“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 trends are clear. As churchgoing people get older and young families gravitate more towards non-denominational churches with bigger children’s programs, congregations like ours are finding it more and more of a rarity to see children pass through their doors. That just makes it all the more clear how blessed we are to have children in worship. When those young ones gather up front for the children’s moment, smiles appear across faces all around the sanctuary.
But I keep hearing stories of local churches that don’t have any young people coming, churches that have dropped nursery, Sunday school and youth ministries altogether. The trends are worrisome to all of us who love children and wonder how Christian faith will get passed on to future generations. With all the distractions, temptations and negative influences facing young people in our world today, when will they hear about Jesus and how will they learn to follow him? So how should we focus our priorities as a church family?
When Carl Haberland died last month, I felt bad for the children in our congregation. Here was a man who knew how important these little ones are to God. He would come and speak to confirmation classes (even making the long and, for him, painful trip up to Dade City) about the unconditional love of Jesus, and how they always have a friend they can pray to for help. He made donations to ministries and organizations bringing relief to suffering children locally and in the third world. And he always smiled and spoke to the children, getting to know as many of the youth of our congregation as he could by name.
Blessed as we are, we keep sharing the blessing with the smallest in our midst. I thank each one of you for sharing that spirit of Jesus, who welcomed all the children and blessed each one.