Studies show those who were “entrusted with significant responsibility in a ministry at a young age” were less likely to jettison the faith as they left home.
We all want our kids to stay connected with Christ and the church when they grow up.
And these studies tell us that those who were given a chance to contribute in the life and service of the church at a young age had a higher probability of not leaving the church and ditching their relationship with Christ when they left home.
Living Fully in Christ
I believe that kids, if they are given a taste of giving of themselves to others and the church, will find satisfaction in Christ. Personally, I live most fully in Christ as I’m giving myself away through serving. Why would it be any different for a kid?
Ivy Beckwith holds a PhD from Trinity international University in Deerfield, Illinois and is a leading thinker in Children’s Ministry. She states:
“Children must be allowed to participate in the activities of the faith community. They cannot be shunted off to the basement of the church building while only adults do the real business of faith. The child needs to do things in the community, not just have things done for her. The faith community should intentionally provide opportunities for the child to act on her faith, such as expressing it in worshiping God or serving others. In addition, children need to experience the stories of faith, not just hear them. Childhood religious education needs to be experiential.”
At the church I served, we created a service-based ministry called Route 56 – where fifth and six graders could actually become integrated into the service roles of our church, and taste for themselves that God is good – through serving. My intuition said kids have had enough sitting and listening. Let’s not have them ‘learn about the body of Christ.’ Let’s have them actually be a part the body of Christ and do something.
Our first project was labor-intensive yard-work on the church property. Cutting down the hundreds and hundreds of day lilies that encircled the 31 parking lot islands at our church took two full-time staff members weeks and weeks to complete.
Working in teams, 75 fifth and sixth grade students descended on the church parking lot. It felt like pure chaos, but they did it. The emotional response from the kids was beyond what I ever thought possible. They were hooked.
One mom of a sixth-grade boy told us, “My son told me that he wanted to go cut day lilies at Route 56 instead of going to the David Crowder Band concert. I told him we’d be going to the concert since I had already bought tickets. Then the concert got cancelled; he was THRILLED!” He told me, “We have so much fun when we’re serving at Route 56 that we don’t even know that we’re serving.”
Kids Serving Kids
So we tried it again. This time with students hand-cleaning 1,000’s of nursery toys in one night. With the distinct aroma of diluted Lysol solution in the air, a “joyful buzz” hovered above each room. Again, it was chaotic and yet a humongous task at our church was completed in under an hour. But best of all, a fifth-grade girl named Brooke asked, “What else can we do to serve!” She wanted more.
Operation Christmas Child
Next up, Operation Christmas Child, where shoeboxes are filled with toys, hygiene products, and school supplies for kids around the world through Samaritan’s Purse. How could a work force of 75 fifth and sixth graders contribute to serving impoverished children around the world? With the sound of Christmas music in the background, kids folded over 1,200 boxes that appeared under a display in our church atrium, making it so much simpler for families at our church to “grab a box and go.” We as a church far exceeded the yearly average number of returned and filled boxes. This project surpassed all expectations. A sixth-grade girl said, “After doing Operation Christmas Child, I realize how much I really have. It was cool hearing the senior pastor share what we (5th and 6th graders) did for the church.” They had a job to do that made a difference.
Meeting Hunger Needs
More projects followed including, “The Big Enchilada,” where an assembly line of students, prepared meals for 400+ homeless people in Des Moines area. Another evening, students packaged over 17,000 meals for starving people in Haiti through a project called “Kids Against Hunger.” After this project, one sixth-grade girl, who comes from a very wealthy and world-traveling family said, “This was the most significant day of my life. That was the most significant thing I have done.” She did something of value.
God’s Word in Action
One parent said of our efforts through Route 56, “We are thrilled that it’s not JUST fun and games. We are thrilled that our kids are being challenged with putting God’s Word into action.”
Having kids feel like they have a responsibility and can contribute to the mission of the church is extremely important. However, it would be so much simpler for me, the children’s pastor, to have them sit and listen to another cute sermonette. Coordinating a small army of children to be contributors, not just consumers, takes work.
Easy May Not Be Best
It’s not easy to find ways for kids to serve in the church. It’s chaotic. It’s noisy. They may not do it “the best.” In order to have 75 kids successfully pull off a project for the church, it takes tons of preparation before the kids ever show up. Seriously, it would be easier just do it ourselves, right?
Yet, easy may not be best.