By the Rev. Michelle Foster
Do you ever have those moments in worship when your sensitivities are heightened and you become keenly aware of that which is taking place around you? Sunday was one of those days for me. The movement and activity of children captured my attention.
I watched mothers rock their babies in their pews, listened to the muffled cries and whimpers of infants and heard the toddler behind me crawling up and down on the pew. The side entrance to the sanctuary looked like a revolving door with the number of children that entered and exited for restroom and water breaks throughout the service. The sound of crayons dropping on the wooden floor, the rustle of paper and whispering words of children penetrated the order and reverence of worship.
As I watched, listened, prayed and participated with this congregation a smile came across my face. The activity and busyness, the silence and stillness, the noise and movement, it all reminded me again of the mysterious and beautiful movement of the Spirit of God.
I offered a word of gratitude to God for the myriad of nuanced ways this congregation and others throughout our conference ministers to and welcomes children of all ages. I asked God to offer his spirit and gift of wisdom to each of us who are faithfully seeking ways to become a child-friendly and family-centered congregation.
Throughout the rest of the day I found myself continuing to reflect upon what God had reminded of in worship. I began to make a list of the ways I have witnessed the movement and creativity of the spirit as I have visited with you in your local church. I share some of my reflections with you, hoping they will serve as a moment of inspiration and renewal for you in your continued ministry with all of God's children
• Inclusion of children in worship – through choir, scripture reading, dance, and drama
• Attractive facilities that attract and welcome children and families
• Annual family retreat
• Support groups for parents (with toddlers, children with special needs or teenagers)
• Children and teenagers participating in missions
• Classes that teach children about worship
• Safe Sanctuaries congregations
• Sermons with illustrations that children will understand
• Sunday school for every age and stage of life
• Sunday evening or Wednesday evening studies and fellowship
• Buddy program with at-risk children in community
• Confirmation class that combines youth and adults new to the Christian faith
Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes a child…welcomes me." May we be found faithful in our ministry to and with our children.
Foster serves on the conference staff working with Safe Sanctuaries and Ministries for Children and Families. Contact her at email@example.com.