December 7, 2010

Child's Eye View of Church

We are one of the lucky Episcopal Churches to be blessed with an abundance of children. So far this fall over 150 kids have visited our Sunday School. This means we find 100 roles for children in our Annual Christmas pageant.

The buzz around the pageant begins in mid-November when the casting gets done. Next come the costume fittings. We end up every year with a full choir of angels.

We also invite the littlest ones to wear animal costumes of their choice to be part of the manger scene. We may be the only Pageant with a lobster.

With all the bustle at this time of year, I have tried to picture what a child’s eye view of church would be.

I am sure first and foremost it is about their friends. Each child at our church has a cadre of kids in their age group that they look forward to seeing each week. Two of our high school juniors have pictures of them together in church dating back to preschool; soul friends since an early age.

Second, their Sunday School teachers and our youth pastor stand tall as figures in their lives. Our Children’s Chapel program features a story teller who week in and week out shares Bible stories in a way that our young people “get.” Their set liturgy of candle lighting, singing, saying prayers, and hearing a story gives them the beginning experience of a spiritual discipline that can serve them throughout their life.

Third would be “Big Church.” The seasonal children’s sermon, the presentations from “Creation Days” at the Peace, the taste of really good fresh baked communion bread are part of the store of memories that being in a Christian community from an early age can build.

I hope somewhere on the list is a relationship with the senior pastor. I play guitar from time to time in Children’s Chapel. Give a children’s sermon once a quarter. Always go along on the senior high mission trips (we have been to an Indian reservation, New Orleans, Alaska, and San Francisco). But I bet what they might remember most is the basket of tootsie roll pops I keep on the flower pot coffee table the children made for my installation service.

What is most important in every encounter is that they meet the Christ child and know that he dwells in our midst.

If we don’t make a conscious effort to see church from a child’s view, we will fail to make our congregations welcoming centers for children and our families. Will our children have faith? Will our faith have children?