A Place Where Children Are Welcome
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14
A church can be an intimidating place for parents with young children. More than anything else, parents are concerned about their kids being a distraction for others. Those distractions come in a variety of forms, but definitely include kids making noise when everyone else is quiet, making a mess in the pew (crackers and cereal make crumbs easy) and children have to be taken out often. Some congregation members give the unspoken impression that their children are an unwelcome distraction.
A young pastor, on a whim, contacted one of the farmers to bring a bag of straw to the first evening Advent service. Following the offering, he invited the children to come to the narthex where they could grab a handful of straw to bring forward and place in the manger to symbolize our preparing for the coming of Christ. It seemed to be a good idea, at least in his mind. The children excitedly reached into the bag to pull out large handfuls of straw and then proceeded to skip down the aisle, dropping more straw with each step. By the time the last child made it back to the pew, the center aisle looked like the ground at a petting zoo. After the service, the young pastor braced for the angry comments, but none were shared. The members were thankful to see the children in worship and being made to feel welcome. I was that young pastor. I was thankful for how the congregation members made those kids feel welcome.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is present for young and old alike. Beginning with the name of triune God reminds us that all of God’s baptized children are equal in His eyes. Together, we can confess our sins, receive absolution, hear God’s Word, raises our petitions, and receive His blessing. We still have work to do in helping parents to understand that their children learn the liturgy and can participate in the service from a young age. In fact, sitting in the front pew, rather than the back pew, makes it easier for children to see and hear. However, parents will only sit up front if they feel that their family is welcome, even when the children have a bad day.
How can your congregation show parents that their children are welcome? Some congregations have bags with books and coloring pages to engage children during the service. Other congregations provide activities for children to take home and do with their parents, including devotions. Children’s voices are heard in the repeated petitions of the prayer of the church, in singing familiar hymns and praying the Lord’s Prayer. May God bless our congregations so that they can be places where children are always welcome!
Prayer – Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have blessed us with the joy and care of children. Give us calm strength and patient wisdom, that as they grow in years, we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan