A small moment of fear strikes my heart when I announce “Time for the Children’s Sermon” because I wonder if today will be the Sunday when some well-meaning child asks me a huge theological question. I envision everyone sliding forward in their seats to watch Vicar Julia squirm and answer, “What was before God?” or “What happens when we die?” or “Why do bad things happen?” Yet that fear quickly dissipates when I see all the children squeezing out of pews and scrambling to get to the front of the church. The joy of children who are still excited about coming to church is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
How can we encourage that joy and excitement? Parents, pastors, teachers and the whole church family promise at baptism to help children learn about their faith and what God has done for them and for the world. When we baptize children, we are witnessing the miracle of God’s claiming them and joining them to us as fellow children of God. Since they are part of this family, it is right that they participate in the activities of the family- including our weekly reunion in worship.
When children are present during the worship service, they are learning about what it means to be in the family. Just like they might imitate their parents’ home or work activities, so they learn to follow your church habits. They learn to stand up to sing, to offer prayer requests, to help with ushering or communion, to kneel at the rail and receive a blessing of words or the sacrament, and they learn that church is important.
In the recent weeks, we seen a way that children are also longing to imitate their parents. Several young children have made a point of giving money to the church for their offering. They are eager to be participants in the ministry of the congregation in ways we might not have thought they understood and that is something we, as a congregation, can encourage. Let us, then, create an opportunity for the children of Gloria Dei to demonstrate their desire to participate and to share what they have.
Beginning in November, we will make a space for children to bring tithes and offerings forward during the offering portion of the service. As the plates are passed throughout the congregation, children will be encouraged to bring whatever they have forward. For the month of November, we will be asking children to bring canned goods of all kinds to help with the various food ministries in which Gloria Dei participates.
Food is concrete image that children can understand and explaining why we bring food to different organizations appeals to children’s sense of fairness. If possible, you might even ask younger children what kind of canned goods they think other people might enjoy or encourage older children to figure out how many cans they could buy with a certain amount of money. It is our hope that this month will help establish a habit and enthusiasm for giving to the church that will remain with the children of Gloria Dei as they continue in life.
We can only imagine the enthusiasm with which children must have hurried toward Jesus and the eyes of love he turned toward them, saying, “Let them come to me.” We can help our children keep that same enthusiasm by teaching them about the gift of faith and how we can use that gift to care for those people around us. May we all remember and share the joy of being children of the heavenly Father in the coming month and beyond!