Point of this post: Not to discuss the merits of children’s sermons.
Point of this post: To discuss why it is that parents seem to think their children can’t handle theological heft.
Side note: I am beginning to think that the reason congregational members write “able to preach inspirational children’s sermons” on their “what we want in a pastor” form is not because the children themselves are actually clamoring for them but because the parents are.
Just think, for a second, what we in the pews say to each other during children’s sermons.
“Oh, there’s little Suzy pulling her dress over her head again! Darling!”
“Oh, Tommy’s sticking his finger up Freddy’s nose!”
“Well, Mary’s child is certainly NOT behaving the way he ought. Ahem.”
But maybe, just maybe, sermons and Sunday School and confirmation aren’t the time for pinching cheeks and commenting on how tall the little people are getting.
Maybe we can save that for brunch. Or the narthex.
Instead, perhaps it’s helpful for those of us who are older to be mindful of this: Children want nothing more than to be grown-ups. They want to be heard. They want to know that their opinions matter. They want to be treated like they are older than they are.
Case in point: “I do it, Mom!” “Soooo big!” Two-year-olds want to be five-year-olds, and five-year-olds want to be second-graders. Second-graders want to be in middle school, and middle-schoolers want to be high-schoolers, who are anxious to be college students, who are really just waiting to be like those who have real jobs, and those with jobs are holding out for retirement, and retirees are just anxious to go to heaven. We all want to be older than we are.
So why do we adults feel the need to impede the children’s ability to desire deep, meaty, weighty things of God? Why do we treat kids like they can’t understand?
They certainly want to. They tell us that all the time. “I do it!” “I’m big!”
So let’s let them be big. Let’s let them tackle the hard stuff. And not just the little ones in a children’s sermon. Let’s let them be big in middle school, high school, college, and as adults.
Let’s give them everything we’ve got.
Let’s watch their brains stretch and grow.
Because, believe or not, when we do that, we may just find that they are not only ready . . . but anxious and fully capable of rising to the challenge, that they are, in fact, soooooo big.
5 thoughts on “think of the children”
You know I’ve never thought of it this way but you’re completely right. Even scripture seems to tell us this, children have a remarkable capacity for strong faith: “Let the children come to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” and “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:17
This is so true. I struggled with this when our children were younger. Our church was small and they wanted to include me on the list of teachers for children’s church. I did it for a little while but had to quit. I knew in my heart that it was not where I should be and our children should be sitting in the pew next to us for service.
Additionally, children’s sermons are always based on analogies (“The Trinity is like an apple…”), but for children, this only makes things more complicated to understand. We adults are the ones who have trouble because our whorish reason always gets in the way (Luther called reason a whore). But if you teach a child that the bread and wine in communion is really Jesus’ body and blood, for instance, they have no problem believing that. So why complicate things with analogies?
I think it’s easy to completely underestimate your kids’ abilities. I just blogged about this the other day, how surprised I was that my four-year-old could easily, seemingly without even paying attention, memorize the Catechism and meanings. But we do this as a Church in the corporate sense. We do a children’s sermon for them, teach them little ditties to sing in their programs, and reserve the “meat” of the faith for confirmation in seventh and eighth grades. At which point they’re overwhelmed with junior high sports and homework, and the parents complain of the burden. Maybe starting early–making the assumption that they can do it–is the way to go.
A long time ago, someone once told me that children should not hear hymns but only children’s Christian songs until they were confirmed. Then they were ready for hymns. I suppose the same stands for Divine Service. The only thing they are allowed to understand is the children’s sermon until they are confirmed, then they are ready for real sermons.