Published in the Rains County Leader on February 11, 2020:
I had a new experience Sunday morning – I helped with KIDZ Church, a program at Believers’ Baptist for children from four years old through second grade. These children begin the service in the Sanctuary with their families where they experience worship in prayer, singing, and presenting offerings, and on the last Sunday of each month, they stay in the Sanctuary for the whole service. The rest of the month, though, they are dismissed to the KIDZ Church room in the Family and Children’s Building when Pastor Jason stands up to preach, and there they experience worship aimed at their level of understanding.
In order that no adults consistently miss Morning Worship, volunteers serve as teachers and helpers on a rotating basis – usually two adults and two of our older students for one month a year. This week they were short one adult, and when Betsy sent out a request on the church Facebook page, I said I would help. It wasn’t a difficult task – mainly to be present to help maintain some semblance of order. One thing to keep in mind when working with young children is that you will never achieve perfect order. There will be noise, talking, wiggling, inattention, and more, but the goal is to walk the narrow line between tyranny and anarchy.
This week, our young congregation consisted of twenty children and one service dog. They lined up and made their way through the hallway from the Sanctuary in a very orderly manner, all things considered. Betsy met them at the door of the KIDZ Church room holding a small autoharp that she said was similar to one David might have played when he wrote most of the verses we were going to study. Then, they entered the room and settled on the big throw rug in the teaching area. The younger kids sat in front while the older ones gravitated toward the back of the rug with several of the oldest boys sitting on the bare floor behind it. They were, of course, too cool to sit on a rug decorated with pictures from children’s Bible stories. From side to side, the crowd was almost perfectly divided with boys on the right and girls on the left.
I thought about sitting on the rug with the kids, but considering my age and the condition of my joints, I thought better of it and pulled over one of the under-sized chairs. Wanting to stay in the background, I positioned myself at the left back corner. In hindsight, I probably should have been on the boys’ side, but the two teen boys managed them quite nicely.
The word for the day was refuge, and the key verse was Proverbs 18:10.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
Betsy asked what kind of safety equipment was worn to protect players during sporting events, and almost every little hand shot up. Some of the kids had great answers while some sat in stunned silence when called on, but all of them were eager to participate. Next, Betsy showed a picture of a tower with slots containing verses, mostly from Psalms, that referred to God as a refuge. Those who could, took turns reading the verses aloud, and non-readers were allowed to pull the verses from the slots. By the time the last verse was read, the children were anticipating and shouting refuge in the appropriate spots.
When the lesson was over, Betsy divided the children into four groups and pulled out, not just one, but four autoharps and four guitar picks. For the next few minutes, the children took turns plucking and strumming strings. As one little girl observed, there was a lot of music. Then, it was time to move to the tables on the other side of the room for coloring, goldfish, and water. Before all the pictures of towers with Jesus’ name on the door were finished, parents began to arrive, and in a flurry, all the little ones were gone. All that was left was a collection of crayons, glue sticks, scraps of paper, goldfish crumbs, and half-empty cups of water on the tables and the floor beneath them – and an almost deafening silence.
Working with children can be like living through a whirlwind, and it can leave you a little breathless, especially after you’ve crawled under the table to clean up the debris. It can also leave you wondering what just happened and if what you did made a difference. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus encouraged the Disciples to bring the children to Him, so any time you bring a child to Him, I believe you are making a difference. And when you invest your time in a child, showing them by words and actions that they matter, I believe you are taking a small step toward preventing them from becoming one of the confused children that are adrift in the world today. Yes, Sunday was my first time to work in KIDZ Church, but it probably won’t be my last.