By Sandy K. Blaylock, Ken Caryl Church, Littleton, CO
I saw the look in her eyes as she reached the children’s drop-off area. No words were needed. Her eyes and mouth were communicating how sorry she was to be dropping off her screaming child to me yet, at the same time, she was signaling her deepest need to have a glorious one-hour break. Then there was the dad, dragging his child to the children’s area, suffering through a meltdown the entire length of the hallway. Same eye message, “sorry to do this to you,” as he hurried off to his Life Group. Another exhausted mom, fostering a child who had been so broken by the sins of others and acting out was her only way of releasing her frustration. The relief in her eyes as she handed over her child to me communicating, “I don’t know if I can do this for one more second.” Then there are the parents of a miracle child who has triumphed over so many things yet, has many challenges ahead that require specialized attention while at church. My thought has always been, if not here at church then where? If not my team of staff and volunteers who love children, then who? Aren’t the least of these the ones that Jesus referenced and loved throughout the Bible and encouraged us by his example to do the same?
After raising three children to adulthood and currently raising a second adopted family of three, and having many parents and friends share about their perils of parenthood, I know all too well how these parents at church feel when dropping their children off to our preschool or children’s ministry. I know the look. The exhaustion. The desperate need for someone to understand. The embarrassment you feel when your child is not behaving or is acting out. The guilt for feeling the need for a break. The hope that we will still love them and not judge them based on their children’s behavior. The dread when they return to pick them up… hoping we won’t express our ill content at how they behaved.
Jesus’ words are clear throughout the Bible with respect to how he felt about children. We read in numerous passages how he would take children into his loving arms and onto his lap. Jesus’ actions set the stage for how important it is to show children that they have value in our eyes and in the eyes of God. He also taught us through his word to bear one another’s burdens.
Matthew 19:13-14 reminds us that when the people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them, his disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Children are valuable to our Lord and need to be valuable to us, regardless of the day they are having. In Mark 10:13-16 Jesus told the disciples, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” God created the family, and children are a gift and blessing from Him. The Bible is clear that children are to be looked upon as a blessing, not an inconvenience or something to be tolerated. They are a reward from God and a blessing.
As we move into a new decade, I challenge myself and all preschool and children’s ministry teachers, volunteers, and staff to reflect on Jesus’ example and the power we hold to support and encourage our parents. The power that love provides when we unconditionally love every child that walks into our church and classroom doors. To greet them and treat them, regardless of their behavior or needs, as Jesus would. To take the time to listen to them, to guide them, to love on them. To partner with parents on training them up in the way they should go so they will not depart from Him. To teach them about God’s unconditional and sacrificial love for them through our actions and His word. To pour into them, listen to them, love them, and at times, correct them.
If not here, in our churches, then where will parents find the hope, love, spiritual guidance, and encouragement they need to weather the seasons of change that raising children brings?