When it comes to work in the church, kids keep getting me into trouble.
One of my favorite children sermons from my internship year was the story of Samuel’s call. I find the story funny; Samuel keeps hearing a voice and, thinking it is Eli, keeps running and waking the poor man up. Since I find many children’s sermons boring, I thought, why not make it exciting? So I had the kids re-enact the story. All of us would lay down like we were sleeping, then get up, run up and down the church aisle, and go back to bed. I had fun, the kids had fun, and the story got told. The parents, however, did not appreciate having their kids run around the sanctuary. Nor did they appreciate me sending their now-hyper kids back to them, where they wanted them to sit quietly in the pews.
On a more serious note, I get into trouble when I make suggestions about kids in church. During a staff Christmas party I attended with my fiancée, folks at our table were raving about how well the children performed in their Christmas program. Some of the children, who were quite young, really did do a great job reading their parts. So I interjected, “Yes, they read their lines like experts! You should have them read the lessons in church!” Silence.
In the congregation to which I have been called, the kids are given a message before the service begins, and then sent down to Sunday school until they come back up for Communion. I have already had proponents and opponents of this practice courting me on the subject, and have been told that kids in the church will be an early and important issue to face.
Kids keep getting me into trouble, but I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why kids who read better than some adults are not allowed to read the lessons at all, or may only do so once or twice a year. I don’t understand why kids can’t have a little fun during the worship service. I don’t understand why churches think it is better to send kids out of the service than to make them a real part of it. I don’t understand why we allow the nursery, a place for little tiny kids to go, to become the dumping ground for parents to use when they want free babysitting.
Everywhere I go, I hear the same lament: “There are no young people in the church!” But no one stops to think about how we treat kids in church. I do, and that makes people uncomfortable. It disturbs the way things have “always” been done.
I want to see kids living into their baptisms as active Children of God. I want to hear the words of scripture spoken by their tongues. I want to feel the Gospel proclaimed from their mouths. I want to serve the true body and blood of Christ from a table set by their hands. I want them to lift up their prayers to God, both longings and praises, without fear of mockery or backlash. I want to talk with them as they question and explore their faith, letting them know that THAT’S OKAY. I want to walk with them as they live out their calling as disciples, following in the footsteps of Jesus and making a difference in their communities.
As I talk to adults in the church, I get the impression that we all want the same thing. They are just as important to God and loved just as much as (probably even more than) adults. Isn’t time we worked together to make them feel that way?