In September we began a youth group for elementary kids. As it started, I expected four kids. My two, and two others. We just moved here this summer and my kids had no friends to invite. Those two others invited their friends though, and some of those friends because as consistent as the pastor’s kids. Then one of those kids invited one of their friends who started coming regularly. We were growing slowly but surely.
As we began to approach Christmas, a retired teacher saw the potential of the kids who came to worship. We began working on lines for a Christmas play. Our regulars to junior group committed to coming on Sunday morning to practice alongside some kids who came to worship every other Sunday.
Then, on our very last practice the mom of these little boys brought their friend who had started coming to junior group. Could he be part of the play? Yes! We found him a spot.
Yesterday was the day. I got up early and headed to church nervous for them. Guess who was the first family through that door? Yep, it was that little boy who had joined the cast at our last practice with his dad and two younger brothers. As the rest of the cast arrived, they went into the nursery to make sure these little brothers had someone to play with. Another dad joined them to make sure the dad was welcomed too. Then two wonderful women joined them to watch the boys until the play began.
Siblings, grandchildren and cousins all filled the pews to watch the good news shared by our kids. They did great as they shared what Christmas is all about. But before worship even started, they had already shared what Christmas is all about when they invited their friends and made sure new people belonged.
My husband, reflecting on this Sunday, shared the truth that for most of these kids, they wouldn’t have had this chance at a mega-church. Sure, some of them would. But for those who are not theater geeks, whose parents work on weekends, who didn’t become part of the cast until the last practice, this chance to welcome their parents into their church wouldn’t have happened. These kids needed a church flexible enough to make space for them.
I am really proud of our church kids. Not because of their acting and singing skills (yes they were great!) but for the way they welcomed people into their church family and for their willingness to do scary things for God. I think that if they keep on doing those two things, God will keep giving them new kids to welcome. I pray that us adults can do those two things too. I pray that we can help these kids’ parents belong at Tanner Valley UMC. I pray that we can do scary things for God. If we can do those two things, we may find we too have room to grow. We may discover what Christmas is all about.