“Let the children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs . . . And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” Mark 10:13, 15 (NRSV)
This Sunday is Children’s Day in both of the church I serve. As a former teacher and as a pastor, I have always felt that children needed to have opportunities to learn and grow. In the church, we offer them Sunday school, music, leadership in worship, and recognition for accomplishments.
So many people say that they are our future, but even though that is true, they are also a vital part of the present. Children bring a richness to our church communities that invites us to see Jesus through their eyes. They trust us to lead them, and they trust God far more than we adults do.
Whenever I offer a children’s message, it involves asking questions that invite them to think and respond. Sometimes the answers are far deeper than expected. There is innocence in their faith. Verse 14 of the above passage says: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Children teach us about how to receive the kingdom of God, and it is our job to learn from them, even as we teach them about God. I have watched our children grow up over the past ten years I have been serving these churches. Some of them have never known another pastor, so my retirement brings concerns that they might feel abandoned or confused when I’m gone.
Hopefully, the teachers and parents have talked with them about the changes. In one church, where the age of the Sunday school is much younger, I went to the classroom after finishing the sermon. The lay leader took over so I could spend some time with the kids in case they had questions. This Sunday school has a pattern of focusing on a theme for a whole month and doing activities around it, so the month of May was not only review of what they had learned, but also about how to say “good-bye.”
I think the children “got it,” but I have encouraged the parents to be aware that Fall may bring more questions about why there is a new pastor there. We have compared it to having a new teacher in the fall, and that seems to help many of them understand it.
The children have been important to me because I believe they were important to Jesus, and I believe they are important to the life of the church. They bring balance, learning opportunities, creativity, insights, and a richness that could be missing without them. What a gift we have been given! Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them. Let us do likewise.
How are the children received in your church?
What have you learned from them?