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The Gift of Presence

Summary: If you take the time to get to know a little one in Kidstown, you just might find yourself getting a running hug at the airport when that little person and her family are traveling on the same day. That hug meant all the world to Miss Patti and little Evie and her parents...

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Evie’s mom writes,

“We were at Logan Wednesday morning, playing in their Kidport with my daughter Evie and her younger sister Maggie before our flight. Suddenly, my husband Joe got up and ran to the door. “That’s Patti!”

Evie came running and saw her Sunday morning small group leader, heading down the hall. As soon as Patti heard Evie, she turned around, and then there was a running embrace in the middle of our terminal. We had a layover in Chicago, and it turned out Patti was on our flight.

“Traveling with little ones is hard – for us, and them. Seeing someone who is so meaningful to her in such an unfamiliar space was a real traveling mercy! Patti was flying out to care for her sick mom, so I like to think that seeing Evie was a comfort to Patti as well. It was a beautiful moment that fully demonstrates the value and power of our wonderful small group leaders in Kidstown.”

And Miss Patti says,

“I was so thrilled to see Evie and her family. It made my day. Seeing her made a difficult situation brighter.”

Miss Patti has given this family, and many others, the Gift of Presence. She has invested her time to be a faith parent. And just look at the return on her investment! As you think about your year-end giving, and planning for the New Year, have you considered the “return on investment” (ROI) you can receive when you give the gift of presence as a faith parent?

If you were a small group leader at a table of elementary children you would hear stories like the one we recently heard from 5-year-old Lauren, who was deeply moved by the presentation in Kidstown by the Vitrano-Wilsons (Grace Chapel mission partners) during Global Awareness Week. Mom Becky reported that during Lauren’s bedtime prayers she said she wanted to pray for “all the people who have Bibles with blank pages.” She prayed, “Please fill them with words so they can understand about Jesus.”

If you were serving in Early Childhood you might see re-enactments of our worship leaders playing guitar, or a budding preacher who put his toy walkie-talkie on his belt (like a microphone pack) so he could pretend to be Pastor Bryan preaching on Child Dedication Sunday.

If you served in Kidstown, you might meet little Annalise who told her mom all about the reasons to be thankful, “Even when you lose something, or even when you are mad, you can still be thankful!”

Our children are not the church of the future - just as our older members are not the church of yesterday. We are all the church of today. 

Children’s ministry is a high priority, with the window of greatest receptivity to the gospel between the ages of 4 and 14. We need adults who take seriously their vow to be faith parents to the children of the congregation. Adults who want to be a part moments like these!

Give the gift of presence in 2018. The ROI is worth every hour, every Sunday, every lesson. And it comes in the form of a hug, a smile, a child catching the truth of what you are learning together, a little boy who wants to pretend he is a pastor, a little girl who wants to be a missionary when she grows up.

Our children are waiting for the Lord to write on the pages of their hearts – and, as Mother Theresa once said, you can be “the pencil in the hand of God!” There is no greater return on an investment than a heart that has turned to Jesus. Say “YES” to an ROI that is out of this world!

Visit our Kidstown ministry webpage for more information on how you can be a part of a child’s story!

Posted by Ruthie Seiders with

First Impressions

Summary: In this "Ask Pastor Ruthie" post, Ruthie Seiders, our Pastor of Next Generation Ministries, offers some advice to parents wondering about the right time to have their kids participate in communion.

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Dear Pastor Ruthie,

Help! I’d like to bring my elementary-school-age kids to church with me, but every time we’ve done it in the past, it’s gone terribly. They’re bored, they squirm, and they end up playing on the iPad by the time the sermon gets going. They don’t have these problems in school! I want them to have a great experience in church with us, to understand what worship is all about, but I just don’t know what to say to them.

And when it comes to communion, I have no idea when the right time to let them “come to the Table” with us is. Can you give us some help!

Sincerely,
Every Church-going Parent Ever

Dear Every,

I can relate to your struggles. I still remember my first impressions of our church worship services as a kid in Maine. One of my first impressions was that it was long and hot. But then, so were the rides to our camp on Little Sebago Lake. But as I paid attention to the route we took, the colors of the houses at every major turn, I realized I had learned the route when it was time for me to drive there by myself without my parents. Likewise, being in church each Sunday, learning the different parts of the service: the welcome, singing, praying, sermon, communion, and baptisms; hearing my dad sing in his deep, gravelly voice; watching the choir members smile as they sang; I learned that each was a part of the journey we were on together as a church family, and it was a path that just seemed natural to me when I became an adult.

But perhaps even more significant than that, my most lasting impression of being in the church worship service, is that I was welcome and known. I can remember where “our pew” was. I always knew where my family sat. In front of Ann and Jim Robertson. Behind Cecil and Alice Priest. Across the aisle from George and Ruby Blake. Mr. Maguire would squeeze my hand so hard when he shook it at the greeting time, I thought he was going to crush my fingers! I watched as adults hugged one another and laughed at the pastor’s bad jokes. The sun streamed in the stained-glass windows in the winter, and cool breezes came in when they were opened in the summer. Our place in the pew was a tradition we observed every Sunday. And it left the impression that I belonged there. These people were my family, my faith parents. And today I am even Facebook friends with Mrs. Robertson who is now in her 90’s!

So, I’m delighted you are asking these questions! The good news is you are not alone! People have recently been asking me, “When is the right time to start taking my children to worship?” “How do I know when my son/daughter is ready to take communion?” “What should I do when they get restless?” “Can children really understand what is going on in the service?”

At Grace Chapel, we want to equip parents, grandparents, foster parents, and yes, faith parents to answer these, and other questions about introducing their growing children to the worshipping family of God. Author, pastor, father, and now grandfather, Mark DeVries writes about bringing children to worship:

“Sitting in worship is like having a regular place to sit at the family dinner table…you know you belong. It is in worship that young Christians, week after week, can offer God praise, confess their sins, hear from God’s word and offer themselves in a deeper way to serve God. It is in worship and through the sacraments [Communion and Baptism] of God’s people that teenagers [and children] gain a sense of their connection to a rich family tradition.”

When we understand, and are committed to why children should be in worship, then it becomes easier to figure out how to help children and parents worship God together in the context of the church worship service. And hopefully we can then give our children warm, positive and lasting impressions of being part of the church family.

On Sunday, April 9, our NextGen Ministry is offering a class called First Impressions: Welcoming Children to Worship and the Table. This class is for parents AND their elementary aged children. We’ll help answer questions like these and others.

This is a great time of the year to hold this class as we enter Holy Week. Children and their families who attend could then come to our Good Friday service on April 14 and take communion together, perhaps even for the first time!

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses gives God’s instructions to the people of Israel as they prepare to enter the Land of Promise. He writes, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our GOD, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children…” Let’s give our children a great First Impression!

 

Blessings to you and your kids,
Pastor Ruthie, a fellow faith parent!

 

Ruthie Seiders
Pastor of Next Generation Ministry

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