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?