Serving is important. Mission work is important. I see blog posts all the time listing varieties of ways for our kids to be mission minded and to think of others first.
Those are all good things. Great things.
But if we want to keep them in church, then they need to be involved in church.
Church leaders don't just pop up out of nowhere. They must learn to lead. Their talents must be groomed. They must practice and learn.
Think about it: We don't throw concert pianists at a baby grand and expect Mozart. We don't throw brain surgeons into the OR and wish them "Good luck!"
So we should be teaching our children the ways of faith, too - and that includes how to serve within the church.
(I realize that different denominations handle this issue in different ways. Some churches are very strict about who performs certain tasks within the church. I do not mean to hop into that fray.)
Our children see us working within the church. I work with kids' ministries and help to plan events, and my husband serves in one of those after-hours, banking-so-the-lights-stay-on kind of roles, and they help us. Sometimes that means that they stamp envelopes for him as he works, or they help me rearrange tables and set up for events.
But one Sunday I realized that they were ready for more.
Our pastor was explaining that we needed volunteers to do all sorts of things around the church: mow the yard, run the sound board, fold bulletins, assist with Communion, read scripture, etc.
The words read scripture jumped out at me. I've got two excellent readers in my house. They are certainly capable of doing that task.
At first both resisted. Stand up and read in front of the whole church? No way!
But after some thought, My Big Helper asked to volunteer.
She's now in the regular rotation of readers for our church. She opens the service with a call-and-response type reading from the Psalms, and she does a great job.
One day she'll try out something else. She might try those other jobs - assisting with Communion, folding bulletins, singing in the choir. She's learning to put her faith into action publicly. To stand in front of other people and speak. To accept responsibility for a job from someone other than us.
She's learning that we all have talents and gifts to give to Jesus' body. That the Church needs all of us. That our gifts are meant to be shared. That we can all serve best when we work together.
What kinds of jobs might kids be able to do?
- bulletin folding
- scripture reading
- assist with Communion
- help an adult to prepare the altar for Communion or to clean up afterwards
- make announcements
- ring bells
- sing in the choir
- provide special music
- serve as greeter
- serve as an usher
- pass out special bags or supplies to kids
- pass out bulletins
- run remote controls for audio-visual equipment
- give children's sermons
- help in the nursery