Involving Children in Mission

When we involve young people in mission, we help nurture them into discipleship by teaching them to care for others and by providing them with opportunities to serve. Congregations often find ways to do this with older youth, but how about our youngest brothers and sisters in Christ? What are we doing to further their heart for service to others?

There are (at least!) six good reasons to involve children in mission:

1. To affirm them as valuable children of God

2. To demonstrate that they are the church of today as well as tomorrow

3. To encourage their spiritual development as disciples of Jesus Christ

4. To ingrain discipleship as a response to God’s love for all people

5. To teach social and moral responsibility for others

6. Because they are capable and want to help

What is vital to creating a community that not only supports and encourages mission and service projects, but also understands that it is crucial for children to be involved?

  • The community affirms the emerging skills, gifts, and individuality of children in order to nurture emotionally, socially, and spiritually healthy children.

Children need to know that they are competent beings capable of worthwhile accomplishments. As adults, we can provide frequent opportunities for children to engage in helping activities. Even two-year-old children can pick-up toys or carry napkins to the table. Part of what it means to be made in the image of God is that God gifts each individual with unique abilities and personality. Encouraging children to use their gifts and choose behaviors that help build the community and serve others in a positive way helps develop the understanding of what it means to live together as children of God.

Encouraging a “mission attitude” in children also contributes to the cycle of relationship building. It is always easier and more efficient for adults to “do things themselves.” However, you “build the kingdom” by encouraging children and youth to take on tasks and explore their gifts, surrounded by a community of love and support.

  • The community encourages adults to actively support children’s emerging sense of empathy and compassion.

Compassion will continue to develop if it is actively encouraged by the significant adults in a child’s life. When a child shows compassion, adults should name and affirm the caring thing the child has done. Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others and, at least to some degree, feel what they feel and respond in helpful ways. Empathy is one of the foundational moral emotions. It is linked to moral action. It’s a feeling that compels people to act compassionately while reasoning alone might not.

  • The community equips parents, teachers and other adults to help children move from a simple understanding of fairness to one encompassing our response to God’s love for us by serving the local and the global community.

One of the most powerful ways to teach children empathy is to be empathetic yourself in your parenting and/or in your leadership. Adults teach empathy by expressing interest in the experiences of children and by listening carefully as children talk. As their own empathy grows because of adult modeling, children will be more able to relate deeply to others. They also will grow in their ability to act on empathetic feelings by learning to provide a listening ear, help others, and show generosity.

Here are several ideas involving children in mission from churches with a mid-week LOGOS ministry:

One church incorporated mission into their themed dinners by collecting socks on “Sock Hop Night” and donating them to a local children’s home. They also collected home goods (towels, gift cards, sheets…) for new Habitat for Humanity families on “Construction Night” and on “Pajama Night” they collected boxes of cereal for a local homeless shelter.

Another church made blankets for an organization called “Project Linus” during their Bible study time. Project Linus collects new blankets to give to children in hospitals or places away from home. Children made fleece blankets that involved cutting fringe and tying knots…nothing difficult. This project was part of a lesson on the man lowered through the roof by his friends to be healed by Jesus.

After presenting their annual children’s musical to the congregation, there is a church that takes it “on the road” to offer it again at an assisted living facility to the delight of the residents.

Children’s Storybooks Encouraging Mission and Service

Albert, Richard E. Alejandro’s Gift. Chronicle Books.

Barbour, Karen. Mr. Bow Tie. Harcourt Brace Javanovich.

Brumbeau, Jeff. The Quiltmaker’s Gift. Scholastic, 2001.

Demi. The Empty Pot. Henry Holt and Co.

DiSalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen.

Fox, Mem. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. Kane/Miller.

Fox, Mem. Whoever You Are. Harcourt, Brace and Co.

Hamanaka, Sheila. All the Colors of the Earth. Morrow Junior Books.

Karusa. The Streets are Free. Annick Press.

Kissinger, Katie. All the Colors We Are. Redleaf Press.

Ladwig, Tim. The Lord’s Prayer. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

McGovern, Ann. The Lady in the Box. Turtle Books.

Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard. Clarion Books.

Say, Allen. Emma’s Rug. Houghton Mifflin Co.

What are ways that you can help the children in your church learn and practice empathy and compassion?

Portions of this article excerpted from “LOGOS Works” reference manual for the LOGOS system of Christian nurture.

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9 Responses to Involving Children in Mission

  1. Richard says:

    How easily we forget that the way we deal with children today is setting the stage for their lives as adults. We should be motivated to show them that service and mission are the purposeful norm for life, for any that want to serve God

  2. Children are concrete learners – we must be careful we aren’t just providing “activities” for them to be involved in. So much of what we do with children may make us feel good but are the kids truly catching what we want them to catch.

    Here are some further thoughts on Putting Feet To Their Faith

    http://www.kidtrek-sundayplus.org/2011/11/01/child-discipleship-putting-feet-to-their-faith/

    http://www.kidtrek-sundayplus.org/2011/11/17/child-discipleship-putting-feet-to-their-faith-part-2/

    • lizperraud says:

      Great thoughts Wanda! I’m looking forward to reading through your website more thoroughly. I like what I see about supporting and equipping parents!

  3. Shante Perry says:

    It is so important that our children know that their abilities are just as important in the body of Christ. We have to cultivate what God has already instilled within them. They have the humility in serving others and the desire in their hearts to be what God has called them to be.

    • Richard says:

      I suspect that we have fallen into a pattern where we ignore children (as a vital part of our ongoing ministry) and somehow expect them to someday step up and take leadership in the church as adults. Part of the beauty of Logos as I have been investigating it is that it reminds us of the value of children, and also reminds us of our responsibilities/privileges in taking them seriously.

  4. Liz Perraud says:

    Amen to both Shante and Richard!! Makes me crazy to hear people talk about children/youth as the “church of tomorrow” (just read that on a church website today. We can’t wait until tomorrow to engage and involve them in the community.

    • Richard says:

      sometimes we inadvertently lock ourselves into ways of thinking, and even our language perpetuates it. I have used that phrase “church of tomorrow”. I realize how faulty that is. It makes children’s ministry future like dangling a carrot that can never be reached. It is time to realize that children are part of the ministry today. We have only a few in our congregation, but they have reminded us of how remarkable the faith of a child can be.

  5. Curtis says:

    I really enjoyed this blog. It is a critical idea to get children involved in missions rather than teaching them to wait till they are older. When we do that, we perpetuate the idea that they are not part of the real church until they reach a certain age. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  6. Guruvagarla deepak kumar says:

    I need a help for children ministry
    story books diagram sheets kits please help me sir

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