Our vision for “youth ministry” is radically different from that of much of the church today. God has promised to be a God to us and to our children. So that is where we begin: with the promises of God signified and sealed to our children in baptism, and with the call to receive those promises by faith.
Our children are “in God’s covenant and are his people” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 74). The key to biblical youth ministry is to treat them as part of God’s people, calling them to respond in faith to what God has promised. That conviction drives everything we do as a congregation with our children:
- Emphasizing the relevance of worship and fellowship on the Lord’s Day for our children.
- Teaching our children the Christian faith in the evening Catechism service and in morning classes.
- Discipling our children at home: around the dinner table, in family worship, in all of life.
- Cultivating deep, inter-generational relationships among the members of our congregation of all ages.
The Church’s Ministry Is Youth Ministry
Everything God has given for ministry to the church simply is youth ministry. This, then, is the heart of youth ministry in our church: we include them in worship with the people of God. We believe that this is the means God uses to create faith in the hearts of our children: inclusion with the people of God, hearing his Word and singing the psalms in response to his Word. Our children shout “amen” with us, they say the Apostle’s Creed with us, and they fellowship with us after the service and in each other’s homes.
Catechism: Telling the Next Generation
The church has a special responsibility to teach the Christian faith to the new and young disciples in her midst, and that includes our children and young people. We drink deeply from the rich heritage of teaching the Catechism to our children, confident that this quiet, ordinary method of teaching our children the great deeds of God is a tool in the hands of the Spirit, calling our children to put their trust in the Lord.
“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psa 78:5-7)
This is the primary reason we gather together a second time each Lord’s Day as a congregation: to receive instruction from the Word of God as summarized in the confessions of our church. We have a special focus in the evening service on the training of newer and younger Christians – including our children and young people – but the teaching is nevertheless something we experience together as beneficial for all.
In addition, we have age-appropriate Catechism classes on Sunday mornings in which the children practice their memory work and are introduced to an overview of the history of redemption.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children”
It is also the parents’ responsibility to teach their children in the home. In the evening service each Lord’s Day, we equip parents to teach the Christian faith to their children throughout the week.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deu 6:4-9)
This sort of nurture and guidance in every-day life is quiet and unassuming. It isn’t flashy, and doesn’t look particularly exciting on a list of church programs. But this is the way God has ordained to disciple our children in the faith. Covenant nurture – in the home and in the church – is the time-tested way of biblical wisdom.
Opportunities for Fellowship
Our children are brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is important that they grow up with that sense of identity. This means they must think of the older generations as being their parents and grandparents, their aunts and uncles. For this reason, we focus our fellowship on opportunities to be together as a church family: weekly fellowship after worship, monthly fellowship suppers, feasting in each other’s homes.
Many of our parents also work hard to encourage relationships among the young people, and so we have regular opportunities for fellowship at church and in the homes of parents. The activities contribute to our desire to be a church family: everything from derby car races to quiet conversations over refreshments after worship.
That is our vision for youth ministry: believing what God has promised in baptism, we minister to our children and young people simply by being the church.