Philosophy of Children’s Ministry and their Spiritual Formation
We believe that children are created in the image of God, and that they are in that image from the womb. However, born into the world that is fallen because of the sin of Adam and Eve, the child is subject to sin, both from within and from without (Gen. 3 and Romans 5:1-12).
Therefore, the child is in need to be placed “into Christ” (Romans 6:3) in order to be united to Christ’s resurrection (Romans 6:4; John 3:3-7) so that they may be “trained in nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). If a child is to be brought up and trained in the ways of the Lord, the child must first be “in the Lord”. We believe a person is placed in the Lord at their baptism, by which they are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise and made a member of Christ’s church (Ephesians 1:13-23).
We believe the Book of Common prayer is faithful to this biblical testimony. Therefore, the Book of Common Prayer is wise and right in upholding the ancient custom of the church to make disciples of children by bringing them as infants to the waters of baptism. We believe that at infant baptism the parents are acting in faith to give their child to Christ; and Jesus is responding by baptizing the child with the Holy Spirit. At the child’s baptism, the child’s parents, sometimes godparents, and even the whole church, commit to teaching the child the ways of Christ and raising up the child in the fellowship of the church.
The parents have the primary responsibility to teach the child the Holy Scriptures, the Lord’s Commandments, the Lord’s prayer, the Creed, and all the important elements of our faith. However, the parents do not bear this responsibility alone, since we are all members one of another, and as a local church are meant to be like a family. Therefore, the parents and the church are to work together to help the child grow in the ways of the Lord and the Christian faith.
Because of this deep belief that children are part of the church and are not outsiders and aliens to Christ, we believe in involving our children with the worship and activities of the church as much as possible. For this reason, we have developed two Sunday schools, which span the child’s life from ages 2-11 and are meant to acquaint them with the Biblical narrative they have now become a part of, while also preparing them for Confirmation.
During our Holy Communion service, we desire to incorporate our children in the worship, for they are just as much worshiping as we are. We do not have a separate children’s church, and our goal is to have them out of the nursery by the age of 3, so that they can be full participants in everything the church is doing. If a child is having a hard time sitting still and obeying, we have a back room where the parent is welcomed to take the child until they are calm and ready to enter again the worship. But we expect some noise at times, and see it as a sign of a living and vibrant church, that is blessed with the care of God’s “little lambs.”
Not only do the children worship with us in our main service, but during that service, we have a Children’s Sermon that precedes the Adult Sermon. The purpose of this is to try to help the children understand a little of the teachings of the Readings and the focus of the season. Seasonal songs and plays and even projects are also done in order to connect them to the church season and the seasons of the year—all of this with the prayer and hope that we are helping to hand them down the faith through their own participation.
We believe that a child eventually is to make their own public profession when they are ready, and also along with the guidance of their parents and church family. Confirmation is the time set for this, and so there are many instructional and prayerful periods leading up to this, where the child should prepare to publicly affirm and accept the baptismal vows their parents made for them when they were too young to speak for themselves. The time leading up to Confirmation is a good time for the child to examine their faith, ask important questions, meet with his pastor, and be “initiated” into the ministry of the church at a more adult level. We have had some of our children in the past take part in our outreach ministry with St. Lazarus mission and other of our ministries, and we our hopeful to develop a strong teen group in the future that does ministry to the community.
All this is our way of attempting to be faithful to the important charge we believe the Almighty God has given to the Church to bring the little children to him, and to teach them all his ways. This community and familial teaching of the next generation of the ways of God is a fundamental plan of God in the education of children. For not only is this taught and affirmed in the New Testament, but we see this same emphasis and duty given to parents and Israel when God gave the law in the Old Testament. Therefore, we close with God’s words to Moses about how the duty of the people of faith is to surround the child and themselves with the ways and words of our God and King.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21: 18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”