Patsy Way was on the pastoral care team at Windsor Park Baptist Church for six years before transitioning to director of their children’s ministry, WindsorKids, in late 2017. She is now pastor of children’s ministry. Here she talks to us about this ministry and why she believes children should not be overlooked as ambassadors for Christ.

When you think of children and mission, what comes to your mind?

Growing up, I was told we had to support our missionaries overseas. I always understood ‘missionaries’ to be people who leave their homes and families and go and live on a little island somewhere, because, as a kid, those were the missionaries we were supporting at our church. But I have learnt that everyone is a missionary. For me, children and mission means children on a mission to share the love of Christ. I want all kids to know that you don’t have to leave the place you are in to be a missionary. 

How does WindsorKids help children to see themselves as missionaries? 

I am passionate about children learning to recognise the voice of God that is already in them. So, we are big on asking our kids, “What do you want to do for mission and serving this year?” 

WindsorKids sponsors five children through Freeset. We have what we call the Givings Monster, which is a vacuum cleaner that is made to look like a cute little monster. The children get to come and hold their hands out and the monster sucks up their offerings. They know those offerings go to help the children at Freeset. We have profiles of the sponsored children, what schools they go to, their favourite colours, their pets, etc., so that our kids know these children are real, like them. They write letters and birthday cards to the Freeset children and we pray for them. 

At the end of this year, WindsorKids will transition out of some sponsorship, as our kids have said they want to do something for children in New Zealand. For me it is great that they are starting to think of local mission as mission too.

We also do two or three Serving Sundays a year, where the kids decide how they want to serve their community. This year they have chosen to do a car wash for people at our church, weed the gardens, and go on a prayer walk around our neighbourhood and place handwritten cards in people’s letterboxes. 

We keep telling them, “You are a missionary wherever you are. Wherever you are planted is where you can show the love of Christ.”

We will often get them to share in little groups how they have shared the love of Jesus that week, or how they can be a missionary the following week. The assumptions are sometimes hilarious: “My friend always has peanut butter sandwiches, so I am going to give them my Vegemite sandwich.” That kid may love peanut butter and not want Vegemite! But the heart behind it is: “I want to give what they need.” They are starting to look for ways to show the love of Christ.

And it is not just child-to-child mission, is it? 

We are in a world where we are seeing more and more children bringing parents to church, not the other way around. Families who are late often say, “We weren’t going to come today but our child said, ‘No, it’s church; I have to come.’” 

We especially see parents who are new immigrants in our area wanting a good foundation for their kids. Even if they don’t believe in God themselves, they send their kids to church. Our rule is that the parents have to stay on the property during the service, but often they won’t go in the auditorium; they might sit in the café instead. A lot of people are against that but I don’t care. Give me your precious kids to look after and teach about God! Then you start to see those kids telling their parents what they have learnt, and often the parents start going into church themselves. 

Some of the parents don’t want to go to church but still volunteer to serve on the WindsorKids security team. Often within a few weeks there they are, singing the songs and joining in on prayers. So, it has flipped around now, I think, and these kids are ministering to their parents. 

This year we intentionally started a segment on Sundays called ‘More Than Me’, which is basically showing our children the bigger mission of the church. Most of the church and Windsor Park’s ‘business as mission’ staff are rostered on to come into WindsorKids one Sunday each. They talk about how they contribute to the wider mission of the church and their own relationship with God, and then our kids have the opportunity to pray for them.

What are the plans for WindsorKids?

When I took over the role, I felt that God gave me a multi‑year plan that has fitted so well with what Windsor Park overall has been journeying through with the PressingOn series.1

The first year we focused on processes. We spent a lot of time working on our safety manuals, making sure we were up to standard, introducing security teams and getting ahead of where we could see safety requirements were headed.

The second year was welcome, which fitted really well with the overall church theme of ‘InVisible’—living in exile, particularly how even though we are not of this world we are missionaries in it and we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. An important way we can do this is by making visitors and regulars feel welcome and like they are at home. So, we made sure we had really good welcome teams, a friendly environment, and that all the leaders knew the kids’ names, and we hosted events that families feel they can bring their friends along to.

This year is strengthening families. The church’s focus is ‘Thrive’. For me, strengthening families fits in there. 

Tell us more about this year’s priority of strengthening families. 

A lot of our families are first-generation Christians. They have never grown up in a Christian home so they have no idea how to spiritually parent their children. We love intergenerational learning, so we have created a teaching series called Propel, which is a course that will be held on four Friday nights a year, for parents and kids to come to together. The parents will learn how to spiritually parent their children and it will give families the opportunity to brainstorm how they are going to serve, and how they can do things like devotions and bring prayer into their everyday family lives. 

Sunday used to be a day when nothing much happened, a day that you spent with your family. Now it is not like that at all. Even churches with the best children’s programmes in the world are seeing a dramatic drop in attendance because of sports, kids’ parties, etc. So, this year we are looking at how we can live out our motto of ‘Sunday is only one day’ and do church outside of Sundays. For instance, we are starting up Messy Church on Saturday afternoons.

WindsorKids is also purposely putting staffing hours into our biggest mission fields: mainly music, ICONZ, Windsor football league, Small Fries Christian Childcare Centre, caféwindsor, and so on.

Any final thoughts on children, God and mission?

Never underestimate a child and how much they already know. I’m constantly surprised at the depth of their understanding of who God is, of who God is to them, and of how they already have a relationship with him. 

Children have got such a powerful voice. Adults always talk about children being ‘the voice of the future’. But if we keep looking to what they are going to be in the future, we ignore who they are now. They already are the voice of their generation. 

The Bible says to teach a child the way they should go and they will never turn from it. Yes, sometimes they do walk away from Christ and the church. But statistics show that a huge majority of those who came to Christ before they were 10 years old will return. 

God says seeds that he plants are not wasted, so it’s having the faith that that is true. And OK, we may never see the fruits of our labours. But whenever anything goes wrong in children’s ministry, whenever a leader pulls out or something happens, I always feel God say to me, “As much as you love these kids, and as much as you care about this ministry, I care infinitely more. These are my children. This is my ministry. I am going to take care of it.” 

Contributor: Patsy Way

Patsy has been part of Windsor Park Baptist Church since emigrating from South Africa in 2008. She is passionate about creating a safe and fun environment where children can learn what it means to do life and faith together whilst experiencing the transforming love of Christ. When she’s not at work you’ll find her either blending tea for her tea business or exploring Auckland beaches and mountains.

Take outs:

  1. What voice do children in your faith community have? How are they involved in your missional work?
  2. Is there another way for you to ‘do church’ outside of Sundays that would enable busy families in your neighbourhood to participate?
  3. What help could you give first-generation Christians to spiritually parent their children?

References:

  1. PressingOn is a network of Baptist faith communities who share teaching resources. For more information go to
    www.windsorpark.org.nz/windsor/pressingon.