It’s not easy, as a parent or a grandparent, to bring a child to church with you. Even if you’ve been to church your whole life, the first time you step into a church building with an infant or toddler you are taking a big risk. That’s why I want to thank you, my sisters and brothers at Shepherd of the Hills, for your love and care for the children of our congregation!
In Daryn’s first call congregation – years before he and I had children of our own – there was a little 18-month-old boy in the congregation who was a joy to behold. Daryn and I would joke that he body-surfed his way through the congregation during worship. He wandered around and danced and was gathered into the arms of his church family. Daryn and I knew that was special in a congregation and something we greatly appreciated.
The sad fact is most churches are not safe places for parents with young children. You expose yourself to criticism as a parent for the behavior of your child, with the added burden of knowing that unless your child is a natural “sitter”, the worship service itself will prove to be a challenge. So when I see a parent or grandparent with their young child walk into the church, the first thing I want to do is congratulate them for making it this far – out of the house, into the car and into the church building! And I think if they made it that far, then it is our calling as the community of Christ to make sure they and their child feel welcomed, honored, and loved.
One of the ways we do that at SOTH is to provide opportunities for young people to be trained to serve in a leadership position. Church is far less boring for kids (and for adults!) when they have a role to play! I firmly believe that our time of worship is not a performance for God that somehow requires perfection. I want worship to be experienced as a family gathering – a weekly reunion of sorts – where we gather with relatives to tell family stories, share a meal, sing together, and seek healing and restoration for whatever has become broken in our relationships with God and with one another.
The life of faith is something that is caught, much more than it is taught. And the more young people can participate in the stories, the meal, the song, and the positive relationships, the more the community of faith and its proclamation, and rituals will take root deep into their hearts and lives.
We now have the wonderful “problem” of having more young people wanting to light candles than we have candles to light! They will not do it perfectly every time – maybe they won’t do it perfectly any of the time. But that’s not what’s important in this situation. What’s important is that they’re doing it!! And just like that that cute little boy from Daryn’s first call is now, more than likely, old enough to be in high school, our young people at SOTH will not stay young forever. And the relationship we form with them now will have a great impact on the relationship they continue to have, with Shepherd of the Hills, as well as with God.
Participating in worship – having a role to play – makes a difference to young people. And I think it makes a difference to the congregation as well, when young people are a part of worship. Of course, making a difference often means experiencing change. And change – whether good or bad – is hard. So I want to thank you – as your pastor and as a mother – for the patience, support, love, and care that you have shown to the many children of Shepherd of the Hills, who truly love coming to church. Thanks be to God!
Yours in Christ,