At my little church, even the youngest kids usually join us in worship until after the singing. A few weeks ago, as one of the deacons was passing the offering plate, he came to the aisle where his family was sitting. His two year old son climbed out of his seat and reached for dad’s hand. Then his three year old daughter took hold of her brother’s hand, and they walked down the isle, linked together like a little train, each one trailing behind the other, until they reached the front. Then the two kids stood with their dad, next to the other deacons as they prayed for the morning offering.
It’s easy to notice the things that should change in a church. As the children’s education coordinator, I’m sensitive to the times when kids are overlooked, left out, or underestimated. When I see that happening, I try to influence change.
But lately I’ve notice that I’m not as vocal about times when kids are fully included and embraced. I might smile to myself and send up a prayer of gratitude, but I rarely seek people out to highlight the positive. We have a shared memory of two little ones walking down the isle with the deacons, but after church that day, I missed that chance to mention to anyone how special that moment was.
About a year ago I attended a workshop by Mark DeVries, author of Family Based Youth Ministry, and Sustainable Youth Ministry. He talked about motivating leaders and the entire congregation by broadcasting snapshots of the church at its best. He said that he looks for opportunities to hold up a mirror to the congregation and say, “look, this is who we are! This is what God is doing among us!” . . . He watches what is happening in ministry and the life of the church, and then shares stories with parents, leaders, the council, and the ministry leaders.
These might be big or small stories—the leader who showed up at a student’s athletic event to cheer her on and get to know her parents. The adult who noticed that one of the kids always comes to church alone, and invited him to sit with their family; the child who welcomed the newcomer with a friendly warm smile.
I think Mark was really on to something. No one likes to be nagged and scolded about changing their attitudes or behaviors. But we like to hear good stories and good news. By sharing stories of the best of what’s happening in our church, we call out the best in each other. We are inspired to become more like the stories we hear!
What snapshots do you have to share? How can you let people in your church know about the good things God is doing in your midst?