It’s been awhile since I last reviewed a chapter from the book What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry, and it seemed like the perfect time to get back to it. For those who might not recall, this book compiled answers from a variety of experts to the question, “What matters now in children’s ministry?” The one word answers were followed by an approximately 300 word long explanation. In the book, Rev. Sean Miller chose the Word “Space.” He writes:
Physical space matters. We have all seen children run up and down the halls of a church pointing out their spaces to parents, giving spur-of-the-moment tours to their friends, like they own the place… because they do. Physical space gives children ownership in their family of faith.
See, kids don’t view your children’s ministry space as the possession of the church, or the children’s pastor or anyone in particular. They think of it as theirs, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. As Rev. Miller explains:
Physical space helps to build memories for children, and when children remember that there was space for them in the church, they will remember the church to be a place of meaning and purpose for them.
What you do with there space will tell the kids in your ministry how important they are to you. Whether you are a mobile church meeting in a different building every weekend, a home church, a local congregation or a mega church, how you set up your kids’ space will tell them a lot about how much you value them. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Kids quickly grow tired of the splashy scene type space. What was a big deal one week is the same old same old the next. What they do notice though, is that you’ve made an effort. Whether you have an indoor playground or just some kid sized tables and chairs, kids will appreciate that you have given them a kids friendly space.
Physical space is important, but I think what Reverend Miller hits on the next section of his chapter is even more important. That is spiritual space. Even more than they need physical space to run and play, kids need spiritual space to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Rev. Miller explains:
Giving spiritual space to children means taking seriously their budding ideas. Not in the context of “kids say the darndest things” or “the children are the future of the church.” These statements aren’t about giving kids spiritual space; these perpetuate the myth that how children express themselves is silly and not significant and that children will someday matter… but not now. Giving children spiritual space provides the freedom of theological and spiritual expression in worship, in our learning environments, and in our community life now and not just when they are grown ups.
Children are not the church of tomorrow. They are the church of today. We must nurture their spiritual journey and give them the opportunity to worship and pray and serve in the same ways as the older members of the church. After all, isn’t this the definition of discipleship? Kudos to Rev. Miller for pointing out what so many of us in children’s ministry need to here.
Questions for further discussion
The stated purpose of this book is to spark further conversation. I have included some of my thought above, but like other chapters I have included a listing of additional questions to spark further conversation. Here are the questions I came up with:
- Is your space kid friendly? What could you do to make it so?
- Look at your kids space through new eyes. Best yet, invite a kid who doesn’t go to your church to give you feedback. What improvements can you make? What are you doing right?
- How is your ministry giving kids spiritual space?
- Do you have kid sized ways for kids to serve the body in the same manner as their parents and other grown ups?
- How are you treating kids like the church of today? What could you change in that regard?
You can find a link to this, and all the other articles I’ve done related to this book, on my What Matters Now in Children’s Ministry Page.