We had our “Christmas children’s program” last night. In truth the youth carried the program; they had all the speaking parts and they did a phenomenal job “cooking up Christmas.” But the children were the center piece and they were precious singing as a choir dressed in chef’s attire. At one point they distributed cupcakes to the audience. I got two.
We have always placed an emphasis not on the programs we do for children but on those things they do with us. Every Sunday we do a children’s sermon in our morning worship. Usually I gather them around me on the altars and we talk. I sometimes explain to them and the congregation why this is an important element in our worship.
I want our children to grow up knowing they belong with us in the presence of God. I also want them to “gain their voice” in the house of God. I want them to be comfortable speaking in public and I want them to know they might be used of God to bless others with their words. Over arching all of this, I want them to know they are loved and they are important to us. In a congregation our size (100) every child should be known by name by every adult.
It is important to me that our children experience Godly touch, hugs and that they learn about improper touch. I greet all of them with a hug. And every year I do a children’s sermon about proper touch challenging them to report any improper to touch to their parents, me, and/or another adult they trust. I believe physical contact is critical to the development of a healthy self-concept; we know ourselves best in fellowship with others.
I know that as pastor, the one up front with the microphone, I can be intimidating. Therefore, I have to work especially hard to win the trust of our children. Jesus did not make this an option; He declared children to belong in the center of the life of the church. They are to be received, blessed, and emulated.
There are many measurements of the health of a church (sincerity and fervency of worship, genuineness of fellowship, consistency of witness, normalcy of acts of compassion, etc.), but one of the most overlooked is the valued presence of children.
Children are more than romanticized reminders of our past and hopeful glimpses of the future. They are the signs of the Kingdom of God. They are God’s gift to us and His presence among us. Through them He continually speaks of His love, righteousness, tenderness, and mercy.
I have no greater challenge, joy, or sense of fulfillment than when I connect with a child, that moment when their eyes whisper to me “Pastor, I love you” and their smile counters, “And, Pastor, I know you love me, too.” From these children I draw strength to be a pastor to adults and courage to face the giants of my own life.
That’s the news from New Covenant, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.
December 13, 2010
P.S. I just did a search of this series and of the 300 plus entries this year 75 make reference to "children." As they say, "Once a man, twice a child."