“A Safe Zone for Our Lovely Kids”
“13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).
Since I was appointed at Upper St. Croix Parish United Methodist Church, I was impressed with church buildings, long histories of each church, passionate interest in ministry, compassion for the mission, and authentic love to God’s ministry. Our parish might be a great model for the church of God. However, I felt that there is a lack of something for the next generation.
For the first two months, I encouraged the congregation to bring children and grandchildren to the church for the future. One day, after service, one member came to my office, and then she talked to me, “I know we have to bring our kids, but I don’t know how to bring our kids.” I smiled at her and said to her, “tell your kids, ‘let us go to the church for having fun.’ Your goal is to bring them to the church. And then, our task is to make them have a fun time at the church. If they think of the church as a fun place, it is good enough. Teachers make them enjoy at the church. Just bring them to have fun.” She left my office without any comments at that time.
A few days later, our parish hired a youth director and began the GoFish program by her. The GoFish program is a Wednesday program of 1st grade to 6th grade. They learn to praise God, Bible lessons, and craft, and play games through the program. The goal of the GoFish program is to guide kids to learn about God through fun times and make them the disciples of Jesus Christ smoothly. The member, who has come to my office, brought her grandchild for the GoFish program every time whenever we have, except only one time she missed to carry her grandchild due to flue.
Whenever we have GoFish program, I looked over how much they enjoy, and how often they laugh at loudly, instead of what they do. Our parish youth director leads them well. They run here and there at the church and play a game of hiding and finding during break time. Looking at them, I give thanks to God for our church has a free space for our lovely kids. Furthermore, I think if our church is a safe zone for them.
Therefore, we made “safe sanctuary policies,” receiving support from the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church. Youth director Shayna Schmid and I have discussed with a recommendation of the Wisconsin Conference and adjusted the policies to fix to our parish. The safe sanctuary policies have approved by each church’s administrative council committee and Staff/Parish Related Committee (SPRC) and emailed them out to all congregation and announced to congregation in Sunday Service as well. We are on processing to receive agreements and signature to make a safe zone for our lovely kids from parents of the kids and congregation.
We experience dynamic and vitalizing in the church through our kids. One day, Youth group leads the Wednesday service, and adults support them through fundraising spaghetti dinner and prayers. Youth group are growing in faith through the confirmation class and activities. We have a dream for the church, in which all generations would be together.
We should bring children to the church so that the church is blessed, and they also are blessed by God. In the Gospel of Mark, people would bring their children to the Lord Jesus Christ so that the Lord’s touch might bless them. However, the disciples did not like children to come to the Lord because they thought that children bother the Lord for his mission. So, the disciples rebuked the people who brought their children to the Lord. When Jesus saw them, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them,” because the kin(g)dom of God belongs to them. In other words, no children mean that there would not be the kin(g)dom of God.
Today, some people may think like the disciples of Jesus that children cannot help the church. Instead, it just costs a lot for children’s ministry. However, do not forget that children are the church’s future. Without children, our church does not have a future. The mission for children is the most important in the church. If we cannot have children in the church, the church may be disappeared by the children who grew up without knowing the church.
Now, it is time to bring our lovely kids to the church, where is the safe zone in our Lord Jesus Christ. Let them blessed by our
Lord Jesus Christ and learn Jesus’ love through us in the safe zone.