The aim of our Children and Families Ministry is to help parents to raise their children to become mature followers of Jesus. We do so by
- helping parents to be the smile of God to their children
- building a church culture that receives children in Jesus’s name
- teaching children the whole counsel of God
All of creation speaks about God. The heavens declare his glory, the birds testify to his provision, and honey shows us what his wisdom is like. This fundamental truth — that creation reveals the character of God—is crucial for parents. It means that, as parents, we must tell the truth about God in our actions, our attitudes, and our words.
Be the Smile of God
At Cities Church, we believe that our fundamental calling as parents is to be the smile of God to our children. We are charged by God to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). God has designed us as parents to show our children what he is like. And God is fundamentally a Happy Father—a Well-Pleased Parent. Therefore, we want the pitch of fatherhood and the melody line of motherhood to be Delight, Pleasure, Joy. We want our children to experience our delight in God as it overflows in our delight in them. We want to receive the gospel, display the gospel, and invite our children into the gospel.
Receive the Children in Jesus’s Name
But the call to invite children into the gospel is not limited to parents. Jesus charged all of his followers to receive children in his name (Mark 9:36–37). As members of the New Covenant, we believe that we are called to be a shelter for the children in our midst. Our prayers and praises are a covering for them, and we shelter them in hope that by the grace of God they grow up to become shelters themselves.
Teach the Whole Counsel of God
While parents bear the primary responsibility for raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, the church has a vital role in the discipleship of children. The church’s obligation to disciple children is rooted in the broader call to preach Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:29). As a result, we’re committed at Cities Church to instructing our children in the Christian faith, in the corporate worship gathering as well as in the everyday life of the church.
Our core strategies for accomplishing these three tasks include the corporate worship gathering and our Children’s Time. Children are welcome in the corporate worship gathering of Cities Church. We love it when parents include their children in the worship service, and our gladness doesn’t diminish when children are fussy or tired. We do not want parents to feel embarrassment or shame because children act like children in the worship gathering. Their cries are badges of honor — that we have little ones in our midst when so many churches are devoid of such life.
We also offer a Children’s Time for ages 0-7. This is a time for children to enjoy fellowship with one another. We believe it is good and right for children to enjoy being with each other, in the same way that the saints in the land are the excellent ones in whom we delight (Psalm 16:3). We encourage parents to acclimate their children to the full worship service, while also giving them the flexibility to utilize Children’s Time until they feel their children are ready.
In addition to enjoying each other’s company and playing together, we plan to use the Children’s Time to teach the whole counsel of God. We aim to do this by reading a Bible story, catechizing our children in the Christian faith, memorizing passages of the Bible, and singing songs.
This reminds us of our need to confess our sins.
Prayer of Confession
Our Father and God, we live in a culture that increasingly despises children. Children are seen as an obstacle to a full and satisfying life, a hindrance to flourishing. They’re treated like a burden, as if they keep us from realizing our true potential. Or we use them: as an accessory, as a way of compensating for our own emptiness. And that’s not even considering the greater evils of child-abuse and child-killing that our schizophrenic culture is content to live with. All of these — from aborting children to using children to viewing children as a barrier to joy and life — are great evils.
What’s more, as your covenant people, we have not welcomed the little ones as we ought. We have refused to receive children in Jesus’s name, because we’re too busy, or because we’re doing more important things, or because we’re tired, or because we’re selfish. We too treat them as burdens, and not blessings. We view them as getting in the way of our fruitfulness rather than being our fruitfulness. In short, we have not been the smile of God to our children. And so we ask your forgiveness for our pride, our selfishness, our laziness, our impatience, our indifference, our refusal to play, our refusal to delight. Deliver us from these sins that we might tell the truth about you, God, the Happy Father who delights in his beloved Son and because of the Son delights in us. In Jesus’s name, amen.