On a beautiful Sunday morning in August, I dragged my 8-year-old with me to a meeting at church. We were nearing the end of a long mission and vision planning process – which I’ve written about before…see “A view from the street” – and it was time to present the plan to the congregation. My husband was playing with the praise band, and the 4-year-old would spend the hour in the nursery. (No chance I would attempt to sit through a meeting with her!) But my son… he is a mature 8-year-old, passionate about connecting to God and church community. Of course he can come to this meeting! He’ll love it!
My son and I grabbed chairs in the back. I gave him a big stack of blank paper and a tub of crayons. I asked him to listen and try to understand what was said, but that he could doodle or draw as the adults listened, discussed and discerned. I also said that he should write down any questions he had so we could discuss later.
This has been a good tool for us to engage in conversation during and after church each week. He will hear something during the sermon or scripture readings, ponder for a moment, then lean over to ask a question. Instead of “shushing” him, or giving him a short, whispered response, I tell him to write it down. It helps him stay focused, and it helps me engage with him in dialogue during quiet moments at home.
Back at the meeting… I listen to the presentation, words I’ve heard many times before. But now I’m trying to listen with the ears of an 8-year-old. My son sits quietly and draws. (Interestingly he used only a black crayon… not sure what to discern from that!) I could tell he was listening; aware of the dialogue as opposed to being lost in a child-like coloring coma.
Without prompting from me, he wrote questions. The leader had drawn a diagram on the board to explain that our church was at point A, and our vision was towards point B. He asked what that meant, and I explained. He asked what it meant to be a “church that feeds.” I explained, and we continued back and forth conversation.
My son is 8-years-old. Sometimes I get stuck thinking he is still a young child – but he is much smarter and more capable than I give him credit for! I invited him to a church meeting. It would have been very easy for him to zone out; to lose interest because he believed it was not something that would impact him. I gave him the opportunity to engage in church planning, and challenged him to consider what this meeting meant for his life. He took that challenge and turned it into a moment that impacted my own faith journey.
This experience was a reminder for me – and I think also for our church community – that we should engage our youth. Actually, it is bigger than that… if we want our church body to survive and thrive, we MUST engage and empower these kids! Our kids must understand and relate to our vision, and our vision must make its youth a vital component of ministry.
Because guess what… as adults in ministry, we get caught up in bureaucracy and the organizational matters of running a church. Our kids can just love – love God and love each other!
So, invite a kid to a church meeting. Ask them what it means to show God’s love in the world. And their response just might surprise you!