At Kentwood, they are super-intentional about inviting kids to serve in almost all places of ministry, and then see them grow. Instead of asking, "Where can a kid serve?" they begin with a different question: "Where can't a kid serve?" What they have found is that the list of places where kids cannot serve is a very short list. They have children serving in most areas of ministry throughout the church.
One example is nine-year-old James. He is in high demand as a “Real Kidz” helper in preschool ministry. According to Harrison, “Everyone loves to have James serve in their room and the preschoolers love him. It may seem that he is doing simple things. He reads stories, plays with the children, sings and dances with them during worship time, hands out snacks, and helps them with their crafts. But James’ love for others seems to grow every week. He always shows up with a servant’s heart willing to do whatever it takes to help each child have a wonderful experience. Even at nine years old, James understands that he is helping create an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak to each child. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is growing in him rapidly.”
The list of places where kids cannot serve is a very short list.
“James and other young workers don’t just attend our church, they are actually helping create our church,” Harrison continued. “We hold our young volunteers to the same standards as our adults. Seriously, some of our best examples of volunteer ministry are children! Some of our kids are helping teach our adults how to serve with a commitment that challenges everyone to deeper levels of discipleship. Adults are blessed and inspired when they see these kids hungry for more of Jesus and with the desire to help others know Jesus’ love.”
Another special young person at Kentwood is ten-year-old Eliana. Eliana has a passion for Guatemala. She has been doing research on the culture and people, and has decided that she wants to go to Guatemala and help babies in orphanages. She is raising money and prays every day for them.
Serving is one of the most important aspects of a growing disciple.
“Whenever you talk to Eliana, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by her love for the people in this region of the world," said Harrison. "She understands that God calls us to serve not only here at home, but to the whole world.” The church is encouraging that calling and helping Eliana raise the last bit of money she needs so she can be sent as a young missionary to Guatemala.
How intentionally are you giving kids opportunities to discover their God-given gifts and grow in discipleship? Is your church unleashing its full kingdom force? Here are a few starting points to consider, based partly on Kentwood’s experience:
Make a list of the places in your church a kid truly “can’t” serve. That list will be much shorter than you think. Begin to plug kids in wherever they can serve. Be sure that you are thinking about far more than just making copies or setting up chairs. Look for key places where you can give real responsibilities, not just tasks. And then as they launch, come alongside them enough to make sure they have some successes in the early stages.
“There is no junior Holy Spirit!” said Bill Johnson of Bethel Church. Far too often we hear excuses why kids are “not ready” to serve. What if we actually believed that the same Holy Spirit who empowers adults to serve will also empower our kids? What is holding us back from unleashing kids to serve? If you struggle with this, reflect and pray about it and have a conversation with a kids' pastor.
Thousands of serving kids are growing in their love for God and others and also finding their places in the church. They know they belong and that it is their church too. Say goodbye to the days that we only do ministry for kids. Instead, move to doing ministry with kids. Kids who are serving inspire their peers and adults to a deeper walk with God. It’s time to unleash the fullness of God’s kingdom and that includes our children!