1. "You never know what segment of their story God is inviting you to help write." ~Larry Acosta
You're more than just a Sunday School teacher, nursery worker, children's church leader, etc. Whether you work with children in our church (or yours) weekly, during VBS, or show up on the rotations from time to time, what you do for kids matters greatly. From babies in diapers to preteens trying to navigate a new social world, every child has a story and having the chance to pour into them is a tremendous privilege. We were reminded by KIDWORKS co-founder Larry Acosta that every child has a story. Sometimes you know glimpses of that story and sometimes you'd be stunned to know what the kids in your church see and hear when they leave your class. I certainly didn't have the worst childhood ever, but there was plenty of dysfunction. I've said it a thousand times before and I'll never stop saying it: church was a refuge for me. It was never just a place to go. My home church is the reason I am who I am. There were people there who invested in me and it saved me in so many ways.
“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. ~Ezekiel 22:30
If God has placed a child in your life, you can stand in the gap. The concept of standing in the gap is becoming a sacred echo for me. We've got to be intentional with our relationships with these kids God has entrusted to us. As Larry pointed out, we've got to "speak life and vision and hope into kids' lives."
2. The D6 Movement-Now is the time!
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." ~Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Being a good Baptist girl, I was completely unaware that this passage is known as the Shema. I'm just learning the significance of this passage in Jewish homes now and in the past, but I've become increasingly compelled by it and its commands over the last few years. It's something very dear to James and me as parents. We've been actively involved in ministry for 10+ years now and we've both seen something crucial that seems to be missing from children's and youth ministry. As children's and youth workers, we can pour into kids and give all we've got, but no one can make the difference parents make.
According to The Barna Group, a person's spiritual foundation will be in place before he or she turns 13 years-old. We've got to do more for our kids than have them in church for two or three hours a week. We've got to be intentional and we've got to take charge of our own kids; it's up to us to shape their worldview before someone or something else does. We've got to talk about God and his love for us. With love, we've got to talk openly about discipline too. We've got to talk to our kids about why we're different from the world. Church isn't enough. We've got to talk about God when we wake, as we're going to sleep, when we're in the car, when we're doing all the things we do each day.
We've been believers of this mindset for years now, but it was good to have that affirmation during the conference. Where does that leave those of us working with kids though? That leaves us with the job of loving on these kids when they're with us and equipping the parents to take the wheel for the rest of the time. It's more than just giving parents devotion ideas to use as a family; it's equipping parents to talk to their kids about the hard stuff from a biblical perspective. It's giving parents the confidence to talk about things their parents didn't talk to them about: sex, pornography, drugs, alcohol, and the other hard things that come up.
One of the workshops I attended was about dealing with hot topics. Our instructor Steve Alley, a ministry professor and children's pastor in California, pointed out how important it is to be the first voice our kids hear. The topics listed above are just a short list of taboo words in church. By keeping them taboo in church, we've not given parents the tools they need to fight society's cries for serving self and living in the moment regardless of consequences. In a world so saturated with media, our kids are bombarded with constant messages about hot topics that completely contradict God's Word. When the world talks first, our message of dying to self and serving God instead ourselves gets labeled as hate. Stopping that label requires attention and intention. This requires us standing next to parents and doing all we can to help them lead their families.
I could write about this stuff all day, but there's just not enough time. Prissy's nap has been over for a good 30 minutes now; blog time is coming to a close for today. We talked, we listened, we praised, and we prayed and we're so incredibly grateful for our time at KidMin 13. Can't wait to do it again!