A Community for Every Kid

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Last week youth culture guru Chap Clark spoke at the January series about how to help kids and teens develop a faith that sticks beyond high school. His recommendation: create a community for every kid. In the book Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids he talks about flipping the 5:1 kid-to-adult ratio. Rather than one leader for every five teens, what if every child and teen in our churches had five adults who were investing in their lives? Five adults who loved them unconditionally, listened to their stories, asked about their lives, prayed for them, and were there when they needed them? What if we talked about the kids in our faith communities as our kids instead of his kids, her kids, or their kids? What if we all promised to raise our kids in faith together?

Oh wait, that last part sounds very familiar… Chap’s message is not new to us. We’re Reformed. We believe in God’s covenant promises! We make vows at baptism and we sign up to lead Sunday school and serve in the nursery. But still so many of our kids are growing up and leaving faith behind. Why?

The structures that we have in place to teach our kids about God are essential. But Chap’s research points to something more personal than educational programming. Kid’s need to understand the content of their faith, but they also need mentors and models—people whose lives reflect the gospel that we teach. They need caring adults who are available to know and love them years after they move out of our classroom or graduate into the next program. They need a web of relationships that wrap them into the body of Christ and help them experience God’s grace and love.

As I think about this I’m grateful for the adults who served that role in my life. A neighbor who lived across the street, a teacher who took me under her wing, a small group leader who helped me learn how to lead. I want that for all of our kids.

What could I do, and what could you do as a Sunday school teacher or coordinator to help build a community of caring adults around each of the kids in your church?

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For years, we've been part of intergenerational small groups (with families, singles, couples). We alternate between meeting with kids (a fun but chaotic soup supper, with some time to sing, share, and pray together) and without kids (calmer with adult conversation, in-depth sharing and study).

I've been AMAZED at the effect of that on our young kids. They truly love their small group and have formed real connections with the other adults. If my wife and I are busy during the service, they'll occasionally sit with them instead. One is a Sunday school teacher, another a kids club leader, others occasionally babysit - all of which adds other dimensions to the relationship and, through that, to our church and their faith.

But it takes time to form those relationships. And, at least in our experience, intergenerational small groups have really helped provide that time.

That's awesome, Tim! That's the kind of web of relationships we need to weave around all of our kids!