By: Nancy Wade
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
The Kindergarteners of First Cong taught me much during the past six months when I teamed up with other adults to teach these bright-eyed children in Sunday School. I grew to treasure their inquisitive natures, their boundless curiosity, and their innocent perspectives on our world.
The Sunday School curriculum developed by Deborah Voss is always fresh and interesting; one key element is repetition. Children learn best by knowing what to expect in the order of things. So, each week, we would begin with free play, then a magical musical visit by Liesl Bryant, followed by a circle opening, a story, and then crafts to tie the week’s theme together.
These sweet and eager 5- and 6-year-olds loved the opening circle. They would vie for certain tasks: dim the lights in the room, lay out the colorful scarf on the floor, click on the small LED candle, or turn the lights back on. They were “all in” with this activity.
The teachers brought out a small basket containing colorful painted rocks. Each rock had been painted with a rainbow or a dog, a flower, a tree or other bright image. The kids delighted in choosing a favorite rock. Then we would go around the circle to give each child a chance to tell why they had chosen that particular rock.
Then came my favorite part of the circle.
After each child’s explanation, they would stand up and walk to where I was sitting in a chair. Looking them in the eye, I would gently take a peppermint Chapstick and draw a small cross on the child’s forehead. The words I would say helped to frame this small person’s view of the world.
You are a child of God! God loves you!
After weeks of this ritual, the children knew what to expect and yet there was never a time when their eyes didn’t shine with expectation and joy.
“Marshall, you are a child of God. God loves you!”
“Gracie, you are a child of God. God loves you!”
“Elias, you are a child of God. God loves you!”
The children seemed to love everything about this experience: the distinct smell of the peppermint Chapstick, the eye contact, the words. Yes, most of all, the words of affirmation each week: “You are a child of God. God loves you!”
Speaking these words had an impact on me. I felt lighter somehow. It felt good to know that I was helping to shape the children’s awareness of God. Children are so impressionable and I was happy to be able to share in this experience of learning.
In our uncertain world, I sometimes think we all need affirmations that God is near, that – even as adults – we are still God’s children. There is such a need for that positivity and innocence.
Dear God: Help us to honor the presence of children in our church. Let us recognize the innocence and hopefulness of those children as they grow toward the light of God. Amen.