Next Up Matters

By Jeremy Varnell

Recently, my 7-year old son prayed to receive the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to us. And to me…that matters. Knowing that his eternity is secure in the Lord gives me comfort and peace. Knowing that he understands, who Jesus is, matters to me. It matters to me that he knows that the God of the universe loves him. It also matters to me that he knows that he can communicate through prayer with the Creator. It matters to me. But should it matter to anyone else?

This past Saturday the Next Gen ministries of IBC – High School, Middle School, and Children’s – met with volunteers to kick off this year of serving our families. They heard stories of transformation in the lives of students and children. A fourth-grader, named Jane, shared about transformation that has occurred in her life through Children at IBC. She shared the following words:

“Last month I went to a church sleepaway camp for the first time. It was scary, but there was a volunteer who was nice and respectful. When we did bible study, she was really helpful, and she clarified verses for us. Also, every Sunday morning, there is another volunteer. She is so great! I am happy to know that she is there every morning to make me laugh. During VBS this year, my group leader was a great guide, and at the end of VBS, she gave us a little certificate. And it was nice to know that she took up some of her time to make something for us. We all have our special talents… and God has gifted all of [the volunteers] and me too to be a good leader.”

Jane’s story reminds me that she matters too. Not just because I’m the Children’s Pastor, but because she is a sister in Christ. She is a participating member in the body of Christ. Her parents, small group leaders, and others, have poured into her, and she is a valuable contributor to the kingdom of God. Jane matters to me. And Jesus’ words remind us that she matters to him as well.

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:2-5

Jane believes in Jesus and humbly follows after him, asking questions when she needs help, clarity, and support. She is an important part of the body of believers. Brian Dembowczyk writes,

““Kids are the church of tomorrow.” I cringe every time I hear this statement. Oh, I know most people don’t mean any harm by it. They’re simply trying to remind us that we need to raise the next generation to become future leaders in the church. However, it still pains me to hear this expression used.

That statement subtly implies that kids are not a vital part of the church today. It’s as if our kids are sitting at the folding card table at Thanksgiving, waiting for the day when they can join the adults at the real table. This notion is about as far away from the truth as we can get. Theologically, functionally, and missionally, kids are an essential part of the church today. Right now.”

Our Next Up campaign is not just about a building. Next Up is about leaning into what Jesus tells us about kids. Jesus says that children matter. Pouring into children matters. A space that facilitates small group connections where discipleship can happen more effectively matters. Our vision for Children at IBC is tied to that belief. Jane matters. My son matters. Children matter. Not just to their parents. Not just to God. They matter to families, singles, empty-nesters, grandparents, etc. We want to see God transform this city, and that involves kids. We want see God change the hearts of kids to follow him and then to influence their world because of what he has done in them. That’s why Next Up matters.

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