When Jesus said; ‘let the little children come to me’ (Matthew 19:14) he was not only challenging the mindset of his generation, he was laying down a principle for the life of his church for all generations. Every children’s ministry must have this phrase at its heart and every church needs to evaluate itself by this strong word of Jesus. It’s such a simple idea. But it seems so difficult to implement. In the course of searching for a new minister for our church I have visited some beautiful, well-resourced churches. One area in which they have been severely lacking is in the number of children who feel they can come. And for every well-resourced church with few children there are many more under-resourced fellowships where they are struggling to survive, far less looking for ways to welcome children. ‘Let the children come’ calls us to re-think ‘church’; to identify the barriers which may hinder their coming, examining everything we say and do in that light and listening carefully to what children have to say about us.
We are a conservative (definitely small ‘c’) nation in Scotland and consequently tend to resist change. What matters now is that in our desperation we hear the voice of Jesus and begin to tackle the power structures that leave children feeling marginalised; that we address the mindset that ‘church’ is Sunday; that we see ourselves as fellow-disciples with children, learning and experiencing God together. The vision is of a church in Scotland where all can come; where children and their families (whatever form that family takes) feel this is a place where they are valued and respected and where they have something significant to contribute.
This article first appeared on the ACTS website as part of a series sparked by the book, “What Matters Now in Children's Ministry”. Each article centres around one word which the author feels encapsulates something important about how work with children should be done in Scotland. What one word would you suggest?