Recently the PCC has been reflecting on our ministry with children at Holy Trinity and in the wider community. It can sometimes be a difficult question to consider, but there is so much in the scriptures which emphasise that this is absolutely vital.
He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:36,37
There is just such much happening in that moment. It contains a deep understanding that Jesus is trying to get across to the people who have gathered around him about where children fit into his kingdom. And he doesn’t do it once or twice. Time and time again, Jesus works through and with the children who always seemed to be around him.
To feed 5,000 men, he uses the gifts of a little boy. (John 6:5-13)
To demonstrate how to be great in God’s kingdom, he points to a child. (Mt. 1-4)
To explain how to enter the kingdom of God, he says we must be like a child. (Lk. 18:17)
Jesus reprimands the disciples for keeping the children from reaching him. (Mark 10:13-16)
He rejoices in the praises of children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt. 21:15-16)
He rebukes those who cause “the children who believe in him” to sin. (Mt. 18:6)
He declares in no uncertain terms, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 19:14)
He heals children; he holds children; he uses children; he includes children. And it seems that children really liked him too. They were never far from his presence. They were never too young to understand. Never too distracting to play a part.
If we are to take seriously this challenge of Jesus then it’s so important that we ensure we are taking care of his whole body, and that includes our children.
One of the priorities I highlighted at the APCM was a focus in the coming year of reflecting upon and reviewing our ministry with children. In particular we want to really build on the really wonderful things are already happening with the growing number of children who are coming to church. This is naturally going to be an ongoing process and conversation. However that will start in September with a couple of changes. First of all, the pattern of our current family service is going to change slightly. Rather than a monthly service it will instead be once every half term. Having fewer services over the year will mean that each one can become a more varied and creative service, reflecting biblical or seasonal themes. We also want to get children more directly involved in all elements of the service. Secondly, ‘Wise Owls’ is going to become ‘Sunday Club’ to make it easier for new families to understand what happens during the Sunday morning service.
There are still a number of significant conversations to have over the coming months and years. Is it time to look again at Messy Church? What about a youth group? Do we need to rethink our approach to children and communion? These are all important issues and it’s vital we spent time in prayer discerning where God is calling Holy Trinity to move. I’m also confident that God is calling a number of people from within the congregation to support our ministry with children and young people in a new way – could that be you?
However if we are to become what Jesus has called us to be, we cannot do so without all generations actively participating in a life of worship, service and devotion. For when looking at the children around him, Jesus declared “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”