“Children are not the church of the future. They are the church of today.” A ministry leader at a summer conference made this comment. How tempting it can be to view children in the church as add-ons to the “real” work of the church! That inclination is not new. Jesus’s disciples tried to prevent young ones from distracting him, thinking that he had more important things to do. Yet Jesus stopped and encouraged the children to get close because they, too, belong to God’s Kingdom (Matthew 19:14).
Healthy, growing church plants treat youth as indispensable parts of the body, training them to serve alongside adults as part of the mission and discipling younger children in their growth into Christlikeness. Many Orchard Group churches who invest in children throughout the year also see a special opportunity to engage children and their families in the summer months.
EPIPHANY CHURCH in New York City hosted a week-long Bible camp in July. Word of mouth is the primary method of promotion in their neighborhood in Brooklyn. So Epiphany members spent time walking the streets talking to families, engaging with people outside of the church location, and visiting local parks and play areas to invite neighbors to the event. Staff leader Gabe Katz shared, “Epiphany Church does a lot of fun things in the community. This week, we wanted the Bible to be foremost with youth.” A significant portion of Epiphany’s summer camp was spent in small group Bible introduction and sharing Jesus’s story.
One of the young women who came to Epiphany's camp had been rescued from sex trafficking. Throughout the week, camp leaders were able to see her open up and enjoy herself. "In this neighborhood, there are needs we can't even imagine," shared Gabe. "While the future of the young woman’s story is still unknown, Epiphany has played a part in pointing her towards the love of God through Jesus. Even if none of these kids or parents come to church the next week, we see the Bible camp week as planting seeds. If this is a positive experience for the youth, it points them to the gospel. We know people in the neighborhood have an eye on our church."
THRIVE CHURCH in Orlando (Lake Nona area) also held a week-long Kid’s Kamp. Their mission was to reach children outside of the current church circle. Thrive leader Leigh Ann Lutrell stated, "One of the biggest challenges in Lake Nona is that everything is new development. We don't have typical community spaces like libraries, parks, community centers, or physical church buildings. By partnering with the community, we were able to have a beautiful indoor & outdoor space (for free!) and they were key in helping promote the Kamp."
The outreach had an exciting result as 23 new families were reached throughout the week!
Being good neighbors to Baltimore is an essential part of FOUNDRY CHURCH'S identity. Foundry wants to be a church in the city and for the city. As a result, they want to give children the same opportunity adults are given to serve the city in the name of Jesus. This summer, Foundry youth partnered with CUPs coffeehouse, raising funds for job training for at-risk youth. City kids also had fun getting their hands dirty in a local garden. (Hot item: the mulch machine). Being in the community allowed the camp leaders to invest in relationships outside the church to build bridges between the church and the city.
PARTNERS ARE KEY
Both Epiphany and Thrive credit volunteers from partnering churches with helping run a well-organized week! Partnering churches like Southeast Christian Church and The Crossing give financially, pray regularly, and give generously of their time. A big thanks to those churches, and all of you, who make church planting, and reaching youth and children with the gospel, possible!