I’ve spent some of my summer reading all kinds of children’s ministry books. Like a scratched record. three themes keep coming up over and over again:
Allow children to be noisy.
Bring parents to the centre to help grow faith in their children.
Actively involve children in church to nurture their faith.
So what would this look like in your church?
Allow children to be noisy
I remember visiting a church when my children were very young. There were lots of welcoming smiles as we walked in but there were just as many turned heads and unhappy frowns when my baby started to cry. It seemed that my children were very welcome as long as they were cute and silent but there was no room for them when they turned into noisy, difficult monsters.
I love what Pope Francis reportedly said to a group of parents having their babies baptised in the Sistine Chapel:
Today the choir will sing, but the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise.
How can you encourage the most beautiful choir of all?
Here are some ideas:
Welcome parents and let them know that it is ok if their children are noisy.
Provide alternative places to sit if parents want to move their child from the church service.
Start a ministry of baby holders where designated members look out for families who might appreciate another set of hands.
Give bags of toys to families as they come into church.
Bring parents to the centre to help grow faith in their children
Open just about any book on children’s ministry and the importance of parents in growing faith in their children will jump right out at you. As Ivy Beckwith points out in her book Postmodern Children’s Ministry (Zondervan, 2004, p. 105-106):
The average child is involved in church programming for, at the very most, 150 hours out of the year (and that’s for families who are at church every time the doors open). When you contrast that with the countless hours a child spends within his family each year, it almost seems incredulous that anyone could believe the church can do a better job of spiritual nurture than families can.
There are so many things a church can be doing to nurture parents’ roles in this, but here are few things that spring to mind:
Inform families about what story will be covered in the Sunday children’s ministry so they can read it with their children beforehand.
Send home or email suggested activities for during the week to follow up on what the children learnt in their ministry time.
Interview families in church to hear how they read the Bible and pray together as a family.
Program events that involve all family members.
Provide opportunities for parents and children to learn together.
Actively involve children in church to nurture their faith
When children see faith at work in their parents’ lives and in the lives of other members of their church their own faith is encouraged and nurtured. Churches can encourage and support parents so they can nurture their children’s faith in their homes, as well as providing opportunities for faith formation through specialised children’s ministries. But your church can also nurture your children’s faith by allowing them to participate in services and other ministries.
This will look different in different churches, and may include:
Encourage children to participate in the music ministry.
Involve children in welcoming newcomers to the church.
Invite children to be involved in communion.
Provide large print versions of the Lord’s Prayer, Creeds and other set readings used in the service.
Ask families to lead prayers.
Give children opportunities to read the Bible in church.
Involve children in ministry to the needy eg helping to serve breakfast to the homeless, visiting nursing homes, and sending cards.
Partner adults and children to pray for each other.
Children are part of the body of Christ. They are often noisier and messier than other parts of the body but like other parts of the body they are important.
What is your church saying about the children in your midst?