National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Learning from the young ones

September 2016

Immanuel Lutheran Church at Novar Gardens in suburban Adelaide is situated between a Lutheran college and primary school which each bear the same name, meaning ‘God with us’. Its geographical setting gives the church extra opportunities to minister to and serve children and families. Church pastor Nigel Rosenzweig says it is a privilege to serve the Lord – and learn from children – in this context.

Many of us were positively influenced by children’s ministry when we were young. It was in these years that we discovered who we are in Christ and the mission God invites us to participate in.

Children’s ministry involves sowing into receptive soil before the troubles of life come and make growth harder. Being involved in this ministry can transform not only the present generation but also influence generations to come, because children are actually the church of both the present and the future.

Every congregation needs to ask the hard question, how are we working together to nurture our children? In recent years I have discovered that children’s ministry is best done with all ages together.

Sunday school still has value in enabling age-appropriate teaching, but I no longer see it as the only way our church should provide children’s ministry. I believe the tide is turning towards doing children’s ministry more often in an all-age environment.

The church is not just for adults – it is for people of all ages who journey together and inspire each other as the Spirit leads us and helps us grow up in Christ. I believe adults can learn as much from being church with children as the children can learn from adults!

Children make great learners. They also make great missionaries. God can reach parents through their children! When parents see their children engaged, they too become receptive to new learning.

When we invest our time and energy into engaging with our children and are willing to enter into their world, we are creating a better present and shaping an amazing future. ‘Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time’ (Deut 4:40).

There is also great significance in the old saying: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. All generations can work together to support families in passing on the faith to the next generation.

When children’s ministry is working well, children model for adults what it means to be receptive.

In churches, as in homes and in schools, we have a precious opportunity to sow the seeds of faith into the lives of children and families. If there is a worthy investment we can make with our time, talents and resources, it is in children’s and family ministry.

Children have so much potential. They are missionaries, they are the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, the apostles and prophets in our midst. The question really becomes: will we listen and learn and let them lead?

Sowing seed bears fruit

The Holy Spirit is leading children to grow in their faith through the presentation of the gospel at Immanuel Primary School.

From time to time children are led to express their interest in baptism. Last month four children from three school families were baptised. Sometimes these baptisms occur in the regular congregation, while at other times joint school and church services are held and members of the congregation are invited to be part of baptism services at the school.

When children learn about baptism, they also learn about the many different ways water is applied in baptism. More children are expressing
a desire to be baptised by ‘full immersion’ and so far Immanuel has been able to accommodate this request with help from ecumenical partner churches (see top photo above).

The congregation has a deliberate plan to further develop its partnership
with the primary school to support the faith formation of families. A year
ago the church reformed an Immanuel campus spiritual life team which brings together leaders from the college, primary school and congregation to further enhance the spiritual life of the entire Immanuel campus. This is already bearing fruit!