Each year, our church hosts a "Children's Ministry Emphasis Sunday" which typically involves recruiting volunteers and sharing about a few upcoming events with the congregation. This year, I felt led to talk about the ministry I had been witnessing from the children rather than asking for others to minister to the children. I heard from a number of single adults, empty-nesters, and recent college grads that this resonated deeply with them, and I even had a few people contact me out-of-the-blue asking if they could get involved in our ministry on a regular basis!
This week is our Children's Ministry Emphasis Sunday, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to share with you how children are ministering in our community.
Let me be clear: in my experience, leading children’s ministries is largely about creating the spaces where children are ministers. This is, of course, what Jesus showed us, first by coming to us as a child, then welcoming children to himself, then instructing his disciples to become like children to be his true followers. Childlikeness- dependence, curiosity, humility, enthusiasm, playfulness, creativity- are all elements of following Jesus. The ancient world held a low view of children, but in Scripture, God consistently proclaims that the children of a community- the children of a family, an extended family, a nation- are His good gift, God’s blessing.
So how have children ministered to me?
Children have ministered to me by their presence in worship- watching children sing, pray, participate in the Eucharist- reminds me God desires the worship of children and welcomes us to His table not on our own merit but out of His grace.
Children have ministered to me with their curiosity- children ask wonderful questions about Scripture, church history, and ethics. When a child marvels about how God had the power to keep Noah’s family safe, or there was really enough food to feed all five thousand people, or Jesus’ resurrection means we really get to live with God forever- I am brought back to the awe and wonder of God’s power and grace.
Children have ministered to me with their immaturity- the neediness, big emotions, inattentiveness, and dependence of children are a picture of the needs and hurts we all carry, though most adults seem to hide it them more successfully, and a reminder that all of these are okay to bring to the cross of Christ, to our church family, to a place of prayer. When we accept children as people in-progress, we can more readily accept our adult brothers and sisters as people in-progress, too.
If all the families with children disappeared from our community today, it would be a tragedy, and it would affect each of our spiritual formation. For our congregation, children aren’t my job security, the church’s future, or a plan for getting more young families through the door, they’re co-pilgrims with us, gifts from God, and companions on our spiritual journey.
So you may be realizing that you, too, need to create space and time to be ministered to by children, and we have ways you can get involved- the real needs of our ministry to and with children- in your bulletin. Mostly, though, I hope you see God working in them and through them to minister to our faith community.
Robin Turner, DMin, is the Director of Family Ministries at All Saints Dallas, an AMIA congregation in the heart of Downtown Dallas that seeks to "Live in God's Presence, Live Out God's Love".