As adults, we are used to what church is or at least what it is meant to be, but often we assume that children and young people know what the answer to that question is. It is something that I am trying to help my toddler daughter discover on a weekly basis as she interacts with the people and activities that make up a Sunday morning, but I want her to understand more than that. My prayer is that she will see church not simply as somewhere we go on a Sunday morning but something that we are a part of and affects every day of our week.
The PCI Youth and Children’s Project asks this very question this year. We want to help children, young people and the whole congregation to be challenged about what church is and to think about what our role is within it.
You can find out more about the teaching content of the Project here.
This year’s Project is made up of four main parts that have the resources to impact a whole congregation. They are all linked to a DVD that gives an overview of the Project as an introduction.
The children’s resources contain a lesson to help primary-aged children explore this question through a series of stories, discussions and activities as they think about church as more than a building and more than a Sunday morning.
The youth resources help young people explore the same questions in a more complex way, aided by Bible study and discussion. These resources have been written by three young adults connected to the interns’ programme run by PCI each year.
There are also resources for the wider church community. There is an outline for an all-age service where these themes can be explored as a whole church family. And there is a family devotion that will encourage families of primary-aged children to explore the themes further within the home.
Bessy and Rachel
The Project revolves around the stories of two children, who represent many more. Bessy is four years old and lives in Zambia. Her life is impacted by the Central Church of Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) and their understanding that church needs to move beyond the walls of the building on a Sunday morning. Many of their congregations run free preschools to help the youngest children in their community receive educational help to make going to primary school easier at seven years old.
Rachel is 12 years old and is part of Maynooth Community Church, one of the youngest PCI congregations. They are building a new church that will not only disciple their congregation but will reach out to the community of Maynooth as they strive to make a difference. Rachel is part of the youth and children’s ministry in the congregation which helps her to understand what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus in a culture that is mostly secular.
The prophet Jeremiah says, “Do good things for the city where I sent you. Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living. If there is peace in that city, you will have peace also.” This is one of the two main teaching passages of the Project, alongside the description in Acts 2 of the early church and how they lived out their faith with God adding to their number daily. These two passages, in many ways, say exactly the same thing – as you seek to be distinctive as my people remember to look out and be a blessing to the people around you.
This is what church is…
It is a community of people seeking to live in a way that makes them distinctive from the culture around them and that through it they are a blessing all around them. That is what Bessy and Rachel are learning from the churches that they are a part of and this is what we want to remind the children, young people and adults of PCI. Church is not simply a place we go on a Sunday morning. It is a community that we belong to and that can be a blessing to those around us as we live as disciples of Jesus every day of the week.
And the prayer is that those around us will see God in our distinctiveness and He will add to our number daily those being saved.
Ruth Bromley is PCI’s Children’s Development Officer. You can find out more about the Youth and Children’s project ‘What is Church?’ here.