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Kids, Missional Community and Demonstrating the Gospel

Perhaps the single most frequently asked question I receive with respect to missional communities is “what do we do with our children?”.  For this next series, I’m going to focus on answering that question from multiple different angles:


Kids and Demonstrating the Gospel

In the first post of the series, I talked about why you should involve your children, primarily from applied theology.  The rest of the posts will focus on the philosophy and practice of involving children.  Before diving into this next post, I’d highly recommend you read the Demonstrating the Kingdom post for context.

For families with young children, the idea of “serving” as a group usually strikes fear into their hearts.  The thought of my four year old running through the aisles of a food bank and pulling things off the shelves, or of my two year old princess helping clean up in a really rough neighborhood tend to cause anxiety in me.  If you compound that by 6 or 7 other families, you can pretty much guarantee that serving the least of these will happen rarely if at all.

Who Is My Neighbor?

When it comes to demonstrating the kingdom as a community, I think it’s important to consider first and foremost the question “who is my neighbor?”  When a group begins to process through serving together, it often centers around a cause or people you don’t know, and is based on what works for the entire community.  We certainly have a mandate to minister to the least of these as believers, and I no way do I want to undervalue that, but often we miss opportunities right in front of us. The question “who is my neighbor?” I think is answered best by someone who is right in your path and that you have the resources to help.

For our missional community, the school my kids attend is a Title 1 school, which means that 60% of kids are on free or reduced lunch.  While it might be easier to serve with The For the City Network because they have opportunities that a ready to go, there are people that I have both the proximity and the resources to help right in my backyard.

Demonstrating the kingdom doesn’t mean just serving the least of these though, it means serving all your neighbors.  The two primary ways I serve my community are though organizational involvement (PTA and Soccer!), and then through practically serving neighbors by babysitting and meeting other needs (like catching neighborhood rats!).

The first step to involving kids in this kind of ministry is to think first on the question of opportunities that exist in your everyday life rather than what organizations you can participate with.  This kind of thinking will certainly lower the barriers to engagement.

How Can I Involve Kids?

After understanding who your neighbor is, you gain clarity on how you can engage in demonstrating the kingdom.  The next question to wrestle with as a community is “how can we involve our kids?”  Here are a few ways that we have done it:

  • Group babysit other peoples’ kids – it’s crazy, but it gives children and adults the opportunity to interact.  Try to put some creative thought into it rather than just putting on a movie!
  • Have you kids help in fundraising for causes you support – they’re cute, and they learn to advocate and be generous!  We had some friends who helped fundraise for a Compassion child, and others who fundraised for a global mission trip.
  • Recognize you don’t need to take all the kids along.  I love opportunities to do things with as a father and son, and most dads would love for the opportunity to go along with their kids to an activity!

How Can I Involve My Community?

After we’ve done the homework above, now we can start processing through bringing others along.  The critical piece to remember in this is that you don’t need every single person to always participate in a Third Place!  As you experiment with these kinds of activities, makes sure that you’re intentionally inviting others in your community to join, and on the back side telling stories of how worked (or didn’t work!).

The most effective missionaries often aren’t the ones who are the best communicators…they are the ones who invite the most people to join in!

What has been helpful to you as you consider ways to involve kids in mission?

By Todd Engstrom

Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth.

God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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