When Circle of Hope first got going, it was devoted to loving the “next generation” and providing them a safe place to connect with Jesus. That is still the central focus of our mission. And the central population of unbelievers are still 19-30 year olds. We’ve done a good job. And many of you reading this are those very people. Thanks for coming by.
We quickly realized that the next generation of Jesus-followers were creating the next generation of the church. We are inventing something that may seem old to Jesus but is rather new to the megalopolis (and to Denver, it appears). What’s more, as we suspected from the beginning, if you get a bunch of 19-30 year old people together and they become Jesus-followers, many of them will likely marry and produce another form of the “next generation.” Our children are an increasing tribe who are remaking us day by day.
I, for one, love children, and I often spend significant portions of my week down on various floors with them. I am a fan of children. It is one of my great joys to have the opportunity to bless that portion of the next generation. I am also a big fan of parents who stay close to the mission field in the megalopolis rather than retreating to safer-seeming enclaves.
This year, our network devoted one of its five goals to children and their parents: Develop the capacity and vision for our Network Children’s Team. The Broad and Washington Stakeholders have already said they want to participate in efforts to create a common philosophy and a network plan that considers the unique factors in each congregation. The pastors have already begun to create the position of Network Children’s Coordinator and we have a token amount in the budget to sweeten that person’s service.
Organizing for children is a risk. They are like the invisible man — once he is wrapped in the bandages and becomes see-able, people freak out. Children are generally invisible; at the PM I am often making sure they are not stepped on as they compete for chips. Some people notice how many of them there are and freak out! Many people in our young constituency did not move to Philadelphia to come to Sunday school, to be married or to deal with children! So we are be testing people’s sense of affinity when we expect them to love a child – and we do expect them to do that. When we test them, they might leave us for adults-only places they prefer. So treating children like they belong can make the mission harder, but we can develop the skills to bring it all together – at least that is what we hope.
Making a case for children as valuable members of the community is not that hard, really, since we are all children of God and are called to come to God as children. If nothing else, children are a constant visual aid for our own development. If you don’t believe me, take it from Jesus: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child, whom he placed among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place—becoming like this child—is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’” (Matthew 18:1-5).
Actually, we might be depriving people of one of the things they need most, if we deprive them of children. Our adults-only Center City is probably not a healthy place for anyone if it is not a healthy place for children. If a person attempts to grow up by denying their childhood or denying the child they carry within, that is not going to work out, well. If we just see children as appendages to dominate and control rather than as people to relate to and love, then we are not only hurting them, but dwarfing ourselves. So, like many things that are good for people that they don’t like, children are an important element of developing into our true selves. So when we organize to nurture them, we are organizing for them to turn right around and nurture us, too.