Recently I have written posts on the idea of creating environments that are inviting to kids. Here are links to those posts:
- The “F” Word in Children’s Ministry: Why Fun Matters
- Why Disney Does Better Than Us.
- Are Our Methods Too Silly?
- How to Design a Kid’s Worship Service.
So, What’s the big deal. Why does it matter where we put kids, or how we plan for ministering to them? What difference does it make if we give them their own space or just put them wherever the is room? Why do children’s ministry environments matter?
Because they mattered to Jesus!
People brought children to Jesus. Mark 10:13 says, “Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them…” These people understood that children needed Jesus. They wanted their children to be close to Jesus, to have an encounter with Jesus cause they understood that they would never be the same. Parents that bring their kids to church are hoping for the same thing. They are hoping that their kids will have an encounter with Jesus and be forever changed because of it.
The disciples REBUKED them. The above verse goes on to say, “…but the disciples rebuked them.” The disciples failed to see the value of the kids or of them spending time with Jesus. They felt that the kids should sit down, be quiet, and listen to Jesus. Does this sound familiar? Isn’t this what we often do with kids in church. We force them into adult worship services and expect them to sit down, be quiet and listen to the preacher. We may even call it a “family service”, but in most cases this “family service” was never designed with kids in mind. It is really an adult service that we force kids to attend. Please understand I am not against Family Worship services. When they are actually planned in such a way that adults AND children are considered, then they cane beautiful. But, that is seldom the case.
Jesus was INDIGNANT! This passage is one very familiar to many people in church, especially in children’s ministry. But, only once have I ever heard it taught from the book of Mark. Every other time it was taught from the book of Matthew. Why? I can’t say for certain, but I think it is because it make a prettier picture. But, in Mark’s recording of the event he adds something that Matthew leaves out. He records that Jesus was INDIGNANT. Not just upset, a little perturbed, or a teensy bit angry. He was indignant. Jesus was very upset. The only other time I can remember when he became angry he was turning over tables in the temple court. Clearly these children mattered to Jesus.
What did the disciples do wrong? The disciples were creating an environment that was unwelcoming, even hostile towards children. I understand that most churches are not hostile toward children,but I have seen some. I have seen churches where children were strictly not allowed in their worship center. I remember when my son was very young, like less that 2, we went for the graduation ceremony of a close family friend. The ceremony was being held in a local church. As we approached the doors to their worship center there was a sign stating that children under a certain age WERE NOT ALLOWED in the worship center. These children HAD to go to the nursery. We gave out apologies to this family friend and we left. Most churches are not this extreme, but if we are honest many churches are not welcoming to children.
What did Jesus do differently? Jesus understood the value of children and wanted them to be unhindered in coming to Him. Jesus created an environment that was welcoming to these children. Jesus took them in His arms, laid his hands on them and blessed them. Psalm 55:19 says, “God, who is enthroned from of old, who DOES NOT CHANGE…” Malachi 3:6 says, “For I, the Lord, do not change…” Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The Bible is clear that God does not change. So, the Jesus that was indignant over the disciples treatment of these children is the same today. The Jesus that welcomed this little ones, took them in his arms, laid his hands on them and blessed them is the same today.
What does this mean for us? In this passage Jesus physically took these kids into his arms. Jesus is not here in a physical form. Rather he has called us to be his hands and feet. He has called us to “take them in our arms” to “lay our hands on them” to “bless them. Disciples carted an environment that bordered on hostile towards children, but Jesus desired and created an environment that was welcoming to children. If this is what Jesus did and we have been commissioned to represent him in the world today, then we should do the same thing.
What does this look like? Well, that is a bigger question than I an answer in a couple sentences. The truth is it is different for every church and every town. BUT, it all starts with being aware of importance of creating such environments. It is not simply about cool paint, props, scenes or other such things. It is about things like calling kids by their name, kneeling down to get on their level. It’s about teaching in a manner that does not dumb down the truth of Scripture, but breaks it down so they can understand it.
Check out the posts I mentioned above for more on how to create environments that are welcoming to children.Matt Norman
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