Matthew 19:13-15 (NLT)
One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.
Children matter to Jesus. Because they matter to him, we as his church (his body) have a vested interest in serving and caring for children of all ages, with the hope that we are leading each child to know Jesus as their leader and forgiver.
- As much as children matter in our church, we are limited in how we can lead them to Jesus. Consider this, there are 8,760 hours is a year. The average child of New Vida attends church for 2-4 hours a week, 2-3 weeks a month. That means that we see them between 8 and 12 hours during the month. If things go really well, we are engaging the most active children of the church through our programs and efforts around 144 hours a year. That may seem like a lot, but compare it to the number of hours a school engages with a child:
- 180 days of school for 8 hours a day = 1,440 hours
- Extra curricular activities = 100-500 hours
- Now compare the hours we spend with a child compared to the number of hours a parent is potentially spending with a child of New Vida.
- 2 hours a day, five days a week, driving = 520 hours in the car
- 2 hours an evening after school = 360 hours
- 10 hours on Saturday = 520 hours
- 10 hours on Sunday = 520 hours
- Summer hours = 600 hours
- Total hours a parent could be spending with a child = 2,520 a year
- Sure there are things that come up and change these numbers for each family and child, but I think it paints a clear picture: PARENTS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP IF THE LIFE OF A CHILD.
When it comes to leading children to knowing Jesus as their leader and forgiver, the church supports the work of the family. After all, it is the family that brings the child to school. It is the family that encourages the child to read a Bible at home. It is a family that models praying on a regular basis. It is in a family that a child experiences unconditional love. The family is the key building block God uses in the development of a child.
As a church we want to support families in leading the children to knowing and experiencing Jesus. Moses instructed the Hebrew parents on how to point their children to God.
Deutoeronomy 6 (NLT)
“These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the LORD your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
“The LORD your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the LORD, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. You must fear the LORD your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.
“You must not worship any of the gods of neighboring nations, for the LORD your God, who lives among you, is a jealous God. His anger will flare up against you, and he will wipe you from the face of the earth. You must not test the LORD your God as you did when you complained at Massah. You must diligently obey the commands of the LORD your God—all the laws and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so all will go well with you. Then you will enter and occupy the good land that the LORD swore to give your ancestors. You will drive out all the enemies living in the land, just as the LORD said you would.
“In the future your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the LORD our God has commanded us to obey?’
“Then you must tell them, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand. The LORD did miraculous signs and wonders before our eyes, dealing terrifying blows against Egypt and Pharaoh and all his people. He brought us out of Egypt so he could give us this land he had sworn to give our ancestors. And the LORD our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day. For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the LORD our God has given us.’”
Discipleship starts at home!
As a church, our programs are designed to support the discipleship occurring in the home. We understand at our core these things:
- Many parents (adults) don’t know about their own faith & need training and opportunities to grow in faith.
- What parents (adults) need is often similar to, but different than what kids needs
- Kids will grow up to be adults (parents)
So with these things in mind, we offer classes and opportunities for all ages. But we don’t offer everything all the time.
- We offer classes for teens and children each Wednesday night during the school year at 7pm. These classes are designed to help the children hear the teaching of the Bible in an age appropriate way. While the kids are in classes, the parents have an opportunity to connect with other adults as they study the Bible and discuss things of faith.
- Sunday School is another time where we offer something for children, teens, and adults according to age. Our English classes begin at 9:30a and the Spanish Classes at 10:00a.
- During the Praise & Worship on Sundays we have an approach that seeks to engage the children in worship and preaching, but also allows them time to learn on their own.
- On the first and third Sundays of a month, Children ages 4-6 participate in the music, testimony, and offering of our worship gatherings and are then released to Cuddle Caboose to explore what it means to follow Jesus as their leader and forgiver.
- On the second and fourth Sundays, all children under 6th grade are invited to participate in Harmony Express after the time of praise and offering.
- On months with five Sundays, we allow our Cuddle Caboose and Harmony Express workers to have the day off.
- Some of the questions about this might be:
- Why bother with creating this level of programming?
- We believe children and adults need time together and time apart in their faith journey.
- Why not offer the full programming every week?
- We feel that segregating the children all the time makes it difficult for the child to feel a part of the whole church as they grow older
- We don’t have enough workers for full programming each week
- Why do we put all the elementary age kids together?
- We think there is value in a multi-age group
- We also don’t have enough students consistently participating in one age group or another to focus exclusively on that group.
- We offer Sunday School classes that are divided by developmental abilities
- Why do we not offer more for teenagers during the Praise & Worship Time?
- We believe that teens are exposed to adult issues through the media and should hear adult preaching.
- Teens also can choose to serve in some of our other ministries.
- We deal with teen issues during Sunday School & Wednesday night.
- Why does Harmony Express and Cuddle Caboose not start at the beginning of the worship gathering?
- We believe children like music
- We believe children need to see adults (their parents) worship
- We believe children add to a worship gathering
- Why bother with creating this level of programming?
Parenting is not easy. Our role as the church is to support you in your parenting, not parent for you.
The Apostle John wrote:
3 John 1:13-15 (NLT)
I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face. Peace be with you.