I hear it over and over: you love the children of this church. For some of you, seeing the cluster of kids perched on the sanctuary steps each Sunday is the highlight of the service. It’s a little like herding cats up there—but there’s also a youthful wonder and authenticity that energizes us all.
Whenever someone says “[the children] are the church’s future,” I have a bad habit of retorting, “they are the church today!” But of course, both ideas are right. Our children are a vital part of today’s church, and they will also have a special role to play in tomorrow’s. Whatever foundation we lay here, they will build upon it in future communities.
I went to church as a kid, too. I grew up in the Bible belt, so I was exposed to a lot of Christian theology—good and bad—even without setting foot in the sanctuary. But within the sanctuary, I had a distinct feeling that, whatever was happening, it wasn’t designed with me in mind. My sisters and I put on uncomfortable dresses and sat stiffly in the pews—lest we get a disappointing performance review on the way home. And it wasn’t just my parents; these were the expectations set, explicitly and implicitly, in the life of the church. Vacation Bible School may be for me, but Sunday worship was not. Perhaps your childhood was similar in this way.
Thankfully, culture has changed. I feel very strongly that children are to be seen and heard. The way we respond to their presence has a real impact on their feeling of belonging in the church, today and tomorrow.
I’m proud of the welcome Westminster offers to each of these children, greeting them by name and making space for their authentic selves in the pews. They will make noise. They may leave a mess.
But within every disruption, I believe, there’s an invitation for us to loosen our grip on control, and open up to a Holy Spirit among us who, often, is disruptive. when we make space for children, we make space for God.
Ultimately, my objective is for our kids to experience Westminster as a place with space for them and their experience of God. I think we are well on our way--and I look forward to the journey ahead with you. Thank you for making space.