Over time I have asked you all to think about the labels you wear or claim for yourselves: baker, choir member, sister, uncle, gardener, Elder, Republican, mother, church member or friend of KPC, musician, historian, Christian, follower of Jesus, Child of God, and missionary. There is one more I’d like you to consider ~ youth minister. Do you think of yourself as a youth minister?
It may be that you define “youth minsters” as someone paid to teach our youth about Jesus, or as the folks who run a youth group, or take youth on trips, or Confirmation sponsors, or our wonderful nursery staff or gifted Sunday school teachers. Get ready to put on a new hat or dust off an old hat because really everyone in the life of our church is a Youth Minister.
In Luke 18:16, we see Jesus call the children to himself and say, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
We in the church have the opportunity to bring the children to Jesus. In Sunday school, in Confirmation, in having a time in our worship, in praying for them each year remembering the promises we make at Baptism, in greeting our children, in learning their names, in asking them questions, in being patient as they find their place in the church, in celebrating their joy and their presence; we are bringing them to Jesus. When we welcome our children as ushers, in the garden, in the sound booth, as liturgists, playing special music, and leading worship, we are declaring they are not just the future church but they are the present church!
We are blessed to have children in our church. I’d love to see our youth ministry grow as we each step into the role of youth ministers. What could you do this next month to lean into this? What if you learned some of the names of our children? What if you made a point of asking them questions (What are you reading? What is your favorite sport and what do you love about it? Any fun summer plans? Favorite food? Do you have any pets? What makes you happy? What makes you sad?). How about helping them get snacks? What about thanking them for leading us in worship?
Children know when they are welcome. They know when they are safe. They know when they are with family. Children know when their gifts and hearts are valued contributions. Studies have shown that children who have a place in church life when they are younger are more likely to have a place in church life as adults. Following Jesus’ example let us welcome the children, bringing them to him as we live into the label of Youth Minister and get better at it all the time.
P.S. If you have ideas about how to make space or care for our children better I’d love to hear them.