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.
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
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About this Blog
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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