Connie and I have never before been part of a church that does such an excellent job of making children feel included in the life of the congregation. When we first joined and Rebecca was two, she sat with us for the first portion of “big church,” being dismissed after the children’s sermon for W.O.W: “Working on Worship.” At W.O.W, she and her friends experienced a simplified, age-appropriate version of our church’s worship, complete with the chiming of the hour, standing and sitting at the direction of a worship leader, singing the Gloria Patri and Doxology, and listening to a Bible story or some other story with a spiritual message.
This past Sunday, she and other rising first-graders were introduced to the congregation (as if she needed any introductions!), presented with a Bible, and stayed for all of “big church” for the first time. Armed beforehand with a chapter book and Mommy’s lap, she was fine, although she admitted afterward that it was “tiring.”
After church, she went downstairs for the “Big Enough Now Party.” She got to eat with her new Sunday school teachers, choir director, and missions education teacher (GA’s, for those of you in Baptistland). Then, the first-graders went off to do a craft project‚Äîdecorating their “big church bags” in which the children’s minister will keep a steady supply of notepads, bookmarks (for finding the hymns and Scripture readings beforehand), pipe cleaners (for fidgety fingers), and other helpful items. While the children were busy, the parents got a pep talk on what to do with little ones in church: how to teach them about worship during the week, some goals for for their active participation during the service, etc.
We shared what worked and what didn’t, and were challenged to help our kids participate as much as their attention spans will allow. I was not especially surprised at how reasonable and gracious the advice was. They knew that a child is hearing and remembering more than you might think, even while reading the latest Magic Treehouse book. Nor was there any browbeating about making your kids sit up straight and behave. Our pastor is actually fine with the little ones coloring, playing with pipe cleaners, or laying in somebody’s lap during the sermon! You’d think he had been a six-year-old himself once.
On the way home, Rebecca wanted Mommy to find a story she could read from her new Bible: “the one where Jesus washed the feet.” A fine choice, the more I think about it.
It was a good day.