Sunday was our annual ‘Children’s Gift’ presented during the 11 o’clock ARISE service when the children (Preschool-5th grade) sing a few songs, present a poem/drama, and pass out something yummy to the congregation en masse just before the sermon.
Over the last four years, finding a time to prepare like the traditional “children’s choir time” has not worked for us. Many of our students have commitments every weeknight and many of our parents commute or own their own businesses, so volunteers are slim. This fall we included ‘praising the Lord in song’ as an important part of our Sunday School time, so it seemed the natural time to prepare for our program.
We chose a dance song “Yes, Jesus Loves Me,” from the Go Fish Guys and a poem where each student held up student art to represent the animals and folks involved in the Christmas story, then closed with “It’s About The Cross.”
Not every kid takes the stage with great enthusiasm and not every kid sings along, but the top 3 reasons we continue are…
1. Everyone needs spiritual memories of service in church without perfection. Everyone in the congregation loves to see kids sing and dance in church, even if they won’t sing or dance in church. They enjoy the peppy music and how the kids act. I always say that as long as no one throws up, the presentation is a success. Nose picking, dress lifting, knocking into other people, no singing, singing to a different tune is all enjoyed and a story is born to share at future family gatherings. Anytime a Sunday morning takes on a different order, it is set apart in our minds and memories. I want our kids to have lots of church memories. Memories of ‘not the same-old, same-old every week.’ Memories of their family of faith smiling and clapping with them. Memories of praising the Lord!
2. They get to run in church. Whether a child is late arriving so we hurry to gather their props or we’re handing out candy canes from red and green beach buckets after the presentation, I think it’s good for kids to run in church at times. When I was a girl, the only lady who I perceived was “sold out for the Lord” wore orthopedic shoes, wore her hair in a bun, and shook her big floppy bible at us as she yelled at kids to stop running in church. Yep, that’s who I aspired to be (insert sarcasm). I will do whatever it takes to build church memories that are filled with laughter, joy, and hopefully give a better picture of what a woman sold out to the Lord looks and acts like…she may run occasionally in the church.
3. Non-Stepford-Non-Perfect-Acting-Kids get to be affirmed by others. We’ve all had, or been, those kids who’s name is spoken a dozen times during the Sunday School hour. On this day, they get up there, sing, dance, smile, and get all the attention they could possibly want, and then get told, “You did great!,” or “I loved it when you…” One of the five pillars of our Children’s Ministry is BELONG. We want for our kids to feel they belong at church and no matter what happens during the week, this is where they know without a doubt they are loved, laughed with, and given opportunities to shine.
Even if you have just a few kids, even if pageants and programs aren’t your thing, even if your kids act all “I don’t want to be here and I don’t want to do this” on you, it’s important to learn and offer them practice praising the Lord in public. And a small Children’s Gift of Praise…even a Sacrifice of Praise… is the perfect vehicle to do just that.
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6