16 June 2020

Dear Friends,

There’s no children’s program during church, so what am I meant to do with the kids during the service?!

I imagine that this is what many young families feel when the children’s program is ripped out from under them and suddenly Sundays go from at least being able to hear the sermon and have enough time to process it to finally shepherding everyone toward the couch only to have the children climbing all over you when they’re meant to be finishing breakfast, or sicking up on you, or pulling out the train set and loudly “Choo, chooing”.

Over the past few weeks of college, I’ve been reading up on the history of family and children’s ministry and how much it has changed over time. It is no surprise that whole families used to worship together on a Sunday and gather around the word daily in their homes. During these times, industry was primarily conducted from home so this format made sense. However, the Industrial Revolution changed this forever. More often than not the primary worker (usually the father) would now travel away from the home to work in a factory, and the spouse became the homemaker and primary caregiver to the children. The family was divided. Sunday schools provided a place for children to learn moral instruction.

But it wasn’t until much later that professionals started to emerge with the sole focus of raising children and youth in the instruction of the Lord. Their passion was to provide developmentally appropriate teaching for children and youth, and so programs like our Kid’s Church begun. Whilst learning this at college (all trainee children’s and youth ministers), we critically reflected on how history had shaped practice. Was this the ideal for church to have multiple, age-segregated ministries, or should we bring people together instead?

The reality is it’s both. The Bible is clear about the importance of parents (primarily) and then faith communities raising up the next generation so developmentally appropriate teaching is extremely helpful from both. That’s why we aim to partner with parents, instead of functioning as a separate ‘mini church’. As children’s leaders, we love to hear stories of how the kids are going, what conversations you have with them during the week, what’s on their hearts when they cry out to God in prayer. Recognising that you know your child best, we can help to provide ways to approach these conversations in developmentally appropriate ways as well as provide a space for deeper discussion of these topics on Sundays. The more overlap there is between home, school and church, the deeper the learning.

What this pandemic has taught me more than anything else is that nothing can replace the instruction and example of a parent to their child. Not having Christian parents myself, I truly see what a precious thing it is to be able to share your life in this way. I feel extremely privileged to support you in this by supplementing your teaching. I am so very keen to get back to face to face ministry sooner rather than later but as restrictions slowly unwind, we will be hastening slowly.

Warmly in Christ,

Meaghan Gates
Children’s Ministry Trainee