Discovering Faith by Sara Armstrong
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
Growing up, I would go to church every Sunday with my mother. I’d sit in my seat and feel completely uncomfortable and out of place. The words during the service just didn’t make sense to me. They seemed to be a completely different language – in my defense, some of the service was in Latin, so it wasn’t just me. I could never wrap my little brain around the point of it all. Why did we go to church? I knew it was to worship God and to pray to God and to show our love and to ask for forgiveness from sins. That’s what my mother had told me. All I really knew for myself was that we were expected to go to church because it’s just what we did. For a long time, that was good enough for me.
When I had my two beautiful children, I remembered my own experience as a child. How confusing and frustrating it was to be brought to church each week and not get it. To go to church only to spend my time there, not mindfully growing in God, but counting the seconds until Coffee Hour and snacks. I was determined to make the experience different for my children. Before church each week, I’d read to them from a Children’s Bible. I’d lay out the stories in a way they could understand. I’d explain the different parts of the service, answer their questions as best I could and listen to their thoughts and ideas about the different topics – I always think of my daughter (who was 5 at the time) confidently stating, “If Jesus were a food I don’t think he’d be bread, I think he’d be cupcakes. Everybody loves cupcakes!”
When I began coordinating the Children’s Ministry at St. Stephen’s, I had one goal in mind. If I could help families speak to their children about God in a kid-friendly, age-appropriate way, then maybe they wouldn’t have to try so hard to understand on their own. Maybe these children would want to learn and would want to be a part of everything. Maybe, somehow, I could help make church a meaningful experience for even the smallest of our parishioners.
Earlier this year, a wonderful coincidence happened. A lesson appeared in our syllabus at Church School about Baptism. It just happened that on the same day we were to learn about Baptism, there was to be an actual, real-life Baptism at church! I felt like God was saying, “Teach the children, and then show the children.” As a large group, the children first learned about why we get Baptized and how it means you are becoming a part of God’s family. We also talked about how you are also becoming a part of the Church family. We talked about how each of us has an important job to do. We need to love and support everyone in our church. We then went through a pretend Baptism. The children got to pour water over the head of a baby doll and say a prayer. We talked about the significance of each moment of what was happening. We then walked over to church and the children gathered in the hallway next to the altar. They peeked around and watched quietly while a new baby was welcomed into our Church family. My heart was completely full as they all smiled and looked at each other knowingly as the service continued.
If there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that I will always do my best to make sure our children are given the tools they need, in the way that they need them, to grow in their relationship with God and to know how loved and supported they are at St. Stephen’s.