Blue Flower

 

When Darryl asked me to write a paragraph or two on ‘How to fill a church with kids’ I felt a little flattered, more overwhelmed and completely unqualified all at once.  I am sure there are far more experienced, more qualified and those having more success than we are at Woonona Baptist.  With that all said here a couple of things that have helped us.

  

  1. Pray.  -  Looking back I remember that the first thing for us was to ask God to build a new generation.  We are still asking for that.  We ask that the generation that comes behind us will be more passionate for Jesus than we are and that those behind them will be greater in their faith again. We believe that the next generation will ‘push the ceiling’ even higher for the Kingdom and we do what we can to lead them to this. We have also had to pray, asking God to break the cycle of kids leaving in their teens.  We identified that our young teens were not going on in their faith but were being stolen away.  We asked God to break that cycle and we were intentional about sowing resources (time, finance, space, cultural change) to work alongside God in breaking that cycle.  We continue to ask God to break the cycle and recognise that it takes a lot of effort and a lot of time to break.
     
  2. Change the Culture to Value Youth and Children – We have five value statements for our church.  These statements are up on the walls to remind us of what is important to us as a community and to help us make decisions.  One of those values says.  Woonona Baptist Church values Youth and Children - Recognising them as an integral part of the community, Showing them what it means to be followers of Jesus, Allowing relevant space for them to encounter God.  We constantly point to this statement as a guide on how we should act.  Because we value youth and children we give them furniture in church (lounges, bean bags and tables to draw on). Because we value youth and children they are allowed to move, speak, eat etc during church.  Church is as much about them as any other age group.  This was a cultural change that occurred over a long time frame and which we continue to refine as a community.
     
  3. Vision – For a time we had Youth and Children’s ministries that were age appropriate but did not lead anywhere.  It needed vision.  That vision now links our ministries and gives them specific objectives so that there is a link from one ministry to another.
     
  4. Create Safe Spaces – In order to value Youth and Children we have to ensure that we do all we can to be a safe space for kids and their families.  This means keeping up with the changing legislation for child protection and Work Health and Safety and always being transparent in all we do with kids.
     
  5. Invest – We believe that if youth and children are to feel comfortable they must have both space in the community as well as spaces to call their own within our building. Time is invested into taking them into the community to participate in volunteer work. Money is invested into setting a relevant atmosphere with appropriate technology. It costs, so be prepared to invest over time.
     
  6. Let the Kids Minister – We believe that it is important for the kids to feel that church is for them, that they belong and that they are an integral component of the community.  This means that we try to give them opportunities to use the gifts God has given them whether that be in church,  in helping out with other kids ministries or in serving the community.  It gives our children opportunities to explore their gifting as well as setting the culture that God  has gifted them to serve just as he has gifted the adults to serve. Failure is not an exclusion event but a pathway to learning.  We value them enough to give them a go and to help them up if they fall.
     
  7. Give them a voice – We are intentional about listening to the children. When you listen, you will hear them speak! We have allowed time in church for  our children to bear witness to what Jesus is doing in their lives. We have heard the children share their frustrations about what God might not be doing. We allow our kids to pray for each other and for us for healing in our church services. We haven’t just assumed what they need in their spaces – we let them tell us (flat screen T.Vs, docking stations, lava lamps etc…).
     
  8. Get yourself a Nigel – the most important thing we have done was to get a Nigel.  Nigel Hilton is our Associate Pastor.  He has the power and authority of a Pastor and he uses that power and authority amongst other things to advocate for our kids when decisions are being made.  Nigel is passionate about and his heart yearns to see Youth and Children move forward in real authentic faith.  As a result of this passion he often swims against the tide in order to be the voice for our youth and children.  Nigel has been the sledgehammer that has crushed many ideas which on the surface seemed good but would have been damaging to the culture we have tried to foster with our youth and children.  Nigel has taught us that when any decision is made for the life of the church we need to consider how it will affect our people and more specifically how it will impact our kids.  He is constantly suggesting slight modifications and changes in order that we continue to value our youth and children. So do yourself a favour – Get yourself a Nigel.

 

Blessings

Michael