One of my long-term prayer requests is for my children to grow to love the local church and experience the precious community that we see in the Bible. However, as children, they are limited in ways that they can be involved. How can I encourage them to be a part when people aren’t beating down my doors for their contribution?
I’ve learned a few things. First, small churches are fantastic places for children to feel valued and important. Parents may be drawn to the opportunities large churches provide serving our children, but small churches are pretty special for the opportunities they bring even our young children to serve others. It’s not that children can’t serve in big churches; they can and they should! However, they’re not exactly needed in large churches like they can be in a small church. Children know the difference when they are truly a part.
Let’s take a look at a few ways we can welcome children to serve, no matter what the size of our church.
I am grateful for the godly man who is actually taking the time to teach two of our teens to run the sound system. Maybe that’s a small church perk. Obviously, not every church is able to accommodate a twelve year old, but in our church, he is faithful, listens to instructions from the head sound guy, and fills in when needed.
One church we were at had a children’s choir. I was pretty sad when one of my children didn’t want to sing in the children’s choir. When I asked why, I thought her reasoning was good (1 Corinthians 12 comes to mind). So I let her stop, and then we had a good talk about different ways she could minister and serve.
I do explain that being able to serve in the local church is the reason I want them to learn to play an instrument and be able to sing and read music. As they develop skill, they’ll be able to contribute more if there is a need.
I also want them to know that regardless of whether they are involved in the special music, their voices in church when we all sing together are a tremendous encouragement to those around them. It’s not dramatic, but it’s biblical.
Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:19
Contributing in prayer isn’t hard to do with children, but we show its value when we tell children how precious their service is. I explain to my children, “God doesn’t answer grown up prayers differently than kid prayers. When you pray for your pastor, when you pray for your friends, or when you join in the prayers for the church body, you are an essential part of our church.”
We may snicker when they offer their childish prayer requests in the middle of a prayer meeting, but why not pray for those things with them, and then give them some bigger things to pray for?
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16
Bringing food to a new mother or someone who has had some significant illness is a great way for church members to care for each other. I’ve been happy when I’ve volunteered and my children have wanted to help make a fun dessert or cut fruit for a fruit salad. You don’t even have to wait until there’s a meal sign-up. One friend of mine makes a meal for people in her church when their families come into town. There are plenty of reasons to bring a meal to someone who doesn’t need it, but would still find it a blessing.
Sometimes Sunday school classes have snacks for between services, or after church. When a signup sheet was passed around, one of my children asked to sign up. (It’s a little extra work for me, but since the child initiated the signing up, I’m going to do what I can to help them accomplish it.)
We can help share a tremendous amount of physical burdens. Once you start looking for ways to love, you might even be overwhelmed by all the good you can do!
Use hospitality one to another without grudging. I Peter 4:9
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35
It might be as simple as picking up church bulletins left behind, or putting Bibles or hymnals away. Our church has a great stick with a tennis ball at the end to erase marks left by shoes. You don’t have to beg children to use that tennis ball cleaner!
When churches have sign-up sheets for families to take turns with cleaning the church, that’s something that children can help with, too. Are we inviting them specifically?
The church leadership would do well to consider how children can be used to help for church workdays. It will take planning in advance. Our last workday, our children helped put together nursery equipment and helped paint.
Sure, the adults in the church could have done it faster, but our children are pretty happy that there is a place in the church that bears their mark. I am thankful that the adults in our church were gracious enough to allow and encourage the children to be a part.
[Side note: We wonder why children grow up to be disconnected from the rest of the church. In the elementary years when they want to help, we don’t include them in meaningful ways. We think we can afford to wait until they can actually contribute on an adult level. Perhaps if we did a better job deliberately allowing and encouraging children to join the adults in ministry, they’d not feel like the only place they have value is in their youth group. This is not a program. The investment of imperfect painting jobs or chores done may be worth it in the long view.]
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Then were there brought unto him [Jesus] little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. Matthew 19:13
Children do a much better job than adults at outreach sometimes, and truth be told, children sometimes make our job easier. However you or your church reach out to unsaved people in your community, consider including your children. Help them learn to share their testimony. I’ve discovered that sharing a testimony helps children grow more confident in what Christ has done for them.
Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people. Psalm 96:3
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. Acts 4:20
As I look over this list, what I am realizing is how important it is to make the connection between their actions and the value that God places on their service, no matter what they are doing. Children need to hear from us that their service is obedience to God and every bit as important as a grownup’s, and a blessing to the church community. There are as many ways to serve as there are personalities and opportunities. Care to share what children do to serve at your church?