“If you had to give a two minute elevator speech about why someone should come to our church, what would you say?” As we are beginning a new church year and are making decisions about how to best use our resources, I asked this question to church leaders who work with our children and youth. In efforts to be wise about how we use our budget, volunteers, and time, we asked these leaders to share what they consider to be the essential ministries we are doing so we can invest in these areas. I expected to hear about summer camps and Bible studies but instead heard what the church actually offers these leaders and their children.

  • My kids’ best friends are their church friends.
  • This is the grounding and connecting place for our whole family.
  • Here our kids are taught values with actions behind them. They get community service other places but not with the same values they get here.
  • At church they learn to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Over and over people around the circle talked about the gift of community the church offers. It is worth noting that these responses came from people who know about community; they are scout leaders, teachers, t-ball coaches, and classroom volunteers and yet they each identified church as the best and most important place they and their children find community.

Since that meeting, I’ve been pondering what that means for the Church.

It has challenged me to think about the lives of our children and families. Gone are the days when kids grow up on a street where they go to school with their neighbors and play in someone’s yard until it’s time to go home for dinner. Public, private, charter, magnet and homeschool options mean that kids who live on your street go to different schools. After-school commitments like scouts, music, dance, and sports mean kids are spending less time with their families and in their homes and neighborhoods.

In the midst of a world that pulls us in so many directions, the church invites us to a common and shared space, week after week, year after year. A unique gift the church has to offer children is a place where they are loved and valued as vital members of a community, not just for a grade or for a season but their whole lives. Being a part of a community where they are known by name, make friends who become family, and are surrounded by adults who support and believe in them has the ability to transform children and families and I believe, in turn, will transform our churches and world. Perhaps instead of prioritizing programs or struggling to compete with everything else going on in their lives, we can deepen our investment in relationships and create a home where children know they are always welcomed and always loved and watch something beautiful unfold!

Amy Stertz is minister with children and families, First Baptist Church, Asheville, North Carolina.