By Jeff Broadnax, US GenMin Coordinator
“Starting a youth/children’s ministry in a congregation like ours feels like trying to feed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish!”
I have heard this sentiment dozens of times in my role as GenMin Coordinator. We want “Kids Korner” to serve as an encouragement and resource for you in your local churches, but I have to admit we haven’t really addressed the most pressing issue for many of you—how to start a children’s /youth ministry when you have no children or are a small and aging congregation?
Here’s the encouraging news. It really is similar to the feeding of the five thousand. In John’s account of the story, Jesus, already knowing what he was going to do, asks Philip, “where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Naturally. Philip is at a loss because he knows they don’t have what it would take to feed everyone.
After checking around, the disciples find a small boy who brought five loaves of bread and two fish for his lunch. (There’s a good children’s church lesson: sharing what you have so others can be blessed.) As Matthew describes, Jesus simply says, “bring them here to me.” He blesses, breaks and uses those limited provisions to feed all present with more left over.
Even if you are a small aging congregation with no children or youth, we believe God can and will use you to not only feed any children and youth who come through the doors of your church, but to leave them full if you are willing to prayerfully offer yourself to him for that purpose.
For nine years, I pastored a congregation of just under 30 people with an average age of 60 and on a good day we would have one teen and one or two preteens in attendance. There were times we would have more but that was rare.
Each week two things happened. First, one of our grandmothers would prepare a children’s lesson and take any children aside during the main message for an age- appropriate Bible lesson or activity. Second, almost every other adult would welcome, talk to and provide a small measure of contact with those children at some point in the day. If there were teens or one of our college students attending, those same members would get an update on their lives and make them feel like the family they are.
They fed those in attendance with what they had. So often it’s easier to focus on the five thousand men, plus women and children and be overwhelmed by the size of the task, when perhaps, God is simply asking us to focus on the one family sitting in our small group who is hungry for what Jesus is providing.
Preparing for children’s and youth ministry in our congregations is like feeding the five thousand. Just bring to Jesus what you have. Let him bless, break and give—through you—to those who are seated among you.