“Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them. People who are like these little children belong to the kingdom of God.” Jesus – Mark 10:14 (Contemporary English Version)
One day in the middle of a hymn a preschooler approached our priest. She took him by the hand and led him to the back of the church. The sun was shining through the stained glass windows and the colour spilled onto the floor. It was glorious and that little one wanted to share the glory with someone. At that moment I caught a glimpse of true worship, the sense of awe that leads to a powerful experience of God; the kind of encounter that has inspired poets, artists and songwriters down through the ages. I had walked right past the beauty that morning. I was so preoccupied with all the things I had to do in church that day, that I had missed something wonderful. But God has a way of getting our attention and that day it was a small child who was the chosen teacher.
In the same church children did not receive communion until they were about ten. The younger children were invited up with the congregation for a special time of prayer and blessing. The priest would consecrate the elements and then hand them over to the lay leaders for distribution. He would meet the children in a special place at the communion rail. They would share their joys and concerns and would pray together before receiving a blessing. Every week the priest would invite the congregation to come up for communion and every week there would be stampede as every child in the church ran up to the communion rail. It was wonderful! They were so enthusiastic and full of joy! One day I suddenly realized that the children were showing me how I was meant to approach God. The children didn’t hold back, ran forward with joy and excitement. It never occurred to them that they wouldn’t be welcome. They knew they were loved and accepted and it showed. Was I following their lead in my approach to God? If not, why not? What was holding me back?
I could tell you so many stories about the ways in which I have learned deep spiritual truths from the children in my church family. Many Christian educators have commented how much they have learned from the children in their care. I would concur. In fact I think I have probably learned far more than I have taught. Children are natural teachers and their enthusiasm, simple faith and intuitive grasp of the Holy have taught me so much.
As you engage with the children in your church each week I would encourage you to open your heart, mind, and eyes. Listen to them; watch them as they engage in play, learning, and worship. Allow their questions and observations about the church and their faith to challenge you. Pray each week that God would bless your time together and that you would be open to all that the children have to teach you.
I would invite you to share your stories this week. What have you learned from the children in your church?