Wow. This past Sunday was a gift as we welcomed children among us and joined with them in a special way. It was a joy to have all our children ages four to fifth grade join with us in singing to God, proclaiming our shared values, confessing the realties of our faith through the public reading of Scripture, and publicly praying together with one voice. But it was a special joy to participate with the children as they heard about God’s redemptive through the Scriptures (Luke 15). To see many of you joining with the children to “love the sheep” was beautiful. Hearing many of you shout with the children “I found it!,” when we found the ‘lost coin’ hidden in our seats. But I must say, the best part was seeing some of you tilt your head back, smile big, tuck your arms in to your side, and join with us in the happy dance as we all participated in each story’s celebration. What a gift to join the children in imagining a world where God’s redemptive love breaks in among us and works between us!
This new practice is not something we are doing for the children, it is something we are doing with the children before they leave the gathering for their small groups to explore what they’ve experienced through age-appropriate discussion and creative art. As I said Sunday, one of the primary reasons we are making changes to have kids join us in our Sunday gatherings for the first 20-30 minutes is because is that our children need to know they are loved and known by us and that we are all in this together. Another reason is that we adults need God’s Spirit to form within us a biblical imagination and a childlike faith. The best way to do that is to let the children draw us in. There is something they can teach us.
From now on until the Spirit determines otherwise, each week we gather on Sunday we are going to obey the Lord Jesus and be sure to not do what the disciples attempted to do and ‘shoo them away‘ to classrooms from the very beginning. In their presence we are going to affirm that we are with them by our presence and participation in this moment, this holy moment. We are going to join them in dancing, in the playfulness and beauty and imagination of the story of God, and they are going to be raised up knowing there’s no such thing as ‘big church,’ ‘small church’ or ‘children’s church.’ There’s just Church.
Enough from me. Listen to others from within our church family and how they were impacted by what they experienced this Sunday. I want to start with Jon Sprankle, one of our shepherds and our worship leader, because he was able to see from my vantage point the beauty of childlike faith:
“D.L. Moody once said, ‘If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!’ Personally, I’m not sure I would go that far, but it sure was a privilege to sit up front this Sunday and watch every eye on every child glued to Fred as he shared the same stories that Jesus shared with us. To see the amazement of God in those little one’s eyes was a reminder that we should all look at our Savior’s gift that way. With childlike eyes that are amazed by the amount of love He has for a sinful man like me.”
“There is a beautiful sense of helplessness in relinquishing control to our Father in a childlike faith. The past few days, in the middle of my responsibilities to study for tests and organize an overwhelming amount of things, I clung to the burdens I had put upon my own shoulders. What is so amazing is that all Jesus says is simply “come”. “Let the little children come to me”. “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, because I have already found favor in the eyes of my Father. All I have to do is answer His beckoning to come in faith of the promises He makes. And He never lets his children down.” ~ a college student
“For me, it’s fairly obvious when the Holy Spirit is bringing the message and His timing is always right. It’s especially challenging when He says something that goes against the popular beliefs at the time. I love it when I have to give thought to something that I thought I already knew and Sunday was an example. To grab the children early and have them feel included is marvelous…whether or not it is comfortable at first for us or them. KEEP THEM CLOSE!!” ~ a senior adult
“When we got home I asked the boys how they liked going upstairs to church service with us. They both loved it. I asked if they want to do it again and they said yes. My five year old asked why they get to go upstairs now. I told him it was because he and the other kids could teach the grown ups a lot.” ~ a wife and mother
“Our church answered Jesus’ call toward taking bigger steps to become an intergenerational church this Sunday. I am so proud of how the adults welcomed our children by participating in our “Big God Story,” finding lost coins, doing the happy dance, and embracing them with their smiles of encouragement. As we continue this practice, I can’t wait to see how God will work in the lives of our adult members who “…humble (themselves) and become like children” and in our children as they feel more a part of our extended family. I pray that connections will be made that will strengthen our church family relationships and bond our generations in Christ’s love; after all “God redeems!” ~ an adult small group teacher for Kidz Connect, wife and mother
“As children joined us, and we joined them, God’s Spirit is at work teaching, comforting, and removing barriers. We got to see what God can do when we learn from children how to imagine, and how to enjoy God and his gathered people. This is another step toward seeing the full picture of Christ’s body- when we gather with all of our differences to become one in Christ.” ~ Garrett Laubscher, Family Minister
“I was excited about our Kidz Konnect children joining our worship gathering! Our families would worship together and all generations would hear God’s word together. I was not disappointed. I saw smiles on many faces children and adults alike as they heard how God redeems! I heard laughter from all as the Big Idea for Kidz Konnect was listened to by 4 year olds through 84 year olds. Our WCC family celebrated our God together as one.” ~ Erin Otis, Children’s Minister