How to make kids feel they belong in your church

When we encourage the young people to be active participants in church we create a community where they feel they truly belong

When we encourage the young people to be active participants in church we create a community where they feel they truly belong

When I was growing up, every Sunday morning we would pile into the family station wagon (which had two coveted seats in the ‘very back’ facing outwards) and travel 10 minutes down the road to the small suburban, triangle-shaped church we attended.

Although many of my memories have faded from those early days of church some 30+ years ago, there are some which remain strong.

Here are just some of those precious memories:

  • Congregational singing in church using hymnbooks: Particularly To thine be the gloryGreat is thy Faithfulness and Tell out my Soul.

  • One Palm Sunday everyone in church made a cross from palm fronds.

  • Helping my Mum teach Sunday school to the preschoolers when I was about 10.

  • Being involved in the all church production of The Music Machine.

  • Serving morning tea with Mum and Dad when they were on the roster.

If I was to draw a common thread between these memories, it would be that they had everything to do with being a valued, precious, included and involved member of the church.

Don’t get me wrong. I still looked forward with anticipation to that moment in the service when the children would leave the church building with excitement and head out to Sunday School. But it was in the intergenerational moments where I was able to see the faith of my parents and other members in action, as we worshipped God and served alongside each other.

Church for me was something more than just a place to go to. It became an extended, messy family that I was a part of. And it was my identity as a valued and active participant in the life of the church that led me to have a deep sense of belonging in that community.

I am convinced that when we encourage the children and young people in our churches to be active participants, rather than passive recipients, we create a church community where they feel they truly belong.

But how do we do it?

By adopting an intergenerational outlook on ministry.

Intergenerational ministry occurs when two or more different generations are gathered together for mutual serving, sharing or learning within the core activities of the church in order to live out being the body of Christ to each other and the greater community [1]. At its core, intergenerational ministry celebrates the gifts each generation brings to the spiritual formation of the others.

But how do we do THAT?

Good question, and I am glad you asked.

Firstly, begin where you are. What is already happening in your church to foster and build intergenerational relationships?

Secondly, educate and equip the church community to build intergenerational relationships. Look for opportunities for various generations to communicate in meaningful ways, to interact on a regular basis, and to minister, worship and serve together regularly. Communicate with the church about why this is important, and celebrate it when it happens.

Thirdly, encourage parents to share their faith with their children. Sharing faith can come through words, but it should also come with actions. I cannot think of a better way for parents to share their faith with their children than by serving alongside them at church.

Fourthly, equip children to participate in faith. The Bible describes the church as a body (1 Cor 12:12-31). Just as the different parts of the body have different jobs, so the people who make up the church also have different gifts and abilities. No one part is any more special or important than the other, and all work together to serve God and His purposes.

When children and young people are a part of our churches, we need to encourage them to be present and active in the life of the church. This means that we need to nurture them in their faith, and look for opportunities to let them serve.

My prayer is that God will show you the way as you seek to encourage children and young people in your church to be active participants in your church.

[1] Allen, Holly Catterton; Lawton, Christine. Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship (p. 17). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition, 2012.

Emma Collett

Although trained as a music teacher, Emma’s passion to teach children the good news about Jesus started from an early age. As a local SRE teacher, and former Children’s and Family Minister at Christ Church, St Ives, Emma understands the demands and opportunities that scripture teachers and children’s ministry leaders face every week.