Church, for Kids. Not Kids Church.

Imagine with me for a second what it would look like if you walked into church and the pews were filled with children and youth. In fact, imagine with me that it looked exactly like your church but switch the adults in your church to kids and the kids to adults. Imagine with me what that church would look like. What would it sound like? What would it feel like?

Well, you don’t have to imagine. You can actually visit this church.

Grace Kids Church is located in Louisville, Kentucky and they describe themselves as “a church devoted entirely to ministry for the unique spiritual, emotional, and practical needs of children and youth.” A quick trip to their website will reveal a schedule similar to most other churches; service on Sunday and Wednesday, Family Night on Friday, and even a pastoral staff. But what you will also find one consistent message:

We are here for children and youth and we are unabashed in our mission to reach the next generation.
CoreyandKids

Pastor Corey Nelson with some of the Grace Church congregants

I had the chance to talk to the pastor of Grace Kids, Corey Nelson, the other day and he
shared a bit about how Grace Kids came to be. When Corey was first asked to serve as pastor this a small United Methodist Church, just a couple of blocks away from the famous Churchill Downs race track, it was surrounded by a community who was not involved in any way with the church.

From the day he arrived, Corey was aware that while the church had a worship service the people in the community didn’t even know that the church even existed. He shared a story of meeting a group of kids in the parking lot one night and they shared that they really had nowhere else to go that was safe and drug-free. So on a whim, Corey told them to come back Friday and he would show a movie and serve popcorn and Koolaid. Thirty kids showed up. And they never stopped showing up.

No matter what the church did, the kids kept flooding the building. Corey was shocked at the number of children who had never truly heard the name of Jesus, having only experienced that name as a curse word. It became obvious to him what direction the church needed to go.   Currently Grace Kids Church has a roster of 200 kids, two pastors on staff, an administrative board to help them run rather like a non-profit and is a vibrant growing church. For most of the kids who attend, Corey can say with confidence he is likely the only positive male role model in their life.

 

I asked Corey what his advice would be to other churches regarding reaching the next generation. He shared the following:

We have done church the same way for so long that it can be hard to get older generations on board with the idea of intentionally investing in the youth. Consistent messaging is absolutely essential. Sometimes this move towards younger generations is not wanted. It takes strong leadership from the pulpit, a willingness to hurt some feelings, and a reminder that we are here to make disciples.

Many churches have come alongside to support Grace Kids through sending teams and supporting them financially. However, getting to this point has taken a great deal of time and long conversations. Corey hopes that people will begin to see the value in discipling kids and youth but recognizes that financial needs will always be a concern they will need to work around.

I was so inspired by my conversation with Corey. His obvious dedication to serving the next generation was compelling but even more was his description of their church.

He said that sometimes people think that church for kids means “adult church dumbed down for children.” But Corey says that is not at all what this church is. Their teaching is vibrant. Their worship is heartfelt. They are making disciples. They are just doing it in a way that reaches the rising generations.

Even if we aren’t ready to start a church for kids, perhaps we can learn from that one thing.

We don’t need to “dumb down” church for kids.

They are ready to know Christ. They are aching to be discipled. We can find ways to welcome them in, if we are willing to be a little uncomfortable and a little more open to their energy and excitement. I encourage you to head to the website, check out Grace Kids Church, and pray about how you can join Corey in his mission, both at his location and in yours.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

EmbreeFam2017

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed

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Let Them Hear The Stories: Drugs, Alcohol, and Grace

Today I got to hear the testimony of a young woman who is a recovering opioid addict and alcoholic.

She shared her whole story, starting with her adoption as a young child because her own mother was an addict to her high school career of good grades and popularity (think homecoming queen); her military career as an army nurse to her return home that eventually led to a life of addition and alcohol abuse.

She told of how she got involved in a relationship with a man who was in and out of worried-girl-413690_1920prison, had two children while she was in and out of jail herself, leading up to a point where she decided, after repeated attempts at rehab, it would be best to just give up custody of her children and go to prison.

Through a number of circumstances, she instead found herself placed into a Christian halfway house where she was required to attend Celebrate Recovery meetings each week and slowly her turnaround began. Today marked two years of sobriety and she and her family (yes, she still has her daughters and the same man in her life) now attend church together and are finding their way in a new life.

I’m not the only one who heard her testimony.  This particular Sunday in this church, the children attended the whole service with their family, all ages. So it wasn’t just adults in the audience hearing this testimony. It was toddlers and preschoolers; it was elementary kids and emerging middle schoolers; it was high schoolers and recent graduates…it was everyone.

I was interested in seeing how the children would respond. My kids (13, 11, and 6), my nieces (7 and 5) were in the pews, most listening intensely. And learning.

They learned about the devastation caused by drugs and alcohol.

They learned about the emptiness of a life of partying and loose living.

They learned that behind every desperate situation is a larger story, that the person they see sitting on a bench with a newborn and a one-year old, alone and destitute, has a story and needs.

They learned about redemption and grace, the power of community and the need for family (even if that family isn’t related by blood), that God uses His church to heal and to hold those who the world rejects, spits out and destroys.

And all I could think was,

“What if they hadn’t been here to hear this story?  What if I just tried to tell them all these things?  That drugs will leave them lonely and hurting. That alcohol abuse offers promises it can’t keep. That there is more to each person than we could ever understand in passing. And that God’s grace, the power of redemption and the role of the body of Christ are very real and very needed in this world and THEY get to be a part of it!”

Because I do tell them all of that. And I’m sure you do too

But nothing could take the place of having all those things confirmed through the power of a story of a life redeemed, the power of testimony.

As parents, I know we want to be cautious in what we expose our children to and at what age we do so, but friends, the world is not so cautious. The media that surrounds us doesn’t care so much about what our kids are exposed to. What better place for them to be exposed than in the church, where the truth of the lie of drugs, alcohol, sex, and popularity are made known alongside the forgiveness, redemption and grace of God.

I think we need more stories not fewer. We need to hear these things.

Parents, if you happen to have one of these stories, tell your kids. Tell them how empty your life was apart of from Christ. If you can, share it in your church. Look for others and let your kids be exposed, from a young age, to stories that demonstrate for them the truths we long for them to understand as they grow.  And churches, don’t be afraid to let those stories be heard, from the pulpit, in the full assembly, as often as God allows those redemption stories to be part of yours!

I know my kids are going to be exposed to these things as they grow. I know that at some point, drugs will be offered, alcohol will be available, popularity will be desired, and sex will be a temptation. I also know that this lady’s story today will be in their heads and hearts as well. And I hope that they will always remember the truths they heard today.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed