Last week I heard someone who joined our church less than a year ago say, “I want my daughter to grow up in a church that loves her and that helps me love her.” Head nods all around.
As I drove home, though, the “how” of that statement started to pester me. How do churches love children?
[this is not a post about boundaries and appropriate adult/child relationships. I’m assuming those things]
[this is also not the post about how Christians in churches love one another in general]
I have a stake in this question because my daughter is being raised in a church, and I, too, want her to know the church’s love. I have no doubt the church loves her–and all its children–and I think I can identify a couple of ways that love is manifested.
There’s a space for children in worship. The front pew of our sanctuary is a squirrely bench of pink dresses and plastic dinosaurs. There’s a Children’s Time in which they’re invited to sit and simply listen (I had a seminary professor who put the fear of God into me about turning the Children’s Time into anything that elicited a laugh from the congregation).
The church employs no fewer than four people whose job is at least in part to teach or care for children (this is to say nothing of the preschool the church operates).
We run programs just for children: VBS. Camp. A Christmas pageant.
No doubt our church loves children.
Programatically at least. I wonder how many worshipers on Sunday morning who don’t have kids could name even two or three of the children making a ruckus there in the front pew. Should they?
Doesn’t the church’s love of children require it to know those children? Shouldn’t we be doing some things to introduce children to the congregation: their names? Their interests? Their favorites? Their parents?
Or am I overthinking this?
How do churches love children anyway?
[update: here’s a good way Theresa Cho has found to help her church love children]
[update 2: Here’s another great seasonal list of ways churches grow in their love of kids]