The Child-Friendly Church

Think of ways your church can be a place where children can worship God.

Vergie is a pastor's wife in the Philippines. Mizpa, March-April 1994.

Regardless of the endeavor, result-oriented. Clothed in pride for self-achievement, honor sapiens cheer statistics, medals, plaques, records. The larger the trophy case, the better.

For soul winners, the number of baptisms count as stars in their crowns. But to my fellow Sabbath School teachers in the Children's Division there seems to be no "stars" to present.

So when the preacher in my church challenged the congre­gation to bring souls to Christ and stars to one's crown, I silently cringed, whined, and whimpered at the impossibility. The children I taught were too young to be baptized. My fellow teachers and I could show no results for our work.

I didn't give Bible studies then (and still can't, even after being married to a pastor for eight years). I only know how to tell stories, lead a song service, and distribute offering baskets. I do have the limited ability to make tiny tots (already coaxed by their mothers) respond to my "altar call" to give their crumpled paper hearts to Jesus. After several years of enthusiastic existence in this department, I became despondent. I couldn't count results.

Working with our Sabbath School children may seem less important than working with adults, but this should not be so. Mrs. E. G. White herself recognized that "molding the minds and characters of [the] children, to train them for use­fulness here, and to fit them for the future immortal life" is a "solemn and important" task.

The Sabbath  School class is a missionary place where children discover, or learn by experience, ideas of holiness, sweet fellow­ship, church, and how to know God. Also the parent's teachings at home are enhanced by the Sabbath school, The children look forward to the Bible story lessons in pictures and their sweet personalities bloom in the joyful atmosphere.

"From a child, Timothy knew the Scriptures (his memory verses) and this knowledge was a safeguard to him against evil influences surrounding him" (Gospel Workers, p, 212, paren­theses supplied). Our Sabbath School children need the same safeguard. While Eunice, young Timothy's mother, and his grand­mother did their part, it is also the work of "Christ's ambassadors to the little members of the con­gregation to see that the children are properly instructed in the word of God" (Ibid.).

Let us also encourage our local churches to leave a little corner of their sermons for the children's benefit. (Why have we forgotten the children?) Play the piano or sing children's songs while they tip-toe up front (on children-friendly non-slippery floors) for their sermonette or homily. Give a special time for the children to shake hands with the preacher, be he a visiting pastor or the church elder or a lay member.

Think of ways your church can be a place where children can worship God. While you can't turn over these six-year-old innocent souls for baptism yet, constant "practice" makes them perfect. Make your church a child-friendly church.