“People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”—Mark 10:13-16 (NRSV).
One thing that I have learned early in my ministry that has been cemented over the past several weeks, is that our children pay more attention than we think. They pick up things in worship easier than we give them credit for. Towards the end of Advent and the beginning of the Christmas season, one of our children came sprinting forward at the end of worship to see the manger and if baby Jesus was here. She asked me, “Where is Jesus, why isn’t he here?” I responded asking why she thought he wasn’t here. “Because he comes on Christmas.” The same child came down on Ash Wednesday desiring ashes on both hands and her forehead similar to the marks of the crucifixion, and I asked why and she said, “Because I want to be like Jesus.” Truly wonderful the mind of a child is, and often their faith is deeper than we allow ours to go.
This past Sunday you heard me say as we baptized a child as a part of our church family, that we have a responsibility to care and support our children as they grow both in age and faith. This is a shared work because we all need to grow from one another. Not just the parents or grandparents, not just the pastor, not just the youth leader, not just the youth, all of us in the body. The promises you all made for them, they are more than just words on a page. You promised to love them, pray for them, to be VBS volunteers, Sunday School teachers, to show them what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We have a responsibility to show one another, to teach one another how to carry their cross, as we carry our own. We have to ensure they know what shared Christian life together looks like. So again, we need to consider how to create a culture of love, forgiveness, and grace in our church family. We do this so that our children might have a place that supports them, and allows room for them to doubt, ask questions, grow, and become the next generation of Christian disciples. This does not mean we force our children or youth to think as we think, but we allow space for them to discover grace and love in Jesus. We allow space for them to take up leadership roles for themselves in worship, in the organizational parts of the church, and encourage them in doing so. We do this knowing that they are our equals, baptized siblings in the household of God. This work begins in our families however, that we might encourage the gifts and graces of our children whatever they are, in the hope that they might use them to serve God.
Let us encourage one another, Will, Ed, the FUMC Staff and Family