member or two of your Missional Community. It will be really great for the other parents at your school to see your Missional Community coming out to support your kids, even if (or especially if) they don’t have kids of their own at the school!

Excercise. My wife loves walking the Town Lake Trail, a community trail in Austin, TX, pushing our two little girls in a double-stroller. Whenever she goes, she texts a few of the women from our church along with a few of our neighbors that she knows are not out at work. No matter where or how you exercise, you could always bring along others with you!

Home Projects. Working on your car? Painting a room? Building a deck? Whatever home project is on your “to-do” list, I guarantee it will be more enjoyable with friends. Invite people from your MC along with a few other friends who don’t attend church, and you’ve got a very productive Third Place meeting.

Fun. Everybody’s gotta have fun from time to time, right? Whether you’re having a date night, a family DVD night, or a day at the park, think intentionally about who you could bring along with you!

With a little thought and planning, almost any part of your week can be a great way to involve your friends that don’t yet know the Lord in the life of your Christian community. I encourage you to begin to think through your schedule in this way, and pray that the Lord uses these times to bring men and women to Himself!

What third place does your family visit? Where will you invite your friends to next? Email Cailey or post a comment on this blog.

If you’d like some help getting kids involved in missional life—or getting your church on board with the idea—Sherry Bennett would love to chat with you. Sherry’s the coordinator of the CBWC’s Children and Families Missional Network (CFam).

 

John Murchison

John Murchison

John Murchison is the Director of Children’s Ministry at The Austin Stone. He is husband to Sarah and father to Waverly and Lucy. He is passionate about making disciples of children rather than “mini-Pharisees,” and about teaching children the gospel over morality. He desires to help parents see themselves as missionaries on mission to and through their children. He’s also a fan of Pixar movies, all things Disney, comic books, and video games, and uses his job as an excuse to do “research” in these areas.