From your pastor… Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
(Matthew 19: 14, NIV)
When I first came to this church ten years ago, we had three little children in regular attendance. We have been praying that more would come. One of the members counted one Sunday, and told me after the service that we had over 30 children and youth who are active in our faith community. Praise God! There are many churches who do not have any children with them on a Sunday morning. Our congregations are getting older, and it is so important that our church family makes a space for people of all ages, from infants to 100 year olds!
One of the children recently told me after a worship service: “I love this church!” I responded by saying, “and we love having you here!” I think one reason children love it here is because they are welcomed as they are. They get to participate with the Noisy offering, and by serving as acolytes on a regular basis. We carve out time in the service for a children’s message, and again, we ask them to participate in the lesson for the day. The church offers “activity boxes” for the children to use when they are sitting in the pew. We offer Easter Egg Hunts, the Live Nativity, a Halloween party, and a wonderful Vacation Bible School each July. We have a top rate Mother’s Day Out ministry which has been growing, and now operates three days a week, Mon, Tues, and Thursdays on the first floor of our education building. Thanks to a generous donor, we have new playground equipment in the backyard for the MDO children to use, and they love it!
All of these efforts to welcome and bless children have been intentional. They do not happen “accidentally.” These efforts require Sunday School teachers who sacrifice of their time to prepare lessons for the children and adults here for 10am every Sunday. They require people who are willing to develop and grow in their abilities to be able to teach and to assist with these ministries to make the children feel welcome. The “activity boxes” are updated and replenished which takes time to do and money and shopping time to buy the things inside of them. People put hours into decorating and planning for the holidays and parties to make them fun and creative. We opened a nursery for babies to four year olds and hired an excellent person to care for them!
I have served churches that were not as welcoming to children in the past. They did not allow babies to fuss and squirm and cry out loud. Yes, the adults have to sacrifice at times in order to accommodate the “noise” the little ones do make. But, the rewards far outweigh the adaptations we make in order to truly make the children know they are welcome in a church. Jesus loved the little children, and He prayed for them and blessed them with his hands. Everyday, we have an opportunity to bless a child. They get enough negativity in our world. Let’s affirm them and cherish them. Yes, we must also discipline them at times, but with a purpose of teaching and correcting behaviors, with genuine love in our hearts for their well being, and not humiliating them in the process of correction. Let’s inspire them to learn that Jesus loves them, and so do we!!
Grace and peace,