With independence on the horizon for NCC, we’ve been spending a lot of time as a Ministry Team thinking about our vision and direction for the future. If our church members are to be on board with our ideas, they need to know where we’re going. The leadership of the church has decided that one of the biggest priorities will be children’s and youth work.
Brent Foulke of www.churchplanting.com says: “children are the future of the church… If a person decides to follow Christ, it will most likely be a decision made before age 18.” [Read more…] This should remind us of the Teacher’s exhortation to:
“Remember your creator in the days of your youth” (Ecc 12:1).
Our society is changing – children are increasingly being forced to mature quicker. We need to recognise, particularly in estates like Niddrie, that by the time children reach high school, they’re already being exposed to things like crime, violence and sex (issues we would normally associate with older teenagers). Furthermore, from a surprisingly young age, children can be carrying the burden of looking after not only themselves (in the absence of appropriate parenting), but also siblings, and other family members too.
There is a real danger that by the time our children become ‘young people’ they’re already becoming more hardened to the church and to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, I wouldn’t want to make salvation into a formulaic system that depends upon man’s evangelistic efforts, (thereby doubting the Gospel’s power to bring even the hardest heart to salvation) but, if we’re wanting to be strategic and effective in the role that God calls us to fulfil, we should recognise the importance of getting involved in children’s lives early.
I know that many youth workers scoff at the idea of being a ‘children’s AND youth worker’, and would steer well clear of pursuing employment in a church advertising such a post. It is a very broad remit, too broad really. But, more and more, I’m coming to the realisation that I’m going to need to take more of an interest in these younger children’s lives.
I was interested during a recent church clean up to have a read through the old Niddrie Mill Primary School Scripture Union group register. As I scanned down the lists of names on the pages, it was striking how many young people we still have some degree of significant contact with today. Many we know through the schools work at Castlebrae High School, some come to the Youth Café, others have involvement in the Bike Project, while others are just significant ‘street contacts’.
If we want to have significant relationships with ‘young people’ in 10 years time, surely we need to be investing more time and effort in the ‘children’s work’ side of things now, even if that means wiping a snotty nose or 2.
I’m still convinced that doing all the children’s and youth work in a church is too much work for one person, that’s where the importance of a good team comes in. I’m fortunate to have Ellis (full time trainee youth worker) and a team of committed volunteers to help me in this work. Hopefully in the next little while, others will join our full-time staff with a burning enthusiasm and a passion for the younger children. But, in the meantime, I’m committed to overseeing and taking more of an interest in children.
It’s a big encouragement that the church is wanting to put such an emphasis on children’s and youth work as we move forward; often it’s the adults that are the focus of church planting because it’s the adults that bring in money. On the other hand, it’s also a daunting responsibility, so I’d appreciate your prayer as we put plans together for the future, to shore up the work in this critical area.