Families forming faith (Part 14)Raising each other’s children

Texts: Mark 9:33-37, 38-48; 10:13-16

Nothing endears someone to you more than when you pay attention to their children.

At Garnett, Sunday April 23 I’ll teach a class about paying attention to children other than yours at church.

Here’s the tragedy of how we’ve come to approach children at church. We prepare our children, make them look nice, get them pumped up to go to class, drop them off, pick them up and goo goo over their papers and projects, then we look for adults to talk to and try to keep them from disturbing our conversations.

We go a long, long way to establishing and keeping loving relationships in a church when we engage one another’s children by noticing them, learning their names, determining to speak to them each time we see them, finding out about some of their activities, congratulating them and asking them for updates on boy scouts, soccer, science fair, Bible Bowl, or a mission trip.

When we do this, parents will appreciate the way their children begin to look forward to coming to church, to see certain people there, to be affirmed and loved, and the result will be an incredibly charged and loving atmosphere.

That we engage children in the classroom setting is beautiful and vital. How could we, however, engage children in other ways that inspire and shape them?

First, notice children and learn their names. Christ opens our eyes to children around us. Jesus welcomed children into adult conversations when his disciples shunned them. We need the eyes of Jesus for the children desperately trying to enter conversations and be affirmed that they are part of the church.

Second, determine to notice certain children at church and speak to them no matter what. Children won’t likely understand even a slice of your role at church and what you might be in a hurry to do for class, worship or to make copies, but they think when we don’t speak to them that we’ve grown cold to them for some reason. They want to be noticed. I’ve determined to speak to several children no matter what.

Third, children need engaged outside the walls of the church. When I was young an elder traveled for Phillips Petroleum and he’d send postcards to children of my church. I remember a card with a Madador on it from Spain, a Jackrabbit with horns from somewhere in some desert, an airline generic postcard (back in the days when airlines spent money for such things). Charlie Tucker took time to engage me outside of the “regularly scheduled services” of the church. He also took photos and took time to label them and give them to the children and adults of church. He was a tireless JOY BUS director and loved each person of the church and community.

Fourth, children love to be teased or to see us swoon at something they’ve accomplished. High fives for Bible Bowlers, a “well done” to mission trippers, a simple hug and a “thank you” for kids who helped on a work day, and a “good job” for kids who help set up tables or read a Scripture in class. To a four-year-old little girl dressed in hat and pretty matching dress on Easter, I said, “You took my breath away!”

Fifth, learn creativity from children and be creative in the way you approach them. Use the above ideas and come up with some of your own. Jule Miller (yes, the famous film strip producer) would carry a silver dollar and do magic tricks for children. They loved his corny humor and when he’d drop the coin as if from his nose and say, “I guess that’s why the Bible calls it filthy lucre,” the parents always smile no matter how many times they’ve heard it.

What’s up your sleeve for children at your church?

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Families forming faith (Part 13)Model service and serve with them

Forty days of not blogging was refreshing to my soul and life-giving to focus more on the experience of Lent, Passover, Easter. I’ll share some of those experiences in later posts.

Picking up on the theme of sharing faith with our children, today I want to tell you a story about my parents that happened in 1975.

Sharing faith with our children involves showing them service to others and serving with them. This is a story of serving strangers in need that formed faith in me.

I was seven years old when Saigon fell.

I’ve never been to Vietnam; but in 1975, at Christmas, Saigon came to me and my family in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Someone encouraged Dad to take a Vietnamese family in and help them get jobs. The family had lived in a refugee camp in Arkansas, but they moved to my town in 1975.

I remember the faces of the Vu family. I remember their faces didn’t look like mine. Their eyes were slanted. Or were my eyes slanted? Their skin was a different color. They spoke a language I didn’t understand. But they didn’t understand my language, either. The Vus were the first Asian family I’d ever met, that Christmas of 1975. I remember going to the Vu’s downtown apartment. That’s where I ate my first egg roll.

During those turbulent years my family loved a Vietnamese family. And they loved us. They kept feeding us egg rolls. Our two very different families treated one another with respect and concern and love. Many of the Vu family still live in the United States and on occasion we’ll get a Christmas card from them and hear they are doing well.

I wrecked a motorcycle that my family owned that same year and caused damage that I regretted and remember crying next to our Christmas tree. But my father reminded me that it was just metal and rubber and people are more important. He did this by welcoming the Vus to sit by our Christmas tree with us. That’s where I looked at their eyes and watched them open the presents our family had given them.

And those early childhood memories of my father’s and mother’s service stick with me.

I hope one day my three children will remember something I did to serve a Ugandan or Tulsan or anyone desperately in need or in need of kindness that will put them back on their feet again. My parents inspired my siblings and me to serve in these ways:

1. Served us.
2. Modeled service to others for us.
3. Called us to serve in our home and outside.
4. Served beside us.

Each day we have chores for our children to help the family. We also look for ways we can serve the community and our neighbors. Together we visit with and give to the poor as a family, and this is an important part of how we share our faith in Christ. Our children are watching us.

We’re constantly looking for ideas and trying to be aware of ways we can serve together . . . what ideas can you share with Jill and me about serving as families?

By Greg Taylor Posted in General