(Last in a series of 10 posts on reaching out to city kids.)
I think many urban churches need to cross cultures and classes and ages. I’ve visited a lot of mainline churches in urban areas struggling with aging, declining membership. Often they are predominantly white and middle or upper class. Often they are in neighborhoods where many people are not white and may be poor. The challenge to these churches is to become parish churches for the people who live right around them, and it may be as challenging as going with a mission organization to another continent. So be it. God has put us here for such a time as this.
Most people who become Christians do so when they’re children or teenagers. So kid-focused ministry makes sense. It’s a joy to witness the group that shows up for youth group at our church on Sunday nights. This is our first group that has integrated black and white, rich and poor, for a sustained period of time. These kids are playing games, talking and praying together. Those who have committed to following Christ work together as interns in our summer programs. I would not have been able to imagine this even ten years ago.
There is so much transforming power in Christian community. Even a struggling little church full of people over 60 can change the future for the kids in their neighborhood.
Here are ten ways to start, linked to articles that explain more (click on the orange letters to go to the articles):
- Go where the need is. In a post Christian culture we can’t just do things inside our church walls and expect people to come. We need to take our ministries out into the schools, libraries, preschools, community centers, day cares and playgrounds.
- Don’t be afraid of differences. Connect with minorities. Wade into poverty. Welcome people who dress funny. Do not fear other languages, multiple piercings, bizarre tattoos, kids who come only for the food, or anyone who does not yet believe in Jesus.
- Consider tutoring at a struggling school. In after-school programs, it’s legal to use the Bible as a text.
- Consider throwing a free party for the neighborhood, outside in the summer time. Include free food and water, and think of ways for people to meet, have fun, get into conversations, and draw closer to God.
- Consider becoming a foster parent, or providing help to other foster parents.
- Consider helping a single mom in your community to raise her family. One older man in our congregation did this, and his love transformed an extended family.
- Consider hosting a preschool or day care at your church.
- Find ways for artistic members to pass on their gifts to children, with free or reduced cost lessons, classes, mentoring relationships, or by leading dance teams, drama groups, bands, or teams of visual and production artists.
- Find ways for athletic members to pass on their gifts, by starting teams, coaching existing teams, sponsoring teams or passing on skills in free or reduced cost lessons.
- Provide church camp for children of the neighborhood as well children within the church, and sponsor the kids who can’t afford it. If you don’t have camp, partner with a camping ministry to send a few kids there.
There is a big harvest of children longing for love and truth, in every city. Sometimes people doubt whether they are qualified, or ‘fun’ enough to work with kids. I say, if you can pass a criminal background check and you’ve got a pulse, find at least one kid to help.