June 2023 childrens blog Girls in GA Shirts
Missions Discipleship

How to Use Group Identity to Help Children Form a Sense of Belonging

At Missions Journey: Kids, our goal is to make disciples of Jesus who live on mission. As part of this aim, we provide resources for children’s leaders so you can help the kids in your church and in your community be discipled to live on mission.

It’s no secret fewer people today identify as a Christian, let alone attend church. According to Pew Research, the Millennial generation (1981–96) is the first generation in which a minority (49%) identify as Christian. If this generation does not identify themselves with Christ, it is likely their children and grandchildren won’t, either. From 2009 to 2020, church membership declined 14% to only 47% of the American population.

Leaders, be aware: Children who only intermittently attend church, possibly with a friend or grandparent, and are not regularly exposed to God’s word or even the church experience, may feel uncomfortable or unengaged in a church setting.

When children feel like outsiders, the chance they are actually listening and understanding what is being taught decreases. Sadly, the opportunity for them to believe in Jesus and begin a faith journey (at least in a church setting) also decreases.

According to Flip the Script: Disrupting Tradition for the Sake of the Next Generation by Peters, Magruder, and Salvatore — which provides a deep dive look at the current culture and discusses how churches can best reach children and students — “When children experience an environment of belonging, they feel seen and known by others and become open to learn about who God is. When kids and students base their identities in who God is, they love God and want others to know him.”

In other words, in today’s culture, we must be intentional about helping children feel welcomed and included so they trust the message we are bringing them.

We must be intentional about helping children feel welcomed and included so they trust the message we are bringing them.

How can group identity help?

Each children’s missions discipleship group enjoys a sense of pride in their individual identity — the kids earn badges and patches specific to their group, they participate in activities specific to their group, and so on.

As a leader, you can further enhance your group’s individual identity by communicating using group-specific logos or artwork, creating apparel or accessories that promote your specific group, and even giving children group-specific recognition certificates.

For instance, say you are a Children in Action leader who wants to promote your group’s participation in Children’s Missions Day (CMD). You use the CA Digital Package to create a Facebook post using the CA-specific CMD logo to remind parents about the event. Then you ask a craft-savvy parent of one of your kids to help you make CA CMD T-shirts (plus a CA Leader T-shirt for you!) so all your kids have a souvenir from the day and match while you work together as a group. (It helps you to keep them organized!) After CMD, you ask your pastor if you can recognize the children after church on Sunday so you can give them their CMD badges and CA CMD recognition certificate to encourage their excitement for participating in missions.

What is in each year’s GA, RA, and CA Digital Packages?

Each group — GA, RA, and CA — has its own yearly digital package which contains:

    • group logos and artwork designed around the year’s Missions Journey: Kids theme
    • group logos and artwork designed around the year’s Children’s Missions Day theme
    • group logos, Scripture verses, mottos, pledges, and virtues

The logos and artwork are provided in formats compatible with printing, creating social media posts, and creating apparel or accessories.

Where do I start?

Summer is here, which means the new church year is just around the corner! It’s time to start thinking about and planning your children’s missions discipleship for the year.

Visit wmustore.com to learn more about the GA, RA, and GA Digital Packages leaders can use to build a branded experience for their missions discipleship groups across social media, via apparel and accessories, and in recognition ceremonies.

And, as you move through the year, look for other ways to make sure kids feel welcomed. Let’s place an emphasis on including everyone and making sure everyone feels like part of the group!

Sarah Murray is editor for children’s resources at WMU.