This is a hot, hard summer. Violence of all sorts seems to be everywhere. No one feels safe. Everyone is afraid of everyone else – especially those who are “not like me”. All sorts of proposals that would generally be written off as absurd are being seriously considered. In such situations preachers and worship planners feel the call to be prophetic or at least to relate what is going on in the world to the core beliefs of faith. It can lead to worship that is more “tense” and “controversial” than serene. Worshipers can get upset. While such worship is not easy, it is very, very important. And, although many want to cover the ears of the children at such times, it is important that the children be present and that their presence be considered in planning worship.
Reasons the children need to be there
· They need to hear us admit and describe the problems that are tearing the world apart. If they hear it at church, rather than “on the street,” they are much more likely to “get it right.”
· They need the opportunity to hear their gathering of God’s people take what is happening seriously and ponder together how to respond in faith.
· We can invite them to sing and pray about what is going on with all God’s people. It is one way they can act. It empowers them.
· When we talk about scary things with them, we can reassure them (and ourselves) that God is still working the world out and is with us - even when times are hard.
The presence of children is helpful to the whole congregation
· The presence of children can help the adults reign in the rhetoric avoiding overly dramatic or metaphoric statements that children (and maybe older worshipers) are likely to misunderstand.
· Their presence leads us to consider what they need to hear in order to understand what is going on around them. Often thinking from their perspective takes us back to the very basics that are often lost in adult rhetoric. They lead us to conversations about hitting and loving neighbors.
· For the sake of the children, we can introduce songs and prayers in ways that connect those parts of worship to the current situation.
· Because they are there, we can suggest things that they and their families might do to respond to what is going on. Too often our suggestions are things only adults can do. We need to give children safe ways to act also.
· Their presence gives older members of the congregation a reason to persevere and visual hope for the future.
So maybe long, hard summers are especially good times for children to be among God’s people as they worship together.