engaging elders through children’s ministry


They sat in the back. A mother, a grandmother, and two grandfathers. As 180 neared its conclusion today I keyed in on the two elderly men, one at a time. The first lives several miles away in inner SE Portland. He was visiting his grandchildren in the neighborhood. Happy to see them going to church, he beamed at their joy. He was raised in the church, but has not attended in a very long time. I invited him to come. Turns out he has no reliable transportation due to his age and disability. We will be working on figuring out how to help him get here. Because he matters. I told him so. He teared up. In Christ our hearts bonded during our brief conversation.

And then a similar conversation with the other grandfather. He does live in the neighborhood. I invited him to church as well. I think he was surprised; not in a bad way. Although language was a bit of a barrier with him, I made it clear that we want him here. That we care about him and his family.

Both of these men are the elder statesmen of their families. I include immediate and extended households in that statement. As someone who primarily ministers among youth and children, I understand that I must intentionally engage and honor their elders at home and in the neighborhood.

What a privilege. A handshake and arm around the shoulder as a sign of respect for the first gentleman. A handshake and bow of the head for the second. Both from different cultural backgrounds than mine and each other.

Urban mission to youth and children must include whole families. If it doesn’t, then all we are doing is offering seasonal activities with no incarnational relationships which provide common conduits for doing life together in the daily routines of community. So, with the unabashed faith of my young friends in the neighborhood in the photo below, I pray that God will grant us wisdom to break down walls of our own construction and those of the culture so that Christ may help us to learn to love each other as he commanded in Scripture.



7 thoughts on “engaging elders through children’s ministry

  1. So very true. Thanks Glen.
    Sometimes we in Kids Min can connect with those who are missed by other areas.

  2. Beautiful. Are you familiar with BridgeTown Inc. in Portland? Their mission/motto is loving people because people matter. And so are you loving on those inside and outside your ministry because everyone is part of the grand story. You are a gift in lives of those you serve, Glen.

  3. I agree, Megan. Children’s and student ministries can often serve as first contacts to extended families. I’ve always maintained that the degree to which age graded leaders communicate with and support each other determines the leveling of potential silos. This is especially true in mission efforts with the community. I love seeing teens, parents, grandparents, uncles, and even people without family around (such as me) involved. It sends a message to the community that we are family oriented. Thanks for dropping by, Megan!

  4. Hi Leanne,

    I’m not familiar with them. I just searched them on Bing and bookmarked their website for further review. Do you have a connection with them? I so appreciate your encouragement. As with others who have commented on this post as well as via email about it, words mean things and yours have made my heart soar. Thank you so much. I hope to meet you someday, perhaps at a future faith and culture conference. Blessings to you!

  5. Hi Glen,
    Yes, I am connected with BridgeTown Inc. as I do many writing projects for them and their staff. Not to mention I also volunteer once a month at Night Strike with a friend of mine.

    Night Strike happens every Thursday under the Burnside Bridge and we basically just love on Portland’s homeless community. We serve them dinner, sit down in conversation with them, and invest in them by washing their feet, handing out clothes and resources, and even giving them hair cuts. It’s an amazing experience and you can tell Jesus is there! ;) If the timing works out, you are always invited.

    It would be an honor to meet you, sir. I admire what you do and your heart for our brothers and sisters who are often times cast aside.

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