Dear Kids

It’s possible that sometime in your life you’ve gotten a mean look from someone in church. Or someone told you that you were being “too loud.” Or someone said it’s not OK to ask questions. If any of those things has happened to you, I’m sorry.

There’s a wonderful story in the Bible about kids. Jesus was walking through a town with his disciples—his friends—and a bunch of kids walked up to him. The disciples weren’t nice to the kids. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” And then he said that the kingdom of God belongs to kids, and that you can’t even enter God’s realm unless you’re more like a kid. He really said that. You can look it up. Then, instead of being mean to those kids and trying to send them away, Jesus blessed those kids.

On behalf of all adults, I’m writing to tell you I’m sorry. When it comes to kids in church, adults need to do a better job. Sometimes we think a little too much about what we want our church service to be—which might be a nice, quiet service with everything just perfect—but we forget what Jesus himself said.

We need you in our church services. Here’s why:

You have natural gifts of wonder and delight. You notice things we don’t even see anymore. If the Lord’s Supper is supposed to be a meal, why do we take these little sips and tiny bites? And what’s the difference between the Lord’s Supper, communion, and eucharist? Why is the pastor wearing green or purple or red or white? Why do we have to stand up sometimes? Why do we have to sing—or why can’t we only sing? Why can’t all of church be Sunday school? Maybe you wonder some of these things, but you probably have your own questions, too. Please don’t stop asking those questions. If someone in a church shushes you when you’re asking a question, I’m sorry. Adults sometimes get nervous about people talking in church. I don’t know why, but we do. But Jesus loved asking questions, and I hope you keep doing it. We need your wonder and delight.

You have natural gifts of enthusiasm and joy. When you sing, sometimes you sing as loud as you can because it’s fun, isn’t it? If someone in church tells you your singing is too loud or your dancing isn’t OK, I’m sorry. Sometimes adults don’t like it when people sing too loud or get too excited in church. Isn’t that the silliest thing? There’s a psalm that says “Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” A joyful noise! It’s right there in the Bible: make noise! I hope you keep singing—loudly and clearly. We need your enthusiasm and joy.

You have natural gifts of curiosity and wisdom. The stories we tell in church can be confusing. Why are we supposed to cheer for Moses and not Pharaoh? How did Jonah live inside that big fish? Why did Jesus have to die? And why did God, Jesus’ parent, let it happen? Maybe you’ve thought of some of these questions, or you have your own questions about the stories we tell in church. That’s OK. If someone tells you that’s just the way it is and we’re not supposed to ask why, I’m sorry. Adults might worry about questioning the Bible. But when a group of people called Pharisees thought they had God’s Word all figured out, Jesus told them they were wrong. It’s OK to ask why. It’s good to ask why. We need your curiosity and wisdom.

You have natural gifts of honesty and innocence. If something is boring, you say so. And you know what can be boring? A sermon. I’ve preached lots of sermons myself and I’ve heard lots of sermons too. In my life, both as a kid and an adult, I’ve probably heard more than a thousand sermons. And sometimes they can be boring. If adults are honest about it, we’ve all been bored during a sermon once in a while. If you feel bored because you’re listening to a sermon, that’s OK. There’s a story in the Bible about a time when Paul was preaching such a long sermon that a boy who was listening got bored, went to sleep, and fell out a window! If someone tells you that you have to listen and it’s wrong to be bored, I’m sorry. You’re not wrong; sometimes church is boring. We need your honesty and innocence.

One last thing: thank you, kids. Thank you for coming to church and bringing your natural gifts with you—gifts of wonder and delight, enthusiasm and joy, curiosity and wisdom, honesty and innocence. Thank you for reminding us that Jesus wants us to be more like you, and thank you for forgiving us when we forget. Thank you for all of your joyful noises.

Thank you for being the most important people in our churches.

Grateful for the gift you are,

Your sibling in Christ

Rev. Dr. Ian Doescher is the New York Times bestselling author of the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and Pop Shakespeare series. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Reformed Worship 144 © June 2022, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.