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.


Be a Brightsider not a Discourager

March 24, 2009

danceDo the Gratitude Dance! Perhaps you saw the segment on Good Morning America that was all about a new trend called , “bright-siding”.   Bright-siding is the decision to do things that will intentionally bring a cheery atmosphere into your life and the life of others.  It may mean wearing cheerful colors,  painting a room with bright colors and  listening to cheerful music.  It definitely means living a life of gratitude and approaching others with a smile.  Both gratitude and smiling have been demonstrated to have a positive effect on a person’s brain. The premise to bright-siding is that while one person can’t control the external things that are happening that person can control their outlook.  So to be a brightsider, here are some first steps to take along with some biblical references for those steps

  1. Turn off the Media.  Watch it, listen to it, or read it once a day only.  Besides, it is usually just a repeat of the same stories.  Instead read Proverbs 3:25 and Psalm 23.
  2. Connect with God. Spend a planned amount of time each day just talking and listening to God.  Shift your focus from the world around you to God.   Read Romans 8:5
  3. Read Inspirational Books.  Allow positive information and messages to replace the negative information.  Read stories of people who not only survived but thrived.  Use the story of Joseph as an inspiration in Genesis chapters 37-47.
  4. Surround Yourself with Positive People–   Negative and positive are contagious, so it is better to be infected with the positive.  Seek out positive people.  Search the Book of Proverbs for references to the foolish and the wise.
  5. Exercise- The release of endorphins has a measurable positive impact on your brain and your thinking.  Read 1 Corinthians 6:19
  6. Get Plenty of Sleep- It is almost impossible to be positive when you are exhausted.  However things are much brighter and in proper perspective after rest.  Psalm 46:10
  7. Go to Church- It is there that we can find a caring community.  It is there that we need to be reminded of God’s unconditional love and mercy as well as God’s control as the creator of the universe.  It is there we can experience the chorus of Alleluias from worship.  Read Psalm 100 and 150 and John 3:16

The key is to do and think things that help you see the bright side.  Here are some links for more information on bright-siding and positive thinking.

The Gratitude Group

Spread Joy Network

Spread Joy Song

Do the Gratitude Dance

Facebook Group- Rebel Against Recession

Facebook Group-Recession Survivors

Now is the Time to Give

November 18, 2008

A long-time philanthropist has an important message for all of us.

Last Friday I had the privilege of attending a luncheon celebrating the Philanthropist of the Year for the poty1south Florida area.  My reason for attending was that a good friend was being recognized as the philanthropist. The TV personality that introduced him during the ceremony indicated she thought she knew all of the key philanthropists in the region, but discovered she didn’t because this one was such a quiet, anonymous giver. She pointed out that he had been actively at work helping people without any desire for personal recognition. A friend, however, decided that the time had come to shine a light on what this man had done as a result of his faith in Christ. The honored philanthropist, Dr. William Frey, has been a long time supporter of The LOGOS Ministry.  In addition, he supports a number of other ministries that share a vision for the future or children.  He has recently established scholarships for all 47 elementary schools in Lee County.  All of this because he loves God, loves young people, and has a gift to share.

In his acceptance speech, instead of the usual list of thanks, Bill observed that in these tough times we need to do all that we can, and use all of the leverage we have, to help young people. It is during times like these that support to them can be cut back, left out,  or even forgotten as we focus on our own needs. On the other hand, he said, it is at times like these that we must stretch ourselves to help the youngest in our midst with the love of Jesus Christ. Bill challenged everyone to do even more because of the tough times.

What a tremendous message for these times and this season.  In today’s economic climate, Bill suggested that we should give even more and with a thankful heart. He reminded us to place our dependence not on ourselves, but on God who is the great provider. This was a courageous message coming from a man whose own financial well- being has been hit very hard by the economic pressures affecting the housing market.

So, that is a challenge that I would like to put forth to you. In these tough times, what can you do even more to help the young people in your midst and offer them the love of Christ?  How can you support them and ministries to young people even more, and place your dependence totally upon God?

It is a tough challenge, but one I believe we need to meet.  Thanks for your words, Bill.