I’ve often wondered why, if Jesus told his disciples in Mark 10:14 to “Let the little children come to me, do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs,” that so many churches today don’t invite little children to worship with their parents in the main, adult worship service.
I feel fortunate that the church I grew up in was not one of those churches and that week after week, I had the privilege of worshiping with my parents. Though I vividly remember reading books during the sermons, I also remember being in awe of the sanctuary and its beauty: the giant cross behind the beautiful wooden alter and the stained glass windows that surrounded the entire room, each telling a different Bible story. I also remember singing the hymns. I didn’t always understand their meaning, but I learned to love them anyway. On special occasions I also remember having my Grandma and Aunt join our family in worship and loving the fact that we all got to be in that place – a place that was already incredibly special to me – together.
As I grew older and began understanding more, because the value of worship was already ingrained in me, I quickly enjoyed being a part of the service by serving as an acolyte, lector, and occasionally being asked to play a piano piece as a special musical offering.
Because the Methodists have an open communion table, I took communion from a very early age. At first, I didn’t understand the significance of this act, but I still remember feeling like it was a big deal for me to be able to take part in it. Somehow, I intrinsically understood that the act itself was important and holy. Perhaps it’s because of the way I was welcomed at the table from such a young age that when I then got to serve communion to the guests at my wedding, it had such a deep significance to me.
Because I recognize the role that worshiping as a child with my parents had in my spiritual formation, it excites me to be part of a church that also honors and invites children to worship.
In fact, each of the last two weeks we’ve had special “Faith Stepping Stones” to help families and the church reaffirm the commitments they made at their child’s baptism. The first week, our church gave story Bibles to the three and four-year-olds. Last week, five-year-olds participated in the “Welcome to Worship” stepping stone and received a copy of “Boots the Church Camp” and a special invitation to tour & learn about the sanctuary.
In both cases, after the Bibles and books were handed out and the families prayed for, chaos ensued as lots of kids ran back to their seats, their parents frantically in pursuit. Even after parents wrangled their children back into their seats, their excited voices just could not be contained.
It was beautiful.
And such a reminder that Christ also told his disciples, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
May we, like these three, four, and five year olds never lose this uncontainable excitement about Jesus and our faith.