Twenty Minutes of Outside Play Helped Lorena UMC’s Discipleship Efforts Really KLICK

April 05, 2019

A simple idea about how to better engage children and youth has transformed Lorena UMC’s discipleship outlook and effectiveness and is producing results in worship/small group attendance, volunteers, giving and more.
by Rev. Matt Bailey, Pastor / photos courtesy of Lorena UMC
Lorena is a city driven by community youth and children’s activities. Little League and peewee sports are particularly influential, yet the church has not always tapped into that energy. In 2017, Lorena UMC had about 12 children and youth attending on Wednesday nights. We had a meal, adults attended Bible study and children had a lesson. Steve, one of our parents, came to me one day and said his son was having trouble engaging a full hour of lessons after being at school all day, and he asked if students could play football outside for 20 minutes after dinner.
Honestly, I had no idea how much this decision would change the course of our church. It felt like so many similar conversations when members point out a problem and how to do ministry
Rev. Matt Bailey offers "a quick thought" to Lorena UMC children and youth during KLICK worship services - a service that has transformed many young lives into disciples of Jesus Christ, as well as having "done work" on Matt's heart. "The impact [of KLICK] to the kingdom is every bit as significant as having adults attend on Sunday."
better. In my conversation with Steve, I mentioned, “You are welcome to use the large field across the street to play football.” Supporting the local lawn care industry was the only good that field was producing anyway. I did not give the conversation another thought until the next week.
That following Wednesday, Steve arrived with 25 children we had never seen at church before. They were all excited about the idea of playing football for 20 minutes after dinner. As I stared, slack-jawed, at the group of children excitedly running about on our previously unused field, I realized the Lord has used Steve’s connections as a coach of several different sports to bring children to a place where they could encounter the risen Lord Jesus. After classroom time, we began having a very brief worship service, consisting of a couple of songs, a scripture and a thought. This is a space where children can receive communion, be baptized, learn to engage in worship and even learn to lead worship. Also, we are starting to find a few parents who accept the invitation to come in and worship with their children for the last 15 minutes of the evening.
KLICK (Kids Learning in Christ’s Kingdom) now yields a variety of wonderful fruit. The Lord is changing children’s hearts as they learn basic principles of the Gospel: Jesus is a real person, He loves you, you can talk to him whenever you want and listen for his response and when we make mistakes, we can tell Jesus and ask for forgiveness. We talk about the power of our words both in blessing and cursing, and how Jesus asks us to bless everyone, forgive others and be an example of his love in their schools.
Singing is becoming the norm in this young generation through worship. Students from pre-K to high school enthusiastically belt out their favorite worship songs and hymns we have taught them - and they sound so beautiful! In addition, the Lord has taught our leadership the value of allowing children in our worship space. Children learn not to bring drinks into the sanctuary, that pews are not track hurdles and that cushions are not trampolines. In turn, our leaders learned how to teach those lessons with patience and love while valuing the fruit produced by our invitation.
Lorena UMC has given it discipleship ministries and community impact a real leg up by providing space, time, resources and intentionality to just letting kids be kids.
The Lord has done work in my heart as well. When we began recording KLICK worship as attendance, per our DS’s instructions, I found it challenging to celebrate the increase in worship attendance because I silently, and errantly, believed KLICK worship was not “real church.” The Lord showed me over the subsequent months how the work he is able to do in their hearts through KLICK is absolutely real. The impact to the kingdom is every bit as significant as having adults attend on Sunday morning. Children do not give much monetarily, nor do they serve on committees or attend board meetings; but the discipleship work we are privileged to do is precious to Jesus – as is the heart of every child who enters our doors. I had to learn that we are not called to make committees, budgets or orders of worship. We are called to make disciples, and that is exactly what the Lord does through the volunteers every Wednesday night at Lorena UMC.
KLICK has helped us achieve our WIG goals both directly and indirectly – directly, by inviting 50-70 youth and children of Lorena into worship, discipleship and fellowship. For the first year, KLICK seemed to be an outwardly focused ministry that was limited to children whose parents were not involved in the life of the church, and we were happy to provide that. However, once we had an engaging discipleship space for young people, we became a more attractive option for families who were looking for a new church home. As a result, we have seen 15 new families become regular attendees on Sunday morning in the last 18 months. These additions have meant 20-30 kids in Godly Play on Sunday mornings, three new musicians, new board members, an exercise program on Saturday mornings, increased small group and work day attendance, more program volunteers and a budget increase allowing us to raise salaries and hire a children’s director. The Lord was faithful to allow us enough time to stop looking beyond the children we were called to serve and value God’s work in their hearts before we saw a greater impact on our ability to do ministry outside Wednesday nights.