Building capacity for mission and empowering children at church
Churches can help encourage children to contribute to both church and community life by contributing their skills. This not only builds capacity for mission through service and faith-sharing, it also empowers children to develop and grow in their own faith practices. The 2016 NCLS investigated the capacities, gifts and skills of children in this vein, as well as their missional practices.
What are the personal resources, the gifts and skills of children, which could potentially be encouraged as they participate in God’s mission?
Around three-quarters of children say they are good at being kind to people without friends (76%), while around two-thirds felt they are good at having lots of new or different Ideas (65%), taking care of God’s earth (66%) and standing up for what is right and fair (64%).
Less than half of child attenders feel they are good at talking to others about God, and doing things up the front (at church).
The figure below shows missional practices of children. The “sometimes” choice was clearly the most popular for all categories.
The top missional practice listed by child churchgoers is care for the environment with nearly nine in ten reporting they engage in this either often or sometimes. This is followed by asking God or Jesus to make the world better (85%) and helping to raise money for the poor (74%).
A less frequent practice by children is evangelism with only 16% say they often talk to school friends about God/Jesus and 31% saying they never do this.
The great support for the environment is evident with 33% often doing things to help it. While only 16% often talked to school friends about God or Jesus. Perhaps, local churches could put greater emphasis on encouraging children nurture each expression of their faith, in various ways, as they live day to day.
Knowing the children in a church, and identifying their gifts and skills, can assist a church leader to create suitable opportunities for the involvement of children at church. Given the lower levels of happiness and belonging in church services, perhaps incorporating things they are gifted or skilled at, within the church worship service, may go some way to addressing those evaluations that are currently lacking. More details about children's evaluation of church services can be found in the article How do children feel about their activities at church?
Kathy Jacka and Ruth Powell, NCLS Research with Rod Bennett, WildHive Studios.
Children's evaluation of activities and worship services