Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:14)
Many pastors hear repeatedly, “Pastor, what do we need to do to ‘attract’ the young families to our church?” It is a question that comes from a place of love, but it is a question that begins in the wrong place. As a church we are not called to “attract” anyone; yes we need to be intentional about our language, our welcome, our programming, etc…but intentional in a way that is authentic to who we are and not another advertising gimmick that, in a world with too many advertising gimmicks. We need to ensure that all we say and do is reflective of the one we follow and the call that has claimed our lives.
Where do we start? Well, let’s start with Jesus. Jesus said to let the little children come to him. Jesus implored us to not put up walls, barriers, and hurdles that keep the kids at bay. Jesus certainly never called us to “keep the children quiet, and still.” No Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them…” I would go further and say that this is a call we have for our life with ALL people – let them come, do not stop them.
So, when they come, what are we supposed to do then? Simply put, welcome and invite them in even further. Create a space for them. Not a space to make them look like us, and do what we do, but rather open a space where they can be who God has created them to be. At Christ the King Lutheran Church we are beginning to open up space to live more fully into this call to let them come. Starting this Sunday there is a new “Children’s Space” in the front of the sanctuary that invites children in, welcomes them into God’s house, and implores them to be who God has created them to be. There are tables and chairs of a “kid’s height,” there are quiet manipulatives, there are coloring, drawing, and writing opportunities, there are Bibles, there are books….and there’s a space for parents to be right beside them, but also giving them space to be.
I invite all to come and explore this space in the coming weeks. Pray for this opening. Pray for our families and the CtK community as we grow into this new space. There are bound to be a few extra giggles, wiggles, and times when our kids are feeling out the space completely; but amidst those times the gift we are providing and the call we are living into – to let the little children come to Jesus – well it will be more than worth the bumps. It will be worth it when God’s children are learning worship patterns and traditions. It will be worth it when we hear God’s children singing the songs from our worship time together. It will be worth it when God’s children are sitting engrossed as they see worship unfold and more, before them, in fact in their midst. It will be worth it when God’s children and their families note the welcome and invitation into this community and life of faith we share.