This weekend I’m preaching about Jesus’ heart for children and so have been thinking a lot about how we respond to His teaching and modeling on this issue. (By the way, if you are glutton for punishment, you can watch, listen or download the talk from the RiverTree website, with it usually available by Tuesday).
The core of this teaching comes from Matthew 19:13-15: “One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children. And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.”
The big point is this: Jesus loves children. In fact, He REALLY REALLY LOVES children! Love for children is very close to the Father’s heart, and thus to the heart of Jesus. This means that for all of us, whether we’re married or single, young or old, children should be a priority. In particular, Jesus takes very seriously their being able to come close to Him.
I love the fact that in this passage we see Jesus laying hands on the children, which while usually in Matthew is to do with healing, here represents acceptance, love and just a very natural affectionate response to children. Isn’t it wonderful that the God we worship is so naturally affectionate with children!
Anyway, this relates to Missional Communities very strongly. Too often as adults we do mission, community and worship apart from our children. However, children learn primarily through watching and copying! Missional Communities create a wonderful context in church life that will really strengthen our ability to raise children who want to follow Jesus all their lives. As mid-sized, extended family size groups, they are an amazing place for children to part of. What we’ve found over the years is that Missional Communities have this fantastic sense of community – fun and laughter and food and authentic relationships – coupled with a clear mission vision to impact a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. So your friends and family and colleagues and neighbors get drawn into something that is highly relational and lived out where you already live. So what happens is that for all of us, including our kids, our life becomes our mission.
Children are thus being discipled in the things of the Kingdom by a whole extended family of relationships. Even the best adjusted parent can’t do it all, so this takes us much closer back to the “it takes a village” principle of child-rearing. This also means that everyone – whether you have kids or not – is fully involved in bringing children closer to Jesus. We are all part of a MC and thus we all share in the responsibility of creating an environment that draws them closer to the Lord.
In addition, Missional Communities are a place for unchurched children can be drawn in, whether individually or with their families, and pointed towards Jesus. We often chat with our boys about who they would like to see come to Jesus, and MC life is a fantastic context for them to invite their friends. In other words, this is not an adult-dominated environment – everyone, including kids, can contribute and play their part in extending the Kingdom!
This article was originally posted on Alex’s website, here.
Alex Absalom has served as a church leader for almost 20 years, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States. Alex and his family moved to the US a number of years ago specifically to help a local church develop mid-sized Missional Communities and the associated structures for leadership. From January 2011, Alex has served on the leadership team of Rivertree Church in Canton Ohio, particularly helping in the development of Missional Communities. His new book, Launching Missional Communities, co-authored with Mike Breen, was published in Fall 2010. Check out Alex’s blog at www.alexabsalom.com.
// What do you think of this idea that “our life becomes our mission”? Have you experienced the richness of shepherding children by way of your “extended family”? Join the conversation in the comment box below! //