Someone once told me that if a pastor was going to have a children’s message or moment during worship, that pastor needed to be careful that it didn’t turn into “cutesy-time” – that’s what he called it. He was one of my instructors for worship as I was obtaining my license to preach when I first entered into the ministry. I believe his fear was that the children would somehow upset the “natural flow” of worship with their unscripted comments and wandering tendencies.
That was oh, so long ago.
So… after thirty years in the ministry, what have I learned about the children's moment during worship? I believe children must be welcomed in wherever the flow of worship is happening – whatever the moment. I understand the point of my esteemed worship instructor, but what this person missed was how important children are to the present church. Welcoming them, treating them with respect, listening to their thoughts, and instead of teaching them, learning from their child-like faith are things to be valued and lifted up. After all, wasn’t that Jesus’ point in the lesson from Matthew 18 – that “unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”?
I absolutely love the children’s moment. I remember the example of a pastor from my own youth – Rev. Irving H. Palm. Rev. Palm was a tall man – an imposing man who always wore a black robe on Sunday. At least once during the service, Rev. Palm would pause and say something like “And now, I want all of you children to listen to the next words that I have to say…” He would make eye contact with us and teach us something about the Bible in that moment. I was captivated by his powerful voice and his easy manner. I could tell that I was important to God because here was this man of God, talking to us children and us children alone. I was important to God. A child. Greatest in the kingdom.
In thirty years of ministry, I’ve never forgotten that lesson. So, yes, let the children come! Let them make noise in the sanctuary! Let them come forth and be a part of the family at the table of Holy Communion! In so many ways, what happens during my sermon pales in comparison to what happens during the children’s moment!
Because the children are the greatest in the kingdom!