We hear a lot about how churches need to invest in children, youth, and young families because they are the future of the church.
At Impact Kids in Bluefield, a kid-friendly mission camp that coincided with our youth construction mission camp, we saw that the future of the church is right now. Children in grades 3 through 5 (or 6, depending on where their churches group sixth graders) participated fully in a missions experience tailored to them.
The theme for the week was “Just Visiting,” inviting kids to learn about how God visits us and calls us to visit others in return. They learned how God can use them to show love to the world, and they then spent each afternoon expanding their circle of care.
They learned through lessons, videos, and a Tyvek suit relay race about ways churches can serve the wider community through Disaster Response. They learned how to be part of community and how to create a community that reflects the Kingdom of God.
They served each other as campers by making individual gifts for each other, they served homeowners who were receiving home repairs by creating teacup flowerpots for each crew to share, and they served homeowners directly by doing yard work alongside the teens doing construction on the site.
One of the leaders said they looked like a “plague of friendly locusts” as they descended on the yard and cleared every leaf and weed from the site.
After cleaning the yard, they had a birthday party for Mrs. Cecil (she turned 94)—complete with cupcakes and a joyful rendition of “Happy Birthday.” After the kids sang, Mrs. Cecil said, “With all my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, I’ve had a bunch of birthday parties this month. But this one tops them all!”
But the kids weren’t just there to learn—they were there to lead. They led the rest of the camp by teaching them the proper way to sing “All the People Said Amen” (hint: you have to yell “Amen” really loudly).
They took the lead in the community on the day they visited the pool. One of the boys wanted to jump off the high dive, but he got a little nervous and climbed down. An Impact staff member offered to help him, but before we knew it, all the kids—and then everybody at the pool—were chanting his name, encouraging him to jump. And he did!
His smile when he came up out of the water showed us more clearly than anything that kids have a lot to teach us about Just Visiting and welcoming others into community.
In the end, Impact KIDS showed our churches what’s to come for them in their lives as part of God’s mission, especially as they grow into youth and adults. But the kids who served during the week showed their churches that they’re not just the future of the church.
Kids are a critical part of what the church is and what the church needs to be—right now.