What if the children are listening?


Burning Bush drawn by Marina Kaufman

Genocide. Babies floating in rivers. Murder. A burning bush. Horrific plagues. As we begin our Fall worship series on Exodus 1-3 , I find myself wondering: What if children are actually listening to these stories? And assuming they are listening, what are they hearing and comprehending? And are we prepared to listen to their questions and responses?

Fortunately at Rainbow we have what is called WorshipArts, an opportunity every Sunday for K-5th grade students to ask questions and respond to what they heard, felt, and sensed during Sunday morning worship. It’s a 10-15 minute reflective pause  or bridge between worship and Sunday school.

This past Sunday WorshipArts participants talked about the names in Exodus 1-2 as well as their own names. Here is Rosi Penner Kaufman’s description of WorshipArts time this past Sunday:

Terri did a remarkable job in WorshipArts getting the kids to think about names, their own names, what their names mean… When Terri asked what was different in the sanctuary today, I expected that the bush would be the first thing mentioned. Actually, someone said they saw the organ move, and we finally understood that they had never noticed the swell shutters move. I promised to play something next week that would make the organ move a lot.

Terri Gaeddert also wrote a description from Sunday which you can find on the new WorshipArts blog. Click here: http://rainbowmennonite.org/whats-in-a-name/

Here is one more indication that young congregants at Rainbow are paying attention. A woman named Nancy emailed this note after the service on Sunday regarding her two grandchildren: “Both of them were busy with their children’s bulletins and crayons during your sermon, and I assumed they weren’t tuned in. But, when you talked about ordinary women doing extraordinary things, Owen whispered to me, “like you!”  Whew!”

I have long thought that instead of isolating children on Sunday mornings, it’s best to invite children into the very center of communal life, worship, and work, encouraging their active participation as they are able. This isn’t always possible, but it remains a worthy aim. And so with that in mind I invite all of us, whether we have little ones in our direct care or not, to reflect on the following questions and ideas:

How might we continue introducing young congregants to the worship space at Rainbow? What opportunities exist to point out and discuss various symbols, windows, colors, or visuals? Be ready to ask little ones what they notice. For example, recently a young boy named Alex invited me to go on a Rainbow tour with him as the tour guide. “It’s your turn to follow,” he said. It was probably the most entertaining church tour I’ve ever been on. The beautiful thing was watching him point out things that he noticed and that he found interesting.

I know one dad who brings colorful index cards to church for his young son to hold under each hymn line so that his son has something active to do during hymn singing.  I’ve heard other parents say that sometimes letting children hold the hymnal or turn the pages can encourage greater involvement. What are other creative ways to help children follow along with singing or other aspects of the service?

I recognize that these questions/ideas assume that adults have the energy and attention for this level of engagement with little ones. This isn’t always the case, especially for already worn-out parents. Taking children to the nursery will always remain an option, especially for the littlest ones.  And quite frankly, sometimes I wish we had an adult nursery or cry room for adults who need a quiet, set apart place to sit on Sunday mornings. Some days sitting alone in a cry room would sure beat having to wrestle with some of the Rated R stories in the Bible! Maybe it’s time we start an Adult WorshipArts option because whether you consider yourself young or old, we could all use some reflective pauses as we unpack what we are hearing and sensing on a given Sunday morning.

In case you missed it, or in case you were too distracted on Sunday to hear, I’ll include a link to my sermon from Sunday called “Meeting Moses again for the first time.”  meeting-moses-again-for-the-first-time

You can also get the audio by clicking here: http://rainbowmennonite.org/media/

Oh and do yourself a favor: Ask Alex for a church tour.





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