Anybody who has spent any time with our church knows one thing for sure: Kids are not only the future of Embrace Church; they are the life of our church today. It’s impossible to miss them among us. They are a huge part of our spirit, and let’s face it; there are a lot of them!
I am so grateful to be part of such a beautiful body of believers that holds true to the idea that PEOPLE (of all ages) MATTER! And in believing this, we value space for our kids to worship, learn, and grow in a way that is created especially for them and that matches the heartbeat of our church. Embrace Kids is a place where journeys with Jesus begin and family is welcomed home. Just like our whole church’s vision is made up of JOINING, WELCOMING, and EMPOWERING, that’s what Embrace Kids is all about.
Our littlest kids (Infants-5 year olds) spend time on Sundays in a space we now call The Harbor. Just as a nautical harbor is a safe place with calm waters, where boats gather their gear and prepare for journeys on the open sea, our Harbor is a safe place where the youngest among us can learn the three basic truths that will be the earliest foundation of their faith: “God made me,” “God loves me,” and “Jesus wants to be my friend forever.” If you’ve studied child development, you know that children under age 6 have egocentric brains. The Lord has wired them at this age to think of themselves first and depend on others to care for them. In The Harbor, we are joining Jesus in his work with kids this age by repeating these truths over and over through songs, stories, games, and art projects. Our prayer is that these children may know deeply that our God is the one who can love, nurture, and care for them above all others.
Our older kids (Kindergarten-5th grade) spend their time in a space we now call The Road. Kids this age are concrete learners, and they really are moving along the “road” of life as they journey through these school age years. They understand life through cause and effect, rules and consequences. As we join Jesus in his work with kids this age, we will spend these years of our children’s lives helping them to understand how He intends for us to live here on Earth. There are speedbumps, twists, turns, detours, and forks in the road, but there’s also a great God to guide us on this journey. As we lead our Embrace Kids on The Road, they discover, as we all do, that they can’t possibly be perfect. Just like the story of the prodigal son, our God gives us amazing grace in salvation through Jesus and welcomes us to take the road back home to him. There are three basic truths we want these kids to know through encounters with our church: “I can trust God no matter what,” “I need to make the wise choice,” and “I should treat others the way I want to be treated.” These truths are soaked up as they play games, experience worship with a perfect blend of age appropriate teaching, high energy music, and reverence to the Lord, and develop meaningful relationships with their peers and leaders in small groups.
I am blown away regularly by the love that exists in our Embrace Kids spaces, both between our children and in their relationships with their leaders. It is no secret that kids really matter to God and to us. And the work we’re doing to empower children to live as his sons and daughters is so real that we’re already getting a chance to see it multiply! We have a 6th-7th grade youth group full of children who’ve been raised up in our ministry and are now investing in those younger than them. A full circle picture of God’s kingdom coming to this earth!
Photos provided by Keightley Garnett.