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Posts Tagged ‘children and the small church’

Hanging of the Greens

Hanging of the Greens at Church

Presbyterian pastor Rebecca Kirkpatrick writes an excellent blog entitled Bread, Not Stones about nurturing our children’s faith.   A few months ago, when God called her and her husband to another form of Christian service,  her family searched for a church home.  You can read her post about that here.  It’s full of good counsel for anyone looking for a church home.

After her family settled in to a new congregation, Rebecca wrote this thoughtful post entitled “The Sound of My Child’s Voice: Choosing Our New Church Home.”  I was greatly heartened to read that her family did not automatically cross a small congregation that only had a few children off their list.  They had two congregations to choose from in their location, a more contemporary style congregation with many of the offerings that families often want, and a smaller, more traditional congregation.  Both were good churches, but the Kirkpatrick family eventually chose the smaller congregation.  A big part of it was the way their six-year-old son’s voice is welcomed and needed there.  She notes that, in more ways than one, he can be heard in the smaller church.   Do read the whole post, but here are a couple of excerpts:

“[W]hen we sing hymns that I remember loving as a child, I can hear his tiny and clear voice singing next to me. The music may be “old fashioned,” but I swear he sings louder, probably because he can finally hear his own voice. I like that after a hymn the adult sitting in front of him will often turn around and tell him what a nice job he did. ”

“I need him to know that church is not just about what you get out of it, but about how his voice adds to the life of the community. 
“This week he and my husband led the congregation in lighting the first Advent candle. On our walk home from church he told me that one of the older women came up to him after worship to tell him that he did a good job and that she loved the sound of his voice. He said to me, “I really like that she told me that. It made me feel good.”

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'mister rogers display - pittsburgh airport' photo (c) 2006, Greg Dunlap - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Mr. Rogers’ sneakers

In his television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers approached children in such a gentle manner.  Except for the trolley bell, there were no bells and whistles on the show.   The tone was quiet and conversational.  At an unhurried pace, Mr. Rogers talked with adults and children on the show.  Often he was seeking to learn from them, as when he asked a young neighbor to show him some dance moves.  Mr. Rogers addressed his television neighbors about topics of interest or concern.  The Neighborhood of Make Believe was definitely low-tech, leaving lots of room for children’s imaginations.  Simple hand puppet characters interacted with people.  Some of the characters were children, and some were adults.  It was intergenerational.  Children loved Mr. Rogers, and I did, too, even though I only watched the show as an adult.  I am too old to have been one of his neighbors as a small child.

Our small congregation loves children.  We have no bells and whistles to offer, except that we love it when there are children present to ring the church steeple bell.  We can’t offer busy programs and sports leagues with crowds of excited children.  But we can be neighbors like Mr. Rogers, himself a Presbyterian minister who saw the children as his congregation.  We approach children with his gentleness and loving simplicity.   Like Mr. Rogers, we share Jesus’ love conversationally.  A child who comes to Morton will find many “grandfriends”–my daughter’s term–who will take genuine, ongoing interest in them.  We tell the gospel story.  We share our talents and encourage the children to share theirs.

DSCN8728Here are some pictures from our recent summer program for children.  God has given our church many talents in music, so we decided to share that with the children, both as an expression of love and an encouragement for them to give musical instruments a try.  We also invited them to express their creativity through art.  Adults and children alike were enthralled by Jesus’ story, and mixed together in a lovely way.  We are so grateful for this time God gave us with these children!DSCN8897  (Click here to see more photos.)

Now we’re working on developing more opportunities of this kind, with the dream and the hope of welcoming these and other children and their families fully into the family of God.   We long for them to join us on Sundays!  But even if they don’t, we are still going to do what we can to help them know that Jesus loves them, and encourage them to love him back  He is their nearest, dearest neighbor.  Living in God’s neighborhood means loving other neighbors as Christ loves us.

We are a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood kind of church, looking for ways to ask people of all ages, “Won’t you be our neighbor?”

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