By Wanda Parker
I continue my discussion of the book “Essential Church?” and the discipleship of children. Look at previous posts for further discussion of this topic.
Page 52 “The best time to assimilate them into the community is the time in their lives when they are the most distant and hardest to engage.”
They are speaking of teens here.
It makes me want to scream. If you are talking about church kids why are you waiting to assimilate them until they are teens? This process should begin in the nursery.
Children in their first year of life are given, by God, the task of learning to develop trust. Yet where in the church do we most often change the adults who serve? Every week there is someone different “putting in their time” in the nursery. How can children learn to build trust within the church if every Sunday there are different adults there to greet them?
The church has a tendency to fight against what God ordained that a child should learn in his/her first year of life – TRUST.
As a children’s pastor I always fought to have both men and women who were committed to be in the nursery every week. In these first years children need to learn that the church isn’t just for women, it is for men too. Yes, I know when they are 16 they won’t be able to tell you about the man who was there to greet them every Sunday – but it will be in their emotional subconcious memory bank. It becomes part of their DNA in relation to feelings toward the church.
We must raise the bar on service to Infants and Toddlers. We must make it an honor to be allowed to serve there. It must be extolled from the pulpit as a place of prestige to serve in the nursery. The congregation must be taught that the nursery is not babysitting it is the first place of welcome for lost souls.
One Sunday I arrived at church as two young families were arriving – they were all involved in the children’s ministry and were arriving early to get set up. One of the dads took his 6 month old son out of the car seat and was walking towards the back of the car as the other dad came around the back of his car and greeted him. When the 6 month old saw the other dad he lunged with both arms out toward the other dad.
You see – the other dad was in the nursery every week caring for this child. The child had bonded with him. In that bonding with this other man there was bonding with the church.
I have to admit my heart swelled that morning as I saw the action of that child.
How are the infants and toddlers in your church being discipled?
These servants ministering with infants and toddlers should also visit them in their homes and find other ways to connect with them. Give each family a CD of music that is played in the nursery so it can be played at home, thus providing another sense of comfort. As I’m writing I’m wondering what could be done with smells – we know that smell is our strongest sense.
Be intentional in your ministry to infants and toddlers. The admonition of Deuteronomy 6 must begin in the beginning.