Sue Allison is the Generations pastor at Red Church in Melbourne and has many years of experience in children’s and youth ministry. We had a chat with Sue about how we can engage children and youth with God’s heart for compassion and justice for our world. She had some absolute gold to share – here is our interview with her!
Learning about justice is really important for kids because their faith gets to be turned into action – rather than just being head knowledge. What I particularly love about this topic is that it affects their life. What they believe gets translated into what they do and how they live.
I use the scriptures in Luke 4 18-19 about what Gods’ heart is.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
We teach the kids that we are actually empowered to bring what is in God’s heart down from heaven to earth. Everything that is in heaven is accessible for us – through prayer and through our actions.
A personal connection makes it more real for them. We look at who we have in our congregation and where we already have existing links. In our church we have strong connections with an African community as members of our church have been engaged in mission there. We gave the kids a challenge to provide resources for the kids in that community’s school. The kids problem-solved how to raise funds and what was required in the schools and then photos and reports were given back to our kids. The relationship makes it personal and more impacting.
Kids want to make a difference – they love the idea of being empowered. It also builds their self- esteem and leadership skills. In the example above, some kids baked goodies and sold them at our church picnic, others mowed lawns, or did service acts for the people in their streets. The kids came up with the ideas and then were responsible to make them happen.
One of the things is that we are really strong on is the parents being the primary discipleship for the kids. With younger kids the parents are the most significant influences. If we can get the parents and the kids to be on the mission together in their family is going to make a big impact in them.
This year we are doing a thing called Bring a Bag Sunday – every family is given a supermarket bag with a tag that lists things they can fill their bag with. They are going to be distributed to the local primary school for hampers for families with challenges and our surplus will go to Box Hill Salvos. We also give them a list of activities that they can engage with as a family on mission together in their community.
There are many many layers – we don’t just have a special week where we do a mission focus or a poverty focus. We embed it into our program. It’s who we are – it’s our identity as a faith community. For example, it’s teaching our kids to welcome kids from Kids Hope (school-based mentoring program) into our programs, It’s including kids on Sundays who are in respite foster care and visit for one week, it’s having global prayer focuses in our Kingdom Encounters.
We sometimes link with agencies and organisations that are already doing things out there. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Let’s just not be precious and have to have our name stamped on it.
Rather than teaching a story which becomes head knowledge, we’ve been trying to get the kids to connect with the heart of God. What’s God’s heart for people? What would God say to us about them? We do things like putting a massive map of the world or Australia or photos of people groups and asking the kids to ask God where he sees a real need. Inviting kids to sit with God and listen and write down what God’s heart is for these people. Giving them a tangible thing to do like put a cut-out footprint on the world to show where they would like to pray for.