In their book Small Matters, Greg Nettle and Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado make the point that “Kids don’t have a miniature-sized Holy Spirit. They have THE Holy Spirit.”
The message: Don’t underestimate your children!
We are desperately aware that many children of the world suffer from poverty. However, it may surprise you that poverty is not a respecter of socio-economic status. While some children lack basic resources such as food, money and shelter; others (who have a relative wealth of material resources) lack empathy, compassion and love. Wherever we fall on the economic spectrum, we all have a responsibility to impart the greatest commandment: Love God first and love your neighbour as yourself.
For some reason, there is a reticence to carry out the second half of that commandment in a thoughtful and consistent manner. Churches (who see children once, or maybe twice a week) are expected to disciple children with additional help from parents. Truly, it should be the other way around: Families disciple and churches help. Churches should stand at the ready to equip and support parents in as they endeavour to impart a lifestyle of love and service to others.
Our view of children’s ministry needs to change from that of a support for the adult worship (Give ‘em something to do and keep ‘em quiet!)
to a full on discipleship programme where faith formation
(looking after the health and growth of children’s spiritual lives) is at the centre.
We need to aim for less age-segregation and more integration.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time for age-appropriate learning and activities. But don’t underestimate what can happen when children participate with their elders (role models) in church sacraments and traditions. If you think they’re too young to understand the way in which things are presented, make it accessible to them. Children of all ages learn best through participation.
Children need to see themselves as possessing the ability to GIVE as well as receive. Put them in charge of something and serve beside them. Let them make mistakes and help them grow. Don’t forget to tell them “You have so much to offer.”
And remember: Children don’t have a mini Holy Spirit; they have THE Holy Spirit and can do all things through Christ who strengthens them!
Kaila Pettigrove is the part-time Kids Friendly Coach based in Auckland.
Be sure to check out our new "Just Kids" section of the Kids Friendly Website for ideas on teaching children to live a life of social justice.