My son, Matthew Armstrong, with the support of his lovely wife Adriana, launched a ministry to kids in the public schools in 1998. This ministry was a neighborhood-based, para-church ministry. I referred to Matt in the chapter in my book, Your Church Is Too Small, in the chapter on how missional-ecumenism actually works. His story is also included on the ACT 3 video on our Web site.
In 1998 Matt began a ministry called Crossroads Kids Club. He did what most Christians tell me again and again cannot be done – he ran after-school clubs inside public elementary schools. After several years, Matt then planted a neighborhood church because he wanted to connect with families. Matt has always believed in the church thus he believed in connecting kids and families in the local church, not simply to a program or a life-stage ministry. So Crossroads has been working, for well over a decade, in two towns in the Chicagoland area (Hanover Park and Streamwood). Crossroads, simply put, is a neighborhood-based ministry serving a particular geographic area with after-school clubs in public schools.
Now Matt has an even bigger vision for Crossroads. After working to develop a effective procedure, and a solid curriculum taught by volunteers, he wants to see a Kids Club established inside of every one of the nearly 89,000 public elementary schools in the U.S. This young man is quite a visionary for the kingdom. But even more than establishing clubs in schools Matt wants to see local churches leading these clubs so that children and families connect within a church. This is an incredible vision, far bigger than Matt or his few companions. But it is one that is unique and profoundly needed at this time in American church history and mission. There will be many steps involved in going from where Crossroads is today to where they want to go if this dream is to become an effective national strategy for congregations.
Matt believes that the first step in this process is to partner with a small, but very diverse, group of churches (geographically, ethnically, economically, and denominationally) in the 2011-2012 school year. (Do you see the missional-ecumenism?) He hopes to get lots of honest feedback from each church partner so that a strong ministry can have a foundation that will support a ministry as large as he hopes this becomes – one that gives every public school student in America the opportunity to hear the gospel inside their school through the direct ministry of a local church that adopts and works with that school.
Recently Matt had an informational luncheon for churches in the Milwaukee area. One of his first goals is to have church partners in three different states (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) this coming school year. Eight different churches were represented at the meeting in Milwaukee. From these, half were interested in becoming part of the Crossroads pilot program next year! He requests your prayer.
- Please pray that each of these Milwaukee-area churches would have wisdom in knowing if a Kids Club is something that they should do.
- Pray for a second luncheon scheduled for northwest Indiana. Please pray for a good turnout and a solid response.
- Pray that Matt would have tremendous wisdom as he tries to move from where this program is to where they want to go in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
- Finally, pray that the Lord would put together the ideal group of initial church partners to move toward this big vision beginning this fall.
If this initial tri-state venture succeeds then there is a very good chance Crossroads could come to your area to help you and your church begin a ministry inside public schools.
Personally, I am amazed and quite obviously thrilled. My son is a missional-ecumenist who really loves kids and gets the mission of Christ and his church very powerfully. He unites people in mission and loves people.
1. This vision is ambitious for the kingdom and will only succeed if God is truly in it.
2. This vision is rightly focused on expanding what works and doing this close to home first.
3. This vision is shockingly simple but in reality few churches and Christian leaders believe it can happen, especially inside schools.
4. The vision puts the burden of community mission back where it should be, in the local churches.
5. This vision is biblical and ecumenical. It can be done by Protestant and Catholic churches if they really look at it objectively and openly.
6. This vision respects authority and the leaders of our public schools, who are increasingly open to having after-school clubs that socialize and serve their children in solid ways. Further, more and more kids will never be reached by attempting to bring them to local church buildings. For this reason we have to find a way to reach children that is fresh, effective and inside our schools. This vision is right and it works.