Reaching Families and Kids in the Highways, Hedges, and Backyards

Reaching Families and Kids in the Highways, Hedges, and Backyards
Rhonda VanCleave

When I think about Backyard Kids Clubs, Luke 14:23 sounds in my head. Whether your favorite translation says highways, hedges, roads, or country lanes, it is a clear picture of going to where the people are. The instructions to “compel them to come in” may have long seemed merely like “invite them to church.” But in today’s world, people tend to be wary of the unfamiliar, and neighbors are often strangers.

Our culture has shifted. In our parents’ generations, neighbors knew one another. They kept an eye on one other’s kids. They stood in the yard and talked long into summer evenings. They banded together when an illness or other crises touched one of them. Today, many parents arrive home after a long commute, push the garage door button, and effectively shut out the world. Kids aren’t playing as much together around the neighborhood, partly due to safety reasons and partly because of heavy extracurricular activity schedules.

It’s difficult to compel neighbors to join you at church if you haven’t connected through a friendly, trust-building relationship. But now, many churches are challenging their people to go into the “highways and hedges,” beginning with the hedges that marks the boundaries of their own backyards. Hosting a Backyard Kids Club not only provides an opportunity to reconnect a neighborhood, but also to connect people to your church.

We’ve heard testimonies from single adults and families reached through Backyard Kids Club. The best way to most parents’ hearts is through their children. When parents see their kids having fun at your Backyard Kids Club, a door opens to getting to know those families better. As these relationships grow, the opportunities to welcome them into the caring arms of your church family increase.

The flexibility of hosting a Backyard Kids Club makes it easy to match what you can do with where you are. You don’t even have to have kids of your own. The event schedule can vary, from five days to three days, to simply a fun-filled Saturday. Bible story times offer opportunities to talk about Jesus. Activities such as crafts, games, music, and snacks create fun and variety.

Churches can help and encourage their families to host Backyard Kids Club by providing simple, easy-to-follow instructions. Some churches create their own resources. LifeWay produces the Backyard Kids Club Kit, which supplies all the resources needed for one backyard site. The Backyard Kids Club Directors Guide helps the event coordinator organize and train Backyard teams.

It’s time to head out to our local highways, hedges, and lanes, and compel people to come. We have a great message to share, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The opportunities are as close as your own backyard.

Rhonda VanCleave is the publishing team leader for VBS at LifeWay Christian Resources. She leads children’s church at Rock Springs Baptist Church, Columbia, Tennessee where her husband is pastor.

The above article, “Reaching Families and Kids in the Highways, Hedges, and Backyards” was written by Rhonda VanCleave. The article was excerpted from web site. May 2013.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”