Yesterday I attended the funeral of my sister-in-law’s 83 year old mother, Charlene Sheffield Mallard. It was a sweet celebration of a gifted Christian woman. Her lifelong love of art and painting and her ministry to preschool children were especially noted. Charlene’s great grandchildren where very visible…..infants and toddlers and primary grade school boys and girls….my great nieces and nephews…..my brother’s grandchildren. Another baby is due tomorrow in his family. As I hugged their little necks and kissed their cheeks, I thought about the way this church, First Baptist Church of Dawson, Georgia, celebrates its children and molds their lives. I was reminded of the ways in which children’s presence in the life of a church bless every generation. I returned to something I had experienced in 1999 and had written about so that I would never forget the tender way God uses our children as a sacred blessing to us!
On July 5, 2014, I was cleaning out some old files in my garage. Several notebooks needed to be gone through before being thrown out. One was a Children’s Ministry notebook. In 2008, I was completing a series of certification classes for Christian Education. One assignment in a Children’s Ministry semester was answering the question “When have you been distracted by a child’s presence in worship? What might you say to the other worshipers or parents about the child’s contributions to the worshipping community?
The following is about a time I was distracted in the most wonderful way by a child in worship! I was attending a time of worship and teaching by Kay Arthur at a church in Orlando in conjunction with the Women of Faith conference in 1999. A group of women from my church had driven down together to attend the events. One woman had her 4 month old daughter in a carrier on the pew beside her in front of me. As I was standing during a song, I looked down on that precious baby, asleep with her tiny hand cradling her cheek. It was such a sweet, innocent gesture of comfort. My heart melted and tears filled my eyes! Later that evening Sheila Walsh was speaking at the large Centroplex Arena and as she finished the final presentation of the evening, she told about a little thing she does at bedtime with her 2 ½ year old son. She asks him, “Which boy does Mommy love?” In response, she said, he puts his hand to his cheek and says, “This boy!” Then she asked all 18,000 women present to place a hand on their cheek and said, “Which girl does God love?” To which we all replied in unison, “This girl!” It truly was a gesture of comfort! God had shown it to me just that morning and spoken to my heart as I watched a baby sleep. I shared that story with the baby’s mother after the conference. A couple of years later she asked me to write it down for her to keep for her daughter. God can, and does, use the smallest things to speak to our hearts….and sometimes the smallest people, as well.
We think of children’s ministry as what we adults do for, with, and to the youngest generation….But, in truth, children’s ministry is the hope and joy that they give to us.