How can your church become a childâ€™s favorite place to go?
A few months ago I conducted a water baptism interview in my office with a 10-year-old girl. We talked about all the reasons that Christians should be baptized, and I walked her through how and why we immerse kids and adults into the â€śbig bath tubâ€ť and what it means.
The interview continued, and then she asked if she could share something with me. While in chapel at school a few days earlier, she said, a teacher asked the students where their favorite place was to go. One of the kids in the front of the room raised his hand and exclaimed, â€śChurch!â€ť Enthusiastically, the little girl in my office added, â€śChurch is my favorite place too!â€ť
When I was her age, church was probably the second-to-last place I wanted to goâ€”the last being Antarctica. To me, church was long, boring, irrelevant and hot! So, as a childrenâ€™s pastor, to hear one of Godâ€™s beloved children say His house is her favorite place was very exciting and encouraging!
How does church become a childâ€™s favorite place? How does going to Godâ€™s house become the highlight of a kidâ€™s week?
In my opinion, it can be described by a philosophy I read about years ago that I call the â€śMcDonaldâ€™s Approach.â€ť
Growing up, I loved going to McDonaldâ€™s. I loved the play area, the Happy Meals and the Happy Meal toy. In other words, I wanted the â€śMickey Dâ€™sâ€ť experience because I knew it would be fun (the play area), I would get fed (the Happy Meal) and I would leave with something (the toy).
Shouldnâ€™t church be the same way? Shouldnâ€™t kids love to come to church because they know theyâ€™ll have fun, theyâ€™ll be fed the Word of God and theyâ€™ll leave with something deposited in their hearts? I sure think so.
The amazing thing is that when kids are having fun, being fed and growing in God, they want to come to church. They want to do things for His kingdom.
In the last two years, weâ€™ve challenged our kids to reach out to others through prayer and by giving. Weâ€™ve encouraged them to raise money for a new church building, an orphanage in Africa and a water well in India.
Their response? Tons of prayer and more than $35,000. Thatâ€™s remarkable! And it makes me happy to be able to see God working in these kidsâ€™ lives. Itâ€™s really great to be a part of making the very place I disliked as a kid the very favorite place among so many of Godâ€™s little children.
Jelani Lewis the associate pastor of Mix 56, the ministry for 5th and 6th graders at Gateway Church in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. He has worked for a faith-based nonprofit, teaching character education; coached high school and college football; and directed a youth prison ministry.