The Christian faith calls us to meaningful action as well as belief. In Isaiah we read that a lifestyle of justice and compassion is so important that it is considered by God to be at the very heart of worship. (Isaiah 58:6-7). This integration of faith and action is part of the church’s mission and we are all called to be involved. Christian education provides us with a wonderful opportunity to help children learn how to connect belief and action. Linking instruction with mission opportunities allows young learners to experience the connection between what they are learning in church and the real world. Community is strengthened as children learn how to work together and develop their gifts. It also creates the opportunity to see God at work, as God has a way of multiplying our efforts and bringing transformation. These kinds of activities are exciting and build faith.
There are myriads of opportunities for outreach activities, in the church, in our community, and in the world. Naturally it is important to find activities that are age appropriate. Younger children love to help and are instinctively sensitive to the needs of others. It is probably best to keep outreach localized by focusing on needs of the church, or immediate community. You might arrange for them to
- Wash the toys in the nursery.
- Decorate cardboard boxes to act as collection points for food bank donations.
- Plant flowers into small pots to give to those who need encouragement.
- Pick up papers in the sanctuary after the service
Older children are ready for greater participation. Their awareness of a larger world is increasing and they are conscious of such things as hunger, war, poverty, pollution, and homelessness. Often they want to help and do something to make a difference, but sometimes they may wonder if they are old enough, or skilled enough, to do anything really meaningful. We can help by listening to their concerns, helping them formulate a plan, and working with them to accomplish a goal. Children are encouraged by success in achievable goals, so keep outreach projects small and fairly simple.
- Raise $25 to give to an organization that provides micro financing such as Kiva. Children can choose a project, pray for the recipients, watch as the loan is repaid, and then relend it once again.
- Deliver small baskets of treats to people that work for the community, such as nurses, police, fire-fighters, or teachers.
- Assemble small bags of essential supplies for women’s shelters (contact them first and ask what they need).
- Make collection jars to collect loose change for causes that the children wish to support (or denominational outreach projects). Have a rolling party to count and roll the coins.
Youth are ready for projects that require more time and effort. They have the skills and maturity to engage in a number of different projects.
- Providing free childcare for parents at busy times of year, such as Advent.
- Writing letters in support of those who have been imprisoned for their beliefs. Amnesty International provides information and addresses
- Writing letters to government officials to advocate for justice and ecological issues.
- Holding fundraisers for causes that capture their imagination.
- Collecting and assembling kits for the World Church Service
- Volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank.
- Doing yard work for seniors.
- Making quilts for children in women’s shelters (again check to see what they need first).
Like all of us children and young people need affirmation and encouragement. If possible encourage members of your congregation to notice, and affirm their efforts. These kinds of projects also provide an opportunity for intergenerational links. If there are individuals in your congregation with particular skills or experience invite them to get involved and share their expertise.
Finally no matter what projects you choose with the children, keep in mind these wise words from an aboriginal activist group in Australia.
“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Aboriginal activist group, Queensland, 1970’s.
We should try to avoid the notion that we are riding into rescue those who are less fortunate than ourselves. This approach has caused many, many problems. Instead we are called reach out to others with compassion and learn from each other as we work together for justice and understanding.
A couple of links that could provide inspiration for your learners
Our very own The Compendium of the Church Mice a free curriculum that integrates the Marks of Mission
This is a short video of a group of children who decided to buy a cow. The video is humorous, well done and has a great message – kid’s can make a difference.
The Ladybug foundation was started by a young Canadian called Hannah Taylor who has been raising money and advocating for the homeless from the age of five. Her story is an inspiration to us all, look what she has been able to accomplish with the support and help of significant adults in her life.
The websites Kids are Heros is well worth exploring
Now it’s your turn. How are you integrating Christian Education and outreach in your church?