We see these happening most naturally by creating structured, spiritual environments within the church with:
1) The worship service.
Elementary schoolers will be in the “adult” service for about half of the time. They will be able to sing with their parents, take communion with their parents from time to time and regularly hear stories about how God is moving (and have an opportunity to share stories of their own!). We can’t overestimate the importance of kids regularly hearing stories from adults where God is moving and working. They will then have a time that is specific to their age where more of the classroom teaching happens. The curriculum for this age-specific time is tailored to what is being learned at home and with the same language so it is reinforcing how the parents are discipling their kids.
I am not advocating that these are the things we HAVE to do in our churches, but I am advocating thinking through why we do children’s ministry the way we do it and looking at what we want to accomplish in the discipleship of children and their families (and how to encourage it).
The author of this document has a particular end in mind. No matter what style of ministry is old or new, it doesn’t matter.
Whatever you do practically implicitly and explicitly informs the recipients what your values and intentions are.
It would be great to have your faith community weigh in on these thoughts. I know you could come up with some practical outworkings of your children and youth ministry values, but it would only look like what you think and experience rather than some significant representatives of your faith community. I don’t think we all need an entire overhaul (some might), but I do think we’ll all need to shift some emphasis and resources.
I like the idea of involving children in the worship service with the adults. I like the intentionality of it. Right now most of our children’s ministry students on Sunday mornings only come to church for one hour and then go home. They don’t participate in a worship service. This option seems like it could combine worshiping together, and then sending the children during the adult sermon for a children’s specific sermon and small group connecting time with their peers. It’s a neat idea worth exploring. If we were to do something like this, then we could easily do this at all 3 of our services instead of just the middle service.
But there are other ways to make these things happen…
2) Missional Communities.
Kids will have a chance to be on mission with their parents, friends their own age and other adults. They will have the opportunity to contribute to the success of the vision and contribute to the spiritual well being of the MC. They will be integrated into this community which meets 3-4 times a month, treated as equals in mission with adults, and be immersed into a spiritual community and have the opportunity to regularly interact with other adults and learn from them.
This is happening in a few of our small groups @ Hayward Wesleyan, and it’s neat to see the children’s involvement. Again, this is a programmatic solution to an organic structure. Programming family stuff on a regular basis is difficult to do, but it is possible.
At the very least, I think empowering and resourcing families to begin to do the primary work of discipleship in their home is the first step. The next step could be putting various families together with other like-minded families in missional small groups for the purpose of doing discipleship with each other (adults and children) in community together.
Your thoughts, critique and questions are welcome in the comments below!