Involving Children in Mission

November 4, 2011

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.


Teenagers and the Church

May 5, 2010
Confirmation class

Confirmation class by Raymond Brown

It is that time of year.  Summer is just around the corner.  Colleges and High Schools are in the midst of graduation ceremonies and celebrations with all of their “pomp and circumstance”.  It is also the time of year when many churches confirm their newest, youngest members into full membership of Christ’s church.  Late last year, I heard a speaker who asked, “What do you do to make sure that confirmation is not interpreted as graduation in your church?”

Those words have stuck with me for months and I think are worth wrestling with for all of us.  He went on to talk about how we have a processional often times with them in robes, give them a certificate, make note of their achievement,  and dissolve their class (small group).  Why wouldn’t they think they have no graduated from learning in the church?

In the church I attend, twenty-two wonderful young teens were just confirmed.  I have also noticed that Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are filled with church announcements of their newly confirmed young members.  So all of that leads me to ask some questions that I believe we need to wrestle with in our churches regarding those who have just been confirmed.

1. How does your church keep these young people relationally connected with the same intensity they had during their confirmation class?

2. What processes are in place to provide leadership roles for these new young members?

3. How are they intentionally mentored into these roles of leadership?

4. How does your church purposefully offer them ways to answer God’s call on their lives, give of themselves, share their gifts and build up the body of Christ?

45 Seconds: A Personal Reflection

January 13, 2010

This morning’s news is filled with reports and images of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. How life in Port-au-Prince changed in 45 seconds!

My first prayers have been filled with intercessions to God for the people of Haiti and for those who will rush to help them.

My second prayers, however, have been completely self-centered and filled with gratefulness that my own personal world is safe.

Is this the same for you? Dear God, how terrible, and phew! So glad this didn’t happen to me?

45 seconds.

Real earthquakes [and other disasters] may give those of us on “safe ground” a chance to have a “soulquake”. Crisis often triggers transcendent experiences in people, but what if we didn’t need a crisis to get our lives right? What if we took 45 seconds every day to ask ourselves:

Am I living in God’s will?
Are my relationships right?
Is my life filled with God’s purpose?

45 seconds…can change your life.

Raise Up A Child to Answer God’s Call

March 9, 2009

kiersten1How can we raise children to answer God’s call?  It is about listening, praying and taking a risk. Here is a podcast from my daughter who was raised in the LOGOS ministry, has attended LOGOS Youth Conferences ( her American Sign Language passion she mentions began at conference) and is highly involved in mission.  She and I went on a mission trip to Jamaica in November.  Her early excitement about this trip soon turned to anxiety and even fear as the trip approached.   Early this year she was invited as a high school student exploring ministry to deliver the message at our church, Charter Oak Church.  She chose to talk about our trip.  Listen now to how she over came the fear to answer God’s call in her message,

“Taking Risks to Explore the Fullness of God’s Promises.”

(it starts with a piece of music, an audio clip presentation and then her message)

This is not a unique experience for children raised in LOGOS.  Here are two other messages by LOGOS youth given in their churches:

The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength by Chelsea,  Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church

God is There Like it or Not by Meredith, Catoctin Presbyterian Church

President Obama-Prayers and Politics

January 21, 2009
Barack Obama

Photo coutesy of jmtimages

In light of a new President coming into office, I am reminded once again that as a Christian, I am to pray for those who are in authority.  So at the beginning of President Obama’s time in office I pray.

I pray that President Obama will have the healing presence of Gerald Ford, the gentle compassion of Jimmy Carter, the constant fortitude of Ronald Reagan, the deep faithfulness of George H.W. Bush, the political savvy of Bill Clinton, and the strong convictions of George W. Bush.

I pray that President Obama will have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a public profession of God’s providence.

As more young people than ever are paying attention to this President, I pray that President Obama will be a model for them that a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ is more important than anything else, even the presidency of the United States of America.

That is my prayer, what is yours?

Trust vs. Self-Centeredness

January 15, 2009

theogram21Are you wrapped up, wound up, and puffed up.  What do I mean by that?  Are you wrapped up in your own worries, fears, and frustrations?  It is an easy thing to do in today’s world.  It is also easy to do in ministry.

However, when we are wrapped up in our own worries, fears, and frustrations, it causes us to get wound up in our own worries, fears, and frustrations.  They become not only the focal point of our thoughts but also the anxiety builders of our day.  All of this causes us to be puffed up because our worries, fears, and frustrations consume us and our  world becomes all about us rather than God.  We get wrapped up in our issues, only to be wound up over them, only to be puffed up thinking it is all about our stuff. This is self-centeredness, rather than reliance on God.

What are your worries, fears, and frustrations?  I find when I think about the things that make me worry, fearful, and frustrated,  I focus in on them more and more until they become the center of my thoughts.  Focusing on these is self-centeredness.  Self-centeredness is being wrapped up, wound up, and puffed up.

So what is the solution?  The answer is to trust and obey God enough to think, care, and decide about things as God would have us do so.  It means to put our daily trust and obedience in God instead of allowing our day to go according to our worries, fears, and frustrations.  Hard to do but so very fruitful for our faith relationship with God.

So go ahead, give it a try.  What do you have to worry about?

I want to say thanks to my friend, Sarah, who reminded me of this in devotions yesterday.

Are We Raising Children to Be Easter People?

March 19, 2008

As I have thought about our role in leading, raising and mentoring children, I have been wondering, especially at this time of year, whether we are raising our children to truly be Easter people. There are some characteristics of Easter people that I think are critical for us to pass on to our children in both word and role modeling. Some of those characteristics that come to mind are as follows. Easter People are:

  1. People who live with new abundant life. (John 10:10)
  2. People who live with the promise of the resurrection. (Romans 6:5)
  3. People who live with faith and hope. (Hebrews 11:1)
  4. People who rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  5. People who live as obedient disciples. (2 John 1:6)
  6. People who are willing to sacrificially take up their cross for the sake of Jesus. (Matthew 16:24)
  7. People who are filled with abundant love for God and other people. (Mark 12:29-31)
  8. People who are filled with joy. (Acts 14:17)
  9. People who put Jesus as Lord (Ruler, King, Number 1) in their lives. (Romans 14:8)
  10. People who live out their faith daily. (James 2:17)

Are we raising our children as Easter people? What other things would you add to this list that the Bible says is critical to be an Easter person?