One of my concrete goals as a Pastor in a cross-generational community of faith is to create space and opportunity for people of different generations to be visibly present in roles of service and leadership. I am particularly conscious of the need to “make space” for children and youth to contribute. Worship, the primary gathering of the people of God, is an obvious arena for this. I want to see children and young people regularly delivering Bible readings, leading prayers and distributing Holy Communion, as well as contributing in other ways from time to time. My experience is that these roles will be simply assumed by adults unless key leaders function as advocates or “space makers” on their behalf.
Why do so? For one thing, involving children and youth in meaningful and significant ways increases their sense of belonging and purpose within the people of God. It also encourages other children and youth to see and know that they matter in the body of believers. And it gives people of other generations a sense of hope and “aliveness”.
This morning, Michael, aged 8, was rostered on to deliver our Bible readings. Michael still has some physical growing to do, so before the worship service began his mother asked me to put out a block for Michael to stand on at the lectern. We have one nearby for that very purpose. Later, when the time came for the readings, Michael wasn’t paying attention. His mother quickly prodded him into action and up he came. He read beautifully. Fittingly, the Gospel reading (Matthew 10:40-42) spoke of receiving Jesus through welcoming others and serving the “little ones”. In welcoming Michael and giving him opportunity to share his gifts, we were truly blessed by our Lord this morning.
Actively involving children and youth in worship does mean “putting out blocks” – making sure they are resourced and supported to give of their best. And sometimes they will need to be prompted or specially reminded. But the blessings through so doing are no small thing! So let’s “make space” for our children and youth. Let’s put out whatever blocks we need to in order for them to stand tall. And let’s cultivate cultures of grace that continually affirm them as co-members of the body of Christ, both when they “shine” as did Michael, and on those occasions when the words do not flow as smoothly.