Bayside Community Church places a high value on kids – it’s part of our DNA. One of our core values is –“Transforming the next generation, championing ministries to children, youth and families. We see disciples raised up from every generation and family heritages transformed for good”.
So as you can imagine, we take seriously ministry to children. But it’s not just our kids program that is important; it’s the way we be a church together.
Some things we’ve tried to live out this core value are:
Giving kids a chance to make a difference. Kids have raised money for bibles in China, goats in Nepal and soccer balls in Uganda. They have helped make meals for people who need a hand. Even the pre-schoolers whose parents are on our mainly music team get a mainly music t-shirt and help with set up and pack up.
We are all together for at least part of the service every week. In that shared time we sing, pray, share communion and communicate vision. Kids learn to be a part of it, we learn to lead in a way that is inclusive, and parents learn to help their children participate.
During school holidays we have activity pages to help the primary aged kids engage with the sermon topic. These include information on ways of taking notes about the message. Keeping them occupied is not our goal, engaging them is.
Kids get involved in making gatherings happen. Occasionally the primary aged kids take over the whole service. With some guidance they take responsibility for everything. We roster the kids to take a turn to organise and serve morning tea, including the washing up! Kids are involved in the worship teams. Many kids are learning a musical instrument and are very good at it. We encourage them to join a band and be mentored in their gifting. Recently we’ve also started a kid’s worship team, playing once a term (giving them plenty of time to prepare and practice).
Occasionally we have gatherings that are for all ages with no separate programs for kids and adults. We usually have a variety of options available to worship and learn from God. The instructions include ideas for parents to talk about with their kids.
Transition to youth group. We find a youth leader willing to get involved with the kids’ team a few times a term to start to get to know the kids before they move to youth.
Youth leaders take the 11 year olds out for lunch in term 4 and just hang out and chat. The kids get an invite to visit youth group and the Sunday youth time too. And we try to keep their parents informed about how everything works.
These are some of the things we have tried, but it’s the why that is more important.
We have come to realise that one of the biggest influencers helping kids grow into God-worshipping, serving, kingdom-advancing adults is the understanding that is possible to be this as a child.
Secondly kids need parents who make the gathered community and the mission of their church to the local community a priority. If our actions as parents say that we only gather with our faith community whenever there isn’t something else on you can bet that our kids are less likely to make faith, let alone the faith community, a priority when they are adults.
As a church we can speak about the latter, but it is the first area where churches have the biggest part to play.
Each child will make their own choice as they become adults and articulate their worldview. Not all children who have been part of Bayside and who are now adults have chosen a worldview that currently includes an authentic, active faith in Jesus. However, we hope and pray that what we model as a church strongly encourages them along that path and that we don’t do anything that hinders children from coming to Jesus.