I live in a large, interconnected neighborhood. In order to save money on school bus service, schools tend to be plopped down right in the middle or our community. At the end of the day bell, the streets are flooded with kids. First elementary school, then half an hour later the middle-schoolers.
Tons of kids, even more families, just waiting for us–the church.
That’s all I saw that day, a bunch of teenagers who needed Jesus. I wondered how many of them went to church. I wondered how many of these kids who went to church ever invited other kids. I thought of how Christians are pulling their kids out of schools, pulling Jesus out of schools, and I was saddened at the thought. (But that’s a post for another time.)
When I lived in Florida, one day I drove into our gated community at the same time the bus was dropping kids off. I counted them. Fifteen. There were 15 kids, and I knew their stories. I could have invited them to church, but they wouldn’t have come. Instead, I brought church to them. The first week I ordered pizza, twelve kids showed up to eat the free food and hear about Jesus. The next week we grew, and the next and the next. There were nights I had 40 kids piled on top of each other in my living room, just dying to hear, dying for community, dying for connection.
I find that kids, including teens are willing to take responsibility for their own faith apart from their parents. We need to find ways to connect with kids even if parents aren’t willing to come to church. In fact, we can change the entire trajectory of faith in Jesus in families through kids and their faith. It isn’t going to happen with a single event, or with flyers on doorknobs. People need real connection, real relationship and that takes time.
Here are some ways to minister to families through kids:
1. SCHOOL INVOLVEMENT: whether you are in PTA, or just show up to a class party, getting to know kids and begin building friendship with them is a great start.
2. OUTSIDE TIME: When you see a group of kids outside, or you have a park near your house, get off your couch and go play some basketball. One of the things I try and do as much as possible is walk to pick up my 4th grader. I talk to his classmates, give fist bumps and high fives. Sometimes I even end up with groups of kids around me as we walk and talk together. Not only am I getting to know them, most of these kids are going home alone and I can offer a sense of security for their walk home.
3. GAMES: Go to local highschool or middle school games and get to know kids names and start conversations with parents.
4. BLOCK PARTY: throw a block party with hot dogs and juice boxes in your front yard. Have a few games out or a football. It’s a great way to get to know the kids in your hood.
And I wish I didn’t have to say this, but have some boundaries when hanging out with kids. Don’t friend them on Facebook, or ever be alone with any of them. As you begin to build friendships, make sure other kids and adults are around as you spend time with them.
The reality is, not every child or family will come to church with just an invite, but we can always bring Jesus to them, through our kindness and acts of love, and showing them how much we care.
What are some ways you have or you can start building relationships with kids in your neighborhood? Comment and share your ideas.
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