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Let the Children Come. . .

6December2011

Jesus was a champion of children.  He urged adults to have faith like them, he scolded his disciples when they tried to shoo the kids away from him, he counted them among the recipients of the Kingdom of God.  My question today is,“How good has the church been at embracing children the way that Jesus did?”  In my experience of 43 years in the church, children have most often taken a backseat to the more important people in the assembly- the adults!  I know for many of my colleagues in ministry, they are trying to turn this disturbing trend around.  They see children and truly embrace them. . . engage them in discussions (they do have ideas about God), go to their events (showing up for them is incredibly important), and making worship a friendly place for our smallest disciples.

The folks in my congregation have often told me about the old days when arguments broke out over whether or not to allow the children to come forward during Holy Communion for a blessing.  This baffles me as it does those who recount the conflict.  Why would we keep children away from a blessing?  They need a word of grace too, don’t they?  Of course they do. . . just watch them come forward during the Eucharist and tilt their little foreheads toward the presiding minister, waiting for the sign of the cross to be etched once more on their faces.  “You belong to Christ who will never leave you.”  Once a child in my congregation missed that moment (not sure where he was when it happened) but later in the fellowship hall he came up to me with great urgency saying, “Pastor Amy, I missed my blessing today!”  So then it happened right there instead.

This past Sunday, after the first hymn when the congregation had returned to silence, little Ireland who is about two years old, clapped her hands and shouted, “Yeah!”  We all giggled at her enthusiasm.  Stop for a second and imagine what that cheering really means, what it means to God. . . “Hurray assembly!  You did such a wonderful thing praising God who deserves to be praised! Bravo!  Keep it up!  It is music to God’s ears the way you sing your love songs to him!”  

Well, Ireland wasn’t done being enthusiastic about worship.  In fact, she was just getting started.  (I wish I had a picture of her for you to see– gorgeous child that she is! Jet black curly hair, sweet cherub face, impeccably dressed all the time– she’s a sight to behold!)  During Children’s Time she came forward, and went back, and came forward again.  Repeat several times.  Then when I stepped into the pulpit to preach she decided she would come forward one more time and take a look at the beautiful altar that is decorated for the Advent season.  Her poor mother was about to have a coronary!  But it was absolutely no problem. . . on the contrary, it was truly delightful!  Her joy was contagious!  Her curiosity about the church is what has sparked my imagination!  Her comfort level within the church is the miracle I long for . . . for all children to feel so much at home, so welcome, that they are at ease in the worship space.  (For those of you who might be uncomfortable right this moment, I do NOT think she was misbehaving, nor do I think she was disrespecting the holy.  She is two!)

As Ireland’s mom scooped her up and took her out the door, I leaned into the pulpit and said to the congregation, “You know, that’s what I love about this church!  Children are valued so much here that they feel completely comfortable within these walls and with all of you.  In other places that would have caused a heart-attack, but not here!  Here, children are incredibly important, as important or more important than anyone else.”  Amen.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ronald Orovitz permalink
    7December2011 19:01

    The day you posted this I attended my grandaughter’s Holiday Program at her school. Kids, kids, kids, everywhere, but so few in church. Where are the kids today? Their parents are not bringing them to church to receive the blessings you describe and we all give.

    Of course it was a “Holiday Program” and not a Christmas Program. Christmas did get mentioned once or twice, it must have slipped by the PC sensors. However they did have a Hanukah segment with a Yiddish dance.

    “Let the children come to me….” but the parents aren’t bringing them. The parents were sure at the school’s Holiday program, but not at church.

    Sorry, I just had to unload that.

    • 12December2011 08:29

      Ronald, I share your grief over the loss of children in our churches. I suppose there isn’t one answer to the problem but for me as a pastor, I do not hesitate to remind parents of the promises they made TO GOD (not to me) at their child’s baptism. I believe this consistent reminder of their duty to their child’s faith life has made an impact in our congregation as I have uttered these words many, many times over the past 9+ years. I also remind the congregation on a constant basis of the promises they made to the children who were baptized in their presence and that they are called to help the families nurture the children in the faith. It is certainly not the children who say “I don’t want to be there.” They simply do not drive! So it is up to the parents to transport them and more importantly, to model the faith. This is especially true, in my experience, of men and their sons. If a Dad does not commit to the life of faith then it is very likely that his son(s) will not either. There is a dearth of men in the church, have you noticed? At least men who want to be actively involved in the life of the congregation. Further, I remind families that the number one and number two influence on their child’s faith life, according to Search Institute, is Mom and then Dad. Pastor is down further on this list of influential people. Sunday School teacher was higher than Pastor last time I checked. So, then, all this is to say that we have to be consistent in reminding parents of the covenant they made and that God made with them at their child’s baptism. God is faithful. . . will they be? Hang in there!

      Amy

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