I always cherish the opportunity to sit with my family in a church service. Recently, in the ordinary act of sitting together, I found myself reminded anew of the profound shaping that takes place each time the generations gather to worship.
Early in the service, one of the pastors held a tiny baby and talked about what it means to stand before our faith community and dedicate our little ones to God. As the pastor spoke, I observed my six- and eight-year-old grandchildren pause their doodling and turn their attention to the front. When the people were asked to commit to the ways in which they would participate in pointing this baby to Jesus, both children boldly joined the unified response by saying, “We will!” It occurred to me that my grandchildren assumed the pastor was also talking to them.
A little later in the service, after the invitation was given to participate at the Table of grace, a mother moved toward the front with her young son. When it was his turn to receive, one of our pastors bent so she would be face to face with this young worshiper and said, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you.”
The two-year-old took the bread, dipped it in the cup, and ate. Then he stepped aside to wait while his mom did the same. I love what happened next! The child tried to get back in line, eagerly using his little hands to sign “more” to his mother. He was visibly disappointed when his mother escorted him back to his seat.
I am humbled as I consider his enthusiastic desire for more. I know his passion could easily be dismissed as just a child who does not understand the “rules” of receiving Communion. Or a child who simply viewed it as a snack. I also know the six- and eight-year-old could be dismissed as cute and nothing more in their bold response. And maybe sometimes Communion is just a snack and children are just being cute. But when we involve our children in our rituals and liturgy, they become so familiar with the practice of worship that they learn how to respond and engage—which lays the foundation for them to make these practices their own as they grow.
I love that the church has nurtured the way children see themselves as full participants in the community of faith.
I love the ringside seat that allowed me to observe a confident sense of belonging for all ages in every part of that service. I love that the church has nurtured the way children see themselves as full participants in the community of faith. I love that the elements of worship are carefully placed so children, teens, and all ages of adults can regularly respond to an invitation to engage.
I hope the scenes I witnessed will continue to encourage me to approach the Table with an enthusiastic hunger for more and challenge me to boldly respond to an invitation to nurture the faith journeys of others with, “I will!”