Today I am excited to introduce a new contributor to this blog, my wife Mary Till! She shares great insights on our church planting journey as parents in her debut post.
The church plant journey started 6 years ago for us, before we had any kids. But a year ago we very intentionally began talking to our kids about church planting. For context: Alyssa was 4, Evan was 2 and Sydney was 3 months old. We knew we wanted to start creating a conversation in our home that would prepare our kids for a huge transition. So, I did what any responsible parent would do. I Googled “kids and church planting.”
Did you know there is very LITTLE to be said about this?! I was a bit frustrated. Grrr. I know there have been hundreds of families in recent history to start brand new churches. Is Google telling me that no one has taken the time to write down some practical steps on how to lead children through this very specific journey?
That is, all except one little golden-nugget of a blog post by a guy named Derek Hiebert. He wrote a post titled, “Kids Plant Churches: 6 Principles From a Children’s Storybook”. That storybook was “The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown.
Just like that I had my next step laid out for me: go to the library with my three tiny children and pick up this book.
There it is! Our journey started with a book. But it wasn’t a book on church planting with kids. And it wasn’t even a Christian book. But the narration beautifully captures Christ’s desire for making cities beautiful. I knew right away this was going to make for a wonderful “soft launch” resource in talking about church planting in our home.
The kids quickly fell in love. I could tell the story was interesting for them and the pictures were great to look at. We found ourselves reading it several times a day. We talked about how neat this curious garden was and (unbeknownst to our kids) we talked through the principles in the blog post.
In the middle of doing all that, I reworded (and expanded) Derek’s principles to something that seemed to fit our goals. I hand-wrote them on a piece of printer paper, hole punched it and plugged them into a binder that became our “Church Planting Journal”.
Here are the principles that made it into that journal:
- Love for the lost
- Hard work
- Salvation through Jesus
- Brokenness of the world/city
- God prepares, we pray for laborers and harvest
- Obeying the call and identify tools (what we need to start)
- Building teams
- God grows things in unlikely places
Before you think this was a smooth process, let me tell you it wasn’t. We were not having in depth, full-attention conversations about these things with our kids. Every story time had its fill of wiggles (or complete chaos, if I am being honest). But we read the book as often as we could and asked simple questions that lead our kids to see how this story was like building a church.
Occasionally I sat down with them and talked openly and directly about the principles while making correlations to the story. These rare occasions lasted all of 5 minutes, with them being fully engaged for about 75 seconds. They wiggled, hopped, sat, stood, walked, played, ran for a toy…. all the things toddlers do. All the while I asked questions, trying to connect these ideas with concepts they already knew. And I tried to not lose my cool.
You will have to pick up the book and read it for yourself to get the full picture. But here are some questions we would ask:
- “What kind of city did you like better? The first one or the one after the garden grew?
- “Was it easy or hard for the boy to make the city beautiful?”
- “Did the boy grow the garden by himself?”
- “Jesus loves when cities are made more beautiful, how can we make our city more beautiful?”
- “What does it mean that something is lost?”
I quickly realized there was a lot I wanted my kids to learn in our church planting journey.
And to this day we haven’t covered all 8 of my adapted principles. But we continue to talk about these things. And now that we are just a few months into church planting I am glad we talked about it a year ago. It wasn’t a surprise to them that we were selling our house, moving to a new town and were going to be wandering to different churches for a while. Church planting is hard, but the decision to introduce these ideas early has made all the difference.
And there is the catch.
We first had to decide we were going to church plant. And we had to decide we were going to do something different in our home.
Whether you are a church planter, are thinking about church planting or simply want your family to be reoriented around the mission of the church, you must decide to do something different in your home.
Matt and I full-on decided we would be church planting. And if we decided, we owed it to the other three-fifths of our family to lead them on that journey.
If you want to revolutionize your family to live on mission for Jesus, start here. Start with “The Curious Garden”. And start leading your little ones in this way. Even if you don’t church plant, your family will be blessed.