For the past few weeks I’ve been considering our options at my church Restoration House as we make plans to reorganize and rebuild our youth ministry. During my 35 years I’ve been to quite a few different churches and spent many years away from the faith, which is a story for another time. I started thinking back to my early years and my first memories of church.
I was 9 years old as you can see in that adorable picture above. A few months earlier my parents had separated and my Mom and her new boyfriend packed up me and my brother and moved us to Missouri. One day at the laundromat a couple with a bunch of kids of various ages started talking to my Mom about their local church the next town over. That Sunday morning I was packed up and sold to the gypsies…well not exactly. The family from the laundromat had shown up to pick me up to go to church with them. I wasn’t sure why it was just me going, but my brother and Mom stayed home.
I don’t remember everything, but here’s what I do remember. The pastor was an older man with dark hair and glasses and his preaching was of the hell fire and brimstone variety. The kids were sent down to the basement of the church with the old ladies where we learned about Noah and sang Jesus loves me. For the most part I don’t remember much interaction between the adults and the kids during the regular church hours. The family that I attended with would bring me back to their house after service for lunch and Uno. The last memory I have of that particular church was Pastor Anger Issues yelling directly in my face about a bunch of things I didn’t understand. I’m sure he was preaching the gospel as a man of God but there was a huge disconnection. At this point I told my Mom I didn’t want to go back. It would be almost 5 years before I would go to church again.
Looking back at this and being older I now understand you are going to reach different people in different ways, especially kids and adults, but I still believe their should be a connection. The adults not just the parents should be interested in and involved in what the kids are doing in church. As an adult before I even took over as interim youth director I always did my best to take interest not just in my kids but the other kids in the church also. I noticed that Pastor Steve spoke to the kids on their level and could relate a message to a kid and their parent but in different ways where both understood the message.
Something we started doing and continue to do is have the kids work alongside the adults setting things up and putting things away, working side by side on various project with the kids doing appropriate tasks for their age level. One thing I did learn from that family from the laundromat though was that no matter how much I had no clue at the time what was going on at the church, the time I spent with them after service I could see how much they loved each other and Jesus. They took me under their wing like I was just another one of their kids.
It’s something I’ve tried to do as an adult since coming back to the faith. Letting people know they are part of a bigger church family, but also just trying to show my love for Jesus so that not only my kids see it, but everyone adult or child that steps into the church or I bump into elsewhere sees it.