Almost half of the people in our community are children and youth. One of our core values is participation and from the beginning this has applied especially to the children. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.” And recent research tells us that segregating by age can have a negative impact on children’s formation in the faith.
We aim to include the children in everything we do: communion, community, and mission. Here’s how that looks:
Family: Every family makes spiritual practices a priority of their family life together. This is the single most important factor in whether a young adult will develop a strong personal connection to God.
Restore Community: Discipling children is a community responsibility, but it can be messy and difficult. Each community has the freedom to work out how they will disciple children and youth, asking the question, “What would a family do?” Sometimes this means changes to the structure and length of the gathering, hiring a babysitter, or the men teaching the kids while the women delve deeper into prayer and discussion (and vice versa). It also means changes in mission. Sometimes our work is slower so that the children can work with us and grow in the image of Christ with us. And sometimes the children open up new avenues of mission for us.
Alton Mission worship: Children are welcome to participate in the whole worship service. During the sermon children five and under are gathered for play and teaching, but for the rest of our time together everyone participates. This includes songs, prayers, and communion. There is no minimum age requirement for any of these community practices.