Anyone who knows me would readily concede my love of children. Some think (the Mistress of the Parsonage is one) that it is because I'm just a kid myself. Well, if that is the case, I hope I never grow up, especially to be like some adults I've seen lately.
During the last several years, my wife and I have spent our time and energy (not to mention money) in establishing a ministry to the children in our neighborhood. It started out slow - real slow - but it is beginning to grow.
Of course, we have had excellent helpers along the way. It's not as if we are doing this on our own.
Three years ago, we boasted of only two children in our church. Now we have over 30 children under the age of 10 attending regularly.
My commitment to these children is seen in the fact that each Sunday, right after the morning worship service, I stand at the door with bags of jellybeans for all the children.
For some reason, I know not why, I'm deluged with children at the end of the service - and, loving it. Don't spread this around, but several non-child persons sneak a bag of those delicious jellies, and who can blame them.
When God created the jellybean, He was at the height of His creative genus. If only I could find a jellybean tree, I would plant several in my back yard.
One of the things I love best about children is their untarnished innocence. As of yet, the corruption by the deceitfulness of the world around them has not taken root and I would like to protect them as long as possible.
Each year it gets harder to do this. There is a down side to this innocence. One of the most frightening things is the fact children will believe what you say and usually believe it literally.
When I was a young boy at home, we could not tell my younger brother that Superman could not really fly. "Of course he can," he would angrily protest, "I've seen him do it on TV." And so he had.
Many of the children in our congregation are young and unfamiliar with the ways of churches unlike the adults who are old and unfamiliar with the ways of churches. Sometimes I find myself doing things without even thinking why I am doing them and it takes an innocent question from some child to awaken me.
"Why do pastors spend so much time and money preparing weekly bulletins when nobody actually reads them?"
"Why do pastors wear a suit and tie on Sunday when nobody within 50 miles of the church (except other pastors) is wearing one?"
"Why do pastors take up collections each Sunday?"
Actually, it was this last one that caught me off guard recently. We've been trying to teach the children about the church offering.
One Sunday, a young boy asked the age-old question; "Why do you take up an offering on Sunday?"
Personally, I had never given too much thought to the weekly Sunday collection ritual. I've always done it and I've always seen it done.
I can't remember a time when we never took up an offering in church on Sunday morning. Of course, as a pastor my question is a little different: "Why, when we take up a collection on Sunday morning, is it so little?"
That's a different sermon. Believe me, I have tried to run a church without money and she just won't run far. It seems the old saying is true, "Money makes the world go round."
People complain about churches taking up offerings but they don't seem to mind that everywhere else they go someone is always charging them some fee. The next time you are in a restaurant see if they don't give you a bill at the end of the meal.
When someone figures out how to run a church without money, I will be the first one to jump on the bandwagon. Till then, the ushers will be passing the offering plate each Sunday in my church - and don't be stingy.
Whenever any of the children ask a question, it is time to answer it. So patiently, my wife and some of the other ladies took the time to explain that the offering was for God.
"When you put money into the offering plate," explained my wife to a class of bright-eyed children, "you are giving it to God."
"What does God do with all that money?" asked one boy. And so my wife explained about missions, the exciting children's programs, our building and the wonderful playground with the Ark. All of this cost money.
"It sure is good of God to buy all this stuff for us," whispered one student. "How did He know we wanted all this?"
This went on for a number of weeks and we thought we were making progress. I was standing at the back of the church greeting people as they were leaving.
Suddenly down the hall, two young children came running and yelling "Pastor, pastor."
When they got to me in unison they said, "Pastor, God took His money already."
With further plodding, they explained. "We went into the office and saw the offering plates and they were empty. God musta' took His money already."
My challenge is found in the Old Testament; "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6 KJV.)
HA! Out of the mouth of babes ... Here in Africa they have special services at regular intervals where each different department in the church 'competes' with the others in giving. But they don't pass the plate around. The groups sing and dance in what reminds me of a "Rumba Line" (is that spelled right?) up to the front with huge smiles on their faces and give what they can. The joy is contagious! You find yourself wishing you had more to give! One little typo I think: "unlike the adults who are old and unfamiliar with the ways of churches." I think it should read "familiar" if I read it correctly. God bless! Donna