We hear a lot about children in the New Testament, and they’re often portrayed (a) annoying adults and (b) being right about Jesus. Chronologically, it all starts with Jesus himself. In Luke 2, Mary goes out of her mind with worry when Jesus as a child wanders away from the caravan and they find him in the temple in Jerusalem after three days of searching. “What were you doing?” Mary asks him. “We were scared out of our minds!” Jesus shrugs and says essentially, “I thought you knew where I’d be.” This is what happens when the Son of God goes through his adolescent phase.
When Jesus turns over the tables of the moneylenders in the temple and heals people, Matthew tells us that the chief priests knew where to find him because the children were “crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.'” The gospel in this case doesn’t go into detail, but we can picture it: money scattered everywhere; newly uncaged sacrificial doves fluttering around; everyone yelling. Of course the kids are there. Where else would they be? They’re cheering on the person who had made all the trouble, bellowing that he’s the Messiah, and generally making the noise and chaos more noisy and chaotic. Any parent might sympathize a little with the chief priests and scribes when, as Matthew tells us, “they became angry” and started yelling.
A child just assumes that Jesus can feed 5,000 people with his lunch — and he’s right. Children keep bugging the apostles to get Jesus’ attention when they’re busy — and Jesus scolds them and calls for the kids to come on over. The gospels consistently tell stories of adults seeing children as accessories to the main event — and Jesus treating them as worthy of attention.
In some ways, relations between children and adults haven’t changed much over 2000 years. And, just as it happened the with the apostles, while the adults in church are busy trying to herd the cats and keep things orderly, the gospel keeps welcoming children, with all their chaos, to the table. Churches sometimes look on children, particularly young children, with a suspicious eye, as if they were unexploded grenades that might go off during important moments in the liturgy. Such churches might proclaim, “Suffer the little children to come unto the nursery, where they will be given goldfish crackers and kept out of the way while the grown-ups worship.”
In this class, Angela Nelson, Minister of Christian Education at The Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, explains why children’s ministries, including the nursery, should be treated as central to church life and worship rather than as peripheral. She discusses reasons that children’s voices and talents should be made part of the daily life of worship in the church. She offers practical suggestions for ways in which adults may welcome the role of children and youth in church as central to the main event — as important, as worthy of respect as any other Christians.
This course is ideal for people who work with children in church, people who work with the liturgy in church, and parents or guardians who want to involve children in worship. For a preview of the course, please click here.