Good morning to you, dear Hearts!
Today I’m writing to you from a sunny windowsill in Rochester, NY. I’ve come here this week to pick up the electric wheelchair that my friend is donating, for me to be able to mobilize myself around the church on days when I can’t walk well enough. I haven’t tested it out yet, but she says that it’s speedy enough to win the tour de France in. (Maybe we can have a tour de Potsdam race!) 🙂
The last couple of weeks I’ve talked to you about what it will be like to come back to the sanctuary on May 2nd. We will be coming back to familiar space, but in a different way. This is both exciting and also a little bit worrisome, so it’s something that we need to be thinking, talking, and praying about. This week I need to discuss with you one more change that will be coming to our worship services– as it relates to children.
I have heard from many of you that not having kids in our congregation (Isaiah and Levi, withstanding), is something that makes many folks in our congregation sad, and one thing many people desire is to be able to have children come be part of our church family again. I, personally, am of the same mind. Children are not only the future of any congregation, but they bring joy and vitality to church life in ways that just grown-ups can’t do (…being the old fuddy duddies that we are. 😉
The way I understand our church’s recent history, for the last handful of years, you all waded through turbulent waters of conflict and change, and at the time, you simply could not be the sort of congregation that supported having children. This was not the result of a character flaw on the church’s part, but was a chapter in the church’s stages of development. Being in the midst of major challenges, all of your energy needed to be focused on making the shifts that you did.
Now that those days have passed, however, we have the opportunity to begin moving into whatever new future God has in store for us. We certainly have a lot of work to do–discerning what that future may be– but one area that we already know we want to move into, is having kids be a substantive part of us again. To make this happen, however, we’re going to have to make some changes to the ways that we currently do things.
Did you ever watch the movie called Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner? A farmer in Iowa is inspired by a voice he can’t ignore to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his corn fields. If you’ve seen the movie you know the famous line – “If you build it, they will come.”
Right now we have two awesome kids in our church who are independent enough to be able to handle sitting in a worship service that is designed for, and caters to, grown-ups. If, however, we want other kids (and their families) to join us, we’re going to have to transform ourselves into a welcoming environment for kids.
Currently, we have neither the energy, nor the “people power,” to build an entire Sunday School program from scratch. And that’s ok. We simply can’t be something we’re not, can we? [Again, let me emphasize– not being able to offer a Sunday School program to young families is not a character flaw on our part. It’s simply the reality of who we are right now.] Some day we very well may get to talk about how to build Sunday school classes again, but that conversation can wait for a different day, because thankfully….. we can do this in stages! We can take welcoming kids into our midst one step at a time.
Luckily for us, we took a first step a year ago. Isaiah and Levi are gracious about sitting through an adult worship service, but I knew that having special space carved out just for them would make Sunday worship more enjoyable for the young people we do have. So, I started including a kid’s sermon every week when I came to be your pastor. This, I hope, has been meaningful for them.
The next step– our next stage of becoming a church that welcomes children– is what comes next. We know that we will have a 2 year old named Dom coming to worship with us soon, and we know that his mom needs to be able to keep him with her– for both of their sakes. (It’s too overwhelming to be brand new in a church and be separated from your child/mom.) Session has been talking about how we can be welcoming and accommodating to them with the resources and people power we currently have, and we think we’ve hit upon a workable plan.
Right now, there is a small corridor of space in the sanctuary behind the last row of pews. It was designed to be walk-way space for people to move back and forth at the rear of the sanctuary. It’s not currently deep enough to put a rocking chair and a small table and chairs in, but Session realized that if we took out the last 1 or 2 rows of pews on one side of the sanctuary, it would create just enough space to offer a “kid’s corner” with a couple of rocking chairs, that child-size table and chairs, and a small shelf for books and (quiet) toys to have for kids to play with. The thought is, “if we build this, they can come and feel welcomed in our space.” Then… we can take those pews, and move them around to the other side of the wall that separates the sanctuary from the narthex. Right now, there isn’t anywhere to sit out there– which is a problem. If we had welcoming space to sit on, on that side of the wall, it would make it easier for parents to pop out from the sanctuary and have quiet, private space to calm their kids down, if they were bieng loud or started to cry– which would then allow the rest of us to continue on with our worship.
This may not be a long-term solution, but for now it solves the problem in front of us while honoring the amount of energy and volunteer power we actually have in us to contribute. Rather than ask a lot from one or two people, who would take kids to other parts of the building, this plan asks all of us to contribute just a little bit in the space that all of us will share.
How does this sound to you? Are we ready to welcome kids back? What are your thoughts and your feelings?
One day, some people brought their children to Jesus. They wanted him to pray for them and lay hands on them. The disciples didn’t think having kids around was appropriate, however, and they spoke sternly to the parents. But Jesus knew that kids matter. He said to everybody:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”~Matthew 19:14
Will we be the sort of church that welcomes children? We can be, if we decide it’s important enough to us in this chapter of our life to make room for them in our midst.
Ready for the challenge,
p.s. We will have cool “fidget bags” for kids to have at their seats with their parents, too. They will be designed for kids, but you can use them too if the sermon gets boring. 😉