Preparing children for God’s kingdom
Yellow buses. New backpacks to fill and combination locks to master. Crayons with pointed tips and calculus homework. Ready or not, children have already started school or soon will head back.
It’s a time of excitement and optimism, of fresh starts and new experiences.
The training of our youth to take their place in society is an important element of American culture. In the same way, preparing children to take their place in God’s kingdom must be an important part of every church’s mission.
What is our role as Christians in the lives of the youngest members of our church families?
How can we — as their teachers, their parents, their mentors and encouragers — help equip and support them as they advance another grade level and one step higher in the ladder of the kingdom?
Sunday School is one very visible opportunity for a majority of our congregations. In some cases, providing the space for children to learn and grow spiritually is one of the largest expenditures in a church’s budget.
That commitment manifests itself also in time and energy of the many men and women who make these programs possible. In a typical church, more members are involved in the ministry of teaching children than any other effort. The format may vary from place to place, but the concept of setting aside time each week, presenting fun and challenging ways to learn about the Bible, is a constant.
As any good teacher might tell us, creativity is key when working with children.
With this in mind, let us all become more imaginative — impassioned even — about our approach and responsibility to them.
• Ask the elders to begin their meetings by praying by name for every child in the church. (Or in very large congregations, maybe by age or grade level.)
• Spend part of a worship assembly praying for children who are headed back to school.
• Think about some neighborhood children who do not go to church. Invite them to come to Sunday school at your congregation.
• Plan a teachers’ appreciation night for those who staff the congregation’s youth education classes.
• Ask your minister to consider presenting several lessons on how parents can raise children of faith.
• Walk alongside parents who are in the trenches of raising their family and see how God leads you into a partnership with them. Or befriend a family in a different stage of life for a new perspective on parenting.
• Make a genuine effort to learn the names of as many children as possible and speak to them every chance you get.
• When a child cries or talks aloud in worship, say a silent prayer to God about how thankful you are for their presence.
• Volunteer to work with children on some level, whether it is teaching, coaching at spring leadership events or Bible Bowls, helping stock the teachers’ workroom or writing notes of encouragement to teenagers.
• Recall a significant action that an adult took toward you when you were a child. Do the same thing for a child in your circle.
Imagine what these young generations of Christ-followers might be able to add to this list someday as they teach their children and grandchildren to commit to lives of purpose.
And consider what we also may gain, listening to and learning from them.