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.

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15 Concerns in Children’s Ministries

By Chuck Lawless. currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

Recently, I spent time with a church that is upgrading their children’s wing. In the midst of those discussions, we talked about some of the common problems our Lawless Group consulting team sees in a children’s ministry. Here are 15 of those problems:

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  1. Too little space – Because children are active learners, rooms should be large enough to allow children to move around. In fact, some experts recommend a minimum of 25-35 square feet per child in the room.
  2. Poor security – In many cases, our “secret shopper” parents choose not to leave their children in childcare because workers are unprepared for guests, do not seek contact information, do not have secure rooms, and/or have no clear drop off/pick up procedure.
  3. Old furniture – Children deserve clean, modern furniture that fits their stature. Adult tables and chairs don’t work well in a children’s department.
  4. “Big people” decorations – I’m still surprised when I see bulletin boards at adult eye levels, high school age-graded maps, and pictures with only adults in a children’s classroom. Somebody is not thinking enough about the learners in the room.
  5. Incomplete sanitization – Infection spreads quickly through church nurseries and preschools, often because workers do not take adequate precautions to prevent it. We encourage workers to wear gloves when changing diapers, sanitize toys after their use, and wash their hands continually.
  6. Uncovered outlets – The younger the child, the less he/she recognizes the danger of an electrical outlet. This danger is easily reduced with an inexpensive outlet cover.
  7. Windowless doors — Replacing doors is not inexpensive, but classroom doors should have windows. This change will not eliminate the possibility of abuse, but we must take every precaution we can.
  8. No background checks or interviews for leaders – Despite potential controversy for the church that has never taken this step, no one who has not passed a background check should be permitted to work with minors. We also encourage interviews and reference checks with potential workers.
  9. Securing incomplete information – Securing the name of a child attending a class or program is only a start. Leaders and teachers also need to be aware of a child’s allergies (e.g., nuts), the parents’ contact information and location, etc.
  10. Poor teaching – Teachers who only lecture should probably not be teaching in the children’s department. Good children’s teachers focus on active learning while deeply loving the children they teach.
  11. Too few adults – This issue is a difficult one, especially as congregations struggle to secure volunteers. Nevertheless, the standard should be clear: the church will avoid any situation where one adult is left alone with minors.
  12. Leaders untrained for emergencies – It’s great for churches to have members who are nurses or EMT’s on call, but children’s leaders should know how to respond to a choking child, do CPR, operate a fire extinguisher, respond to a tornado warning, and lead a class to evacuate the building if necessary.
  13. Only minors providing childcare – I affirm the commitment to get teens involved in the work of the church, but minors alone should not be providing care for other minors. Even the wisest, most mature teens are still minors themselves.
  14. No hall monitoring – Our consultants watch to see if children wander alone in church hallways during small group or worship time. Sadly, many do. If our shoppers could gain unimpeded contact with children, so can others with less pure motives.
  15. Children released on their own – No child (even the staff’s children) should be released after a class or service unless an adult – a properly identified adult – comes to get him/her. Uncontrolled drop off and release times can be chaotic . . . and dangerous.

God really does love the little children – and so should we. What other suggestions would you add to strengthen children’s ministries?

CBWC Children and Families Network offers Abuse Prevention and Safety resources for churches. Contact CFam Director Sherry Bennett at sbennett@cbwc.ca for more information.

Help us equip churches to keep kids safe. Until May 26, donate online to CBWC’s Children and Family Ministries through the #EveryChildSafe campaign and receive special perks!

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.

Carey Institute Seminars for YOU: Vancouver

Winter Dull-drums?  Need some fresh ideas and inspiration? Click on pictures below for more information on amazing resources and training for lay leaders in the local church

 THE COUNTRY THEY CALL LIFE: 1-day Retreat with Dr. Barbara Mutch (Feb. 26)

 IT TAKES A VILLAGE: Nurturing Children In Faith For A Lifetime (Feb. 28)  

BELONGING TO LIFE (Mar. 28)

 PREACHING WORKSHOPS

Chinese Preaching Workshop with Rev. David Chan (April 23)

English Preaching Workshop with Rev. Darrell Johnson (May 27)

COMING UP
THE SPIRITUALITY OF ILLNESS: Faith & Prayer In The Midst Of Suffering (May 9)