Earlier this year my husband and I took our three children (aged 6-12 years) to a prayer meeting. The focus… praying for persecuted believers and those of other faiths facing attack in the Middle East.
One other family was there. People were surprised that we would bring our children to such a meeting. We received several comments of “you’re brave!” or questions like “do you think they can cope with this?”
I must admit to being a little perplexed. We deliberately chose to take our children to that prayer meeting; it wasn’t that we couldn’t get a babysitter or that neither of us were prepared to miss out and “just had to take the kids with us”. We wanted to take them.
Perhaps the concern people voiced was that our children wouldn’t understand the concept of persecution, or that they might be frightened by stories of others under attack. The reality was that our children had already seen the stories on the nightly news, and what we were doing was giving them an opportunity to respond for themselves and to see that the church generally was responding.
I started to wonder if when we don’t include children in church life we rob them of the opportunity to see that faith is not just words, but also action. Churches and Sunday Schools talk a lot about what Jesus followers “do”, but how often do kids get the chance to do those very things? Sometimes it feels like the living out of a faith in Jesus that we expect from children is “obey your parents, don’t fight with your sister and play nice at school”.
Children see the brokenness of the world and they want to do more than play nice. I have had people speak to me about their children feeling that churches were becoming irrelevant because they do not act on social justice issues. My question is… “Is it that churches don’t act, or is it that there are so few opportunities for children in churches to act that they think the church is not responding?”
So here are a few ideas on helping kids to put their faith into action. It will require parents to prepare, plan and sometimes translate; and it will require churches to expect that children will be involved. But the discipling opportunities they present for our kids are significant.
24 Hour prayer vigils
Children can come with their parents and join in. Especially if what’s on offer is more than the come and sit in a chair and pray option. Look for ways to engage the senses and invite the families in your church to participate.
Social justice rallies or calls to action
The annual ‘voices for justice’ campaign that visits parliamentarians is open to including children with their families. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to connect faith and action through engaging with issues of global inequality and learning how you can make a difference.
Pedal Against Poverty
Partners include Baptist World Aid and Morling College. The goal of Pedal Against Poverty is to raise funds and awareness, partnering with communities suffering from debilitating poverty in the developing world. This 24-hour bike riding relay is accessible to all. www.pedalagainstpoverty.com
There are so many jobs kids can do. In the Hunter they have City Serve, an initiative spearheaded by local churches. The goal is to serve the community by refurbishing local parks and community buildings.
Life groups or home groups
Consider creating family groups where children are included in the group time. All ages opening the Bible together and exploring God’s word. The Discovery Bible Study format is an excellent method for engagement of all. Search the internet for Discovery Bible Study Method.
Food/clothing/ funding for those in need
Many kids get pocket money and most get quite a few presents when it comes to birthdays and Christmas. We talk with adults about how the cost of a cup of coffee will make a difference so how about talking with the kids about how they can give up something for someone else.
Is there an environmental care program in your local community that the church is involved with? Maybe it’s Cleanup Australia campaigns or perhaps guerilla gardening or BushCare. Kids are often passionate environmentalists and want to actively steward the earth God created.
Of course there may be some things kids can’t be involved in personally, but there are very few things they can’t contribute to in some way.
Children, especially our tweens and teens, seem to instinctively sense that faith without action is dead. We can’t wait until they are “old enough” to let them respond. Let’s give them the opportunity to bring life to their faith now.
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Jesus in Matthew 19:14