One of the things we say often in Providence Kids is that the best discipleship of kids at Providence happens outside of our kids’ spaces and not inside of them. Simply put, your kids spend more time outside of the church building than inside of the church building. And even if you are meaningfully engaged in the church, then your kids will spend more time part of church functions outside of a classroom in Providence Kids then inside of it. This is why we believe that the discipleship of kids at Providence isn’t limited just to the kids ministry. We want to disciple kids within the entire context of the community of the church and not just within the classroom of the kids building.
The worship service, the events, the service projects, the lobby interactions, the dinner gatherings, and the playground meet-ups are all having a cumulative effect on discipling your kids. They are either telling your kids this is a family that we are part of or this is just an event that we attend. The church has traditionally spent a lot of time and energy talking about the church gathered and how to attend church. This is referencing all aspects of what happens in the church building: how to sit in the worship service, why you should be part of smaller group discipleship opportunities, how to serve as a family. We want to partner with parents by equipping them with how and why their kids should be part of big church.
But what is often underemphasized and neglected, especially when it comes to next generation discipleship, is the other side of what the church is. The church is both programs and people. It’s both information and formation. It’s both larger gatherings and smaller gatherings. We want to teach and model for our kids that the church is just as much a small group gathering in your living room as it is a big worship service. The church is both bigger and smaller than our kids often assume it is.
You have to make sure that your kids know that church is more than just what happens at the church building now so that they will practice those same things later on. This is why we parent with the end in mind. What do we do and teach now that will have both implications and implementation later on? How do we train, teach, and equip our kids to be part of the small church part of church as well as the big church part of church? How do we make sure our kids both see and hear that church is not just an event to attend, but also a people to belong to? What are some practical ways to make your kids experience spiritual formation and how can you capitalize on moments of discipleship within the small church moments of church community?
Let me suggest eleven:
- Seek to show hospitality and have people from the church in your home (Romans 12:13).
- Make sure your kids know and interact with the people in your life group.
- Make sure you are both in a life group and in a life group that engages with one another outside of Sunday mornings.
- Explain to your kids why you do the things you do: taking someone a meal, going early to hold a door open, leaving the house early one morning to meet for discipleship.
- Pray for people in the church and in your community by name. Demonstrate with and for your kids what it looks like to bear one another’s burdens.
- Do family worship and read, pray, and sing with other people when they are in your home.
- Ask your friends’ kids spiritual questions when you are around them. What did they learn about at church that week? What has Mom and Dad been teaching them at home? Hold your friends accountable to be the primary disciple-makers of their kids by the conversations you have with their kids!
- Take the personal initiative to get to know another family in your kids’ class that they have gotten to know. Seek to regularly get to know someone new.
- Teach your kids that these aren’t simply friends, but friends in the church. Don’t just practice community, but teach on community.
- Be intentional and consider how to make times with friend’s moments of formation and not just moments of fellowship (Hebrews 10:24).
- Be intentional to ensure that your community balances both quantity, regularly gathering and getting together with other people, and quality, cultivating depth in those relationships
So use some of these opportunities and built in rhythms in your weekly schedule and make disciples of your kids in the small church opportunities of life outside of Sunday morning gatherings at the church building by showing your kids what it looks like to love God and to love one another.