At Pulse we have a dream, we would like to see every Uniting Church in the Synod prepared and ready, for any child, family, youth or young adult that comes into their church. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, your congregation can be ready and prepared for any young people that come into your church.
So you’ve got used to COVID plans, now we want to suggest that you might like to do an Emerging Gen plan for your congregation. How are you ready to support children and families who come to visit your church? Whether that’s for a baptism or they just happened to drop in because they’ve heard good things about the Uniting Church. If we are serious about growing young we all need to be ready for this.
So what if a family turns up to your church looking for a new congregation? Not every family is looking for a church that has anything and everything to do with children’s and family ministry. Sometimes people are just looking for a community to belong to. I had a beautiful friend that had two young children, she turned up to a church that was full of elderly people. Evidently, there was one other family with young kids that turned up to the church occasionally. That congregation didn’t care, they still chose to love my friends family as though they were a long lost child. They decided to stay in that congregation because of the love and support that those elderly people gave them, they embraced them exactly as they were. It’s interesting that now that congregation has a youth group. It wasn’t about the programs they had, it was about the love of God and the embracing into the Christian community that made all the difference.
I understand that not every church has the energy, the capacity or the want, to make room in their community for emerging Gens and that’s okay too. But.. if you’re not able to embrace Emerging Gens into your community can I suggest that you find out where the nearest Uniting Church is that does. Don’t just leave it at that contact them – who are the people that you can refer people to if they turn up at your church? When you do talk to the people who have come to visit, remember to welcome them and say they are very welcome to stay in your church and that you have partnered with the other Uniting Church to provide groups for children, youth and young adults. ( unless your congregation doesn’t want to, then don’t lie, pass them on graciously and enthusiastically.)
So what does an Emerging Gen plan look like?
It’s probably a good place to start by having a look at what you already do, you might be surprised at the little ways that your congregation are already engaging with Emerging Gens, celebrate those wins!
If you’re not doing anything here are some good questions to think about – If you have a baptism how can you best welcome the families into your worshipping community? What little things can you do to make it easier for them to understand what’s going on? What activities and gifts could you have on hand for children who might come with them with their families to the baptism? Who would be responsible for creating and distributing these?
What happens if a High Schooler comes into your church? How would you support them? How could you embrace them into your community and how would you grow them as a disciple?
The question of discipleship and growing the spiritual life of children and young people in your church is key. How do you do that now? How would you like to do that going forward? It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything big and fancy it just needs to be an intentional engagement with children, young people and families about faith.
For some congregations, they are really intentional about making all of their worship intergenerational so that everybody learns together and share their faith together. For other congregations, it is about having Kids Clubs or Sunday school. For other congregations, they might have a messy church. For other congregations, they have clipboards and pencils with activities. For others, there is kids space at the front of the Church with things for the kids to do.
Another key part of the plan is “who”, who are the people in your congregation who love kids, who would be great mentors for young people? Do they have their Working with Children Checks done and do the congregation know how to work with them in welcoming families?
Finally, pray. All good plans are only good if they are God’s! You never know God might surprise you and answer your prayers for families and young people!
It doesn’t matter how you go about doing it, what does matter is that you want to prioritise young people even just a little bit, so if they accidentally turn up at your church at least they get a glimpse of how much God loves them and that they can belong.
We would love to hear about your plans and what your congregation is doing to support Emerging Gens in your place!
Karen Mitchell-Lambert is ordained in the ministry of Deacon and is the team leader of PULSE.