Sunday, February 23, 2014

Small packages

Annie had her birthday party last night which consisted of eight giggly, bouncy girls coming over and eating pizza, doing crafts, making sundaes, watching movies and then...going to sleep. In theory.

Yes, it was a sleepover. Believe me, I did everything I could to talk her out of it.

Nevertheless, they did indeed all finally fall asleep (mainly because once I called "lights out" I sat downstairs in the dark and read a book on my Kindle so they would have to be quiet and sleep- it worked).

Because the party was on a Saturday night, that meant I still had to get up the next day and be ready to head to church right about the time all of the girls were going to be picked up. I told Annie in advance that she didn't need to go to church and could just stay and hang out at home since I assumed she would be tired after her big celebration. Superdad had to head out of town, so we enlisted big brother Jack to come home and stay with Annie until I could get back (another advantage of having your child choose a college five minutes from home).

All was going as planned and I was at church practicing with the choir when I saw Jack and Annie enter the front doors of the church. I wasn't sure if there had been a misunderstanding or what was going on? I caught Jack's eye and he pointed at Annie and shrugged. It was obvious she had insisted on being brought to church. So, there she was.

Later, when I asked her why she didn't just stay home, her answer was simple.

Because I wanted to go to church.

If you are not a church-going sort of family, that might not mean much to you. But for those of you who are, you know that is music to your ears.

I was raised in a small church and attended a small church in college, so any sort of mega-church was never going to be where I settled down as an adult. Small churches can have their limitations and challenges but I would maintain so do large ones. What we can do well in a small church are sometimes the things a large church struggles to do. In my view, one of our greatest strengths as a small church is our ability to forge connections.

On any given Sunday, one of our Kindergarten-age church members seeks out one of our oldest church members. They adore one another. Little C will spot her elder friend and immediately whisper to her mother and point, asking permission to leave their pew and go join Miss Kay. Permission is granted and she dashes over to Miss Kay's pew where she is welcomed with a hug.

Not long ago Annie was going on and on to my cousin about a friend of hers at church. She was telling my cousin that she dances for him and he loves it. My cousin raised her eyebrows at me. I laughed and informed her, "This little church friend of hers is 8 months old." She cracked up.

But it's true. Some of Annie's best friends at church are a chubby baby, a 5th grade girl, and a 29 year old woman who Annie tells me is "like an aunt" to her. Where else does that happen?

In our church children are routinely included in all aspects of the life of the church by adults of all ages. It is not uncommon for a group of children to spontaneously begin helping whomever is setting up for coffee hour before the worship service. They entertain babies in the narthex. They help pass the Offering. They read the liturgy. They participate in Communion.

As the Children's Ministry Director I sometimes feel torn in my mission and goals. Of course I love to see new children enter our doors and they are always welcomed with open arms. I pray daily that any searching family might find their way to our little church on the hill and feel at home here. But I will also admit there is a part of me that doesn't relish the idea of our numbers growing too large. I love the fact that I know every child in our church not only by name, but what school they go to, what activities they love, their favorite sport, and what makes them laugh.

Each Sunday, as children begin to arrive prior to the worship service, I am often still bustling around getting things ready, making copies, and mentally rehearsing my Children's Message. But there is scarcely a week that goes by that some child does not spot me, run toward me and say excitedly, "Miss Lori! Guess what?!?"

And I can't wait to hear, "what".

Blessings to all on this cold, rainy Sunday.

"You whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work."
~Henri Nouwen

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