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We often approach the Bible as a book about women and men who journey with God, so it is fascinating to notice the ways that children appear in the Scriptures. In Genesis 37:2, Joseph, at 17 years old, is labeled a dreamer. Moses’s speech in Deuteronomy 6 suggests that parents should expect children to be spiritually curious. “When your children ask you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your children, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (v. 20-21). Children are active participants in God’s redemptive work.

Congregations are wise to pay close attention to what is happening in the lives of children. For at least a generation, we have leaned into models of ministry that might be described as church for children. We set aside special times in worship for children and then usher them out of the sanctuary to a more child-friendly space. Church for children can be done well, but are there ways to imagine church with children? What would that look like?

After a few years of trying to teach Sunday school on Zoom, we are all trying to understand how to reconnect with our youngest members. The challenge before us may provide the perfect opportunity to innovate. If attendance in the children’s classes or the Sunday night youth group has not rebounded, this could be the time to discern whether you want to stick with the same approach or revisit the model for children’s and youth ministry in your congregation. If children have an active role to play in God’s redemptive work, what can our churches do differently to ensure that the youngest among us are about their Father’s business?


Resources

Imagining Multiple Models of Ministry with Youth

From the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Playing church

By Gretchen E. Ziegenhals


Lilly Endowment Inc. launches new Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative

Through this national competitive initiative, Lilly Endowment is inviting charitable organizations to apply for grants of up to $1.25 million to create new and/or enhance existing programs that help parents and caregivers share their faith more confidently with their children. The Endowment anticipates awarding approximately 60 grants to charitable organizations that submit the most promising and compelling proposals.

An online Interest Form with Letter of Interest must be submitted by December 5, 2022.

Learn more > >


Before you go…

When Jesus’ parents made the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the caravan was so intergenerational that Jesus moved about freely among the crowds of people. Smaller churches may have an advantage over larger churches when it comes to fully integrating children into the life of the church. Members of large congregations often value the quality of production in worship, which can be a challenge for the 7-year-old with a touch of stage fright. But with a little effort, we can all make a big difference in the spiritual lives of children. Be sure to check out the resources this week — maybe you can use one of them for discussion in a staff or board meeting. As Jesus said to the disciples, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14).

Do you have a story about church with children? Feel free to email me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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