While there are some ministry settings in which it is difficult, even inappropriate, to include little kids, we have experienced a few success stories recently. This is important for us to acknowledge, for we have been blessed with families, yet located to serve a neighborhood largely bereft of children, or kid friendly places and spaces.
One success story is the way our church kids have been participating at New Horizons. Every month, on the first Wednesday evening, Emmaus Road serves dinner to street involved youth at New Horizons. A small group from the church shows up around 6PM; someone is designated to buy food; everyone pitches in to prepare. We serve dinner and clean up, usually leaving by 8:30PM. Kids from around kindergarten age on up enjoy this ministry opportunity; they usually like the food, feel important serving from behind the counter, and receive smiles and positive comments from the youth. Adults and parents in the kitchen supervise, while New Horizons staff members are out on the floor with the youth. It's a reasonably safe and positive atmosphere, and the children of the church are gaining hands on ministry experience.
Another success story comes from our most recent Groundworks Sunday, July 31. One of our Deacons, Kristen VanderLinden, along with David Anema, an Elder and Americorps Member, have been coordinating volunteer efforts with Simon Senior Apartments down the street on 3rd Ave. With the help of Catholic Community Services, we have been able to help several elderly, low income neighbors with cleaning. This most recent effort, however, included a social activity, as we hosted a bingo tournament with snacks during the time several church members were cleaning. A number of our children played the game with their parents and the neighbors, and had a lot of fun! The presence of young children was a welcome part of our morning there, and the kids spoke up about enjoying their time.
It takes creativity and patience, but pursuing kid friendly urban ministry is possible and worthwhile. God has opened up some doors for us to build longterm relationships with neighbors, and to raise kids who learn a lifestyle of hands on service in the city where they live.