We do Church-School! Huh? (Getting Schooled in Gifts, Grace, and Glory!)
Since my babies were preschoolers (and before I even had children) loving words such as “Preacher’s kids are the worst!” have been shared with me. Nothing is more “inspiring” to a new parent, whose husband is in ministry, than to hear words like that! (Please, take in all the irony I’m exuding between every line!) Let me just say, I do not believe PK’s are the worst, and I feel I can say this in good conscious, as I have been working in Children’s Ministry for the past 11 years. They are no worse than the next child and no better. They are each wonderful blessings, but they are also each – equally – sinners. Some kids, PK’s or not, are loud, full of energy, ready to speak anything, from the Truth to back-talk, and some are reserved, more thoughtful, and more selfish. (Sounds a lot like adults I know, including myself!)
So, where do such accusations come from? Well, I won’t say that there isn’t some truth in the words shared with me because some PK’s have struggled to uphold the family or church name, but I think it would do us well to consider some very real spiritual Truths at work in and among our children, in a ministry family or not.
-Just like in the case of a marriage, the Enemy does not “condone” oneness within a home; he is very much against it and will fight against it until he is defeated or he defeats you!
-Just like in the case of a marriage, the Enemy really does not like a Christian home! Once you become a family that follows Christ, the stakes are up as far as he is concerned, and his target has become more clear!
-Just like in the case of a marriage, the Enemy becomes most threatened when you not only claim Christ as Lord but you also begin serving Him as such. So, here’s where a PK could fall…in a battle for his/her very soul! No longer is the child just part of a family or even just part of a Christian family; no, this child is among those actively working for the Kingdom of God which means they are working against the Enemy’s camp! (And by default, he is now working night and day to destroy you and your children!)
So, whether you have a PK, an MK, or an OK kid, we as parents and/or as adults in the Kingdom of God need to be actively fighting in the Spirit for the hearts, souls, and minds of our kids. We have no right to let our children down by just sending them on their way alone; God has never done that to us!
The Reason for all this:
I have been thinking on these things recently as we have started to “Church-school.” (I know, homeschool…church-school…weird…crazy…one-of-those-families! If it makes you feel any better, I am often heard telling my boys to pull their pants down and to untuck their shirts!) Let me explain. We are at the Church building almost every weekend for both services. Our Church Body doesn’t do a formal Sunday School; instead, we have Wednesday evening ABC’s (Adult Bible Classes). So, on Sunday morning, we just have the two Worship/Preaching Services along with Children’s Church for Nursery-5th Grade. If you serve in the Children’s Department one hour you are encouraged to attend the “Big Kids’ Church” (as I affectionately call it) the other hour. So, for about 6 1/2 years, this has been our life. It results in a wonderful but full and exhausting day for The Stephan Clan!
When my boys were younger I would have them stay over in the Children’s Building for both hours of service, but as they have gotten older, they really tire of repeat lessons and activities. So, about a year or so ago, they began to come with me after I was done teaching. Want to know a secret? IT HAS NOT BEEN EASY! There were Sundays I really just wanted them to stay next door because I wanted to sit in service without having to watch and correct them. I wanted time for myself – to be fed, filled up, and to worship God BY MYSELF! God soon gripped my heart and mind in this area of selfishness. (Many would not agree with that last statement. I do not impose it on anyone else, but I’ve been abiding with Christ long enough to recognize conviction in my own life!) So, we began sitting around one of the tables, in service, as a whole family. (Hannah does tend to stay both services in the PreK for now.) Bibles, papers, coffee cups, water cups, danish wrappers, and pens took up most of the available space. Worship was no longer about just me and God on Sunday mornings, it was about us and God.
Since Nathan is the Worship Pastor, during the songs and communion I am all the eyes and hands these boys have to make sure they are behaving. This can give a crazy picture of how a time of Worship might go for me, but God never ceases to amaze or do “exceedingly, abundantly, beyond!” I began to find great joy in lifting one hand in praise and holding the hand or shoulder of a little boy with the other. I learned that worship is not confined to the songs – not even on Sundays! Worship is still about honoring and praising God with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength – it is a lifestyle! So, I am worshiping God as I lean over to whisper an expected obedience in a little boy’s ear. I am still worshiping as I lead one out of the Worship Area to correct him even further. I continue to praise God as I teach them to sit respectfully and relatively quiet and self-controlled during the sermon. I share worship with them when they observe me singing, lifting my hands, and smiling heavenward. I also share communion with them! I used to have the idea that I had to exclude them from communion because they weren’t yet Christians, but I have found that that very experience during the service is a way Christ draws them to Himself. They ask questions, they want to know why we do it, they ask what the bread and the juice mean; when I take the time to share that part of every Sunday with them, I am declaring Christ to them! Communion has become a very sweet family time. One of the boys always gets mine, Christopher – who has asked Jesus into his life – gets his, Aaron – who continues to ask questions about baptism and wanting Jesus to live in his heart – gets his – which he usually shares with his sister if she’s in service with us. Before we eat and drink, I gather them all around and ask them what each symbolizes. They tell me. We take our bites and drinks, and then I ask one of them to pray for us. It has truly become one of the most beautiful times of Sunday worship for me! (I begin to say in my heart the same thing Christ said the night of the Last Supper, “I have eagerly desired to eat this meal with you!”)
Nathan comes to sit with us during the preaching. We decided a few weeks ago to require the boys to write down atleast one thing they hear Pastor Barry speak on. Now, they write and draw throughout the entire service anyway, but having a “guided” time of writing has been a learning for us all. We have to poke them, whisper to them, and get their attention to remind them to look up on the screen and write something down. Even our best attempts at remaining quiet and not distracting others is probably unsuccessful, and though it can distract even us from the sermon, I know the fruit will be good! So, there it is, our own Church-school! Some weeks, like last week, we gain a couple boys, and the rhythm of our family has to add a beat or two, but I don’t sigh in frustration over this any longer. Instead, I am eager to share our worship with those around us. Who knows, maybe pretty soon papers, pens, Bibles, wrappers, and cups will be lying all around every table and chair after each service due to children and adults learning to worship closer together! What a gift of grace to be part of drawing our children closer to God – what a glory to His Name! I pray on days that all this “worship” seems like work, I will remember He never stops sitting with me when I’m not paying attention or am not understanding or am whiney or need correcting or just. need. grace! May I never forget:
42 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 45 But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 46 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.
47 “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.
Luke 12 NLT
On a given Sunday or other day of the week, if you dared to come and sit close to me and my “flock,” these are some things you might see or hear:
~Christopher leading his little brother in what communion means.
~Timothy pulling his knees up to his chest, praying that a little boy in his class, who also has autism, will know God’s love.
~Aaron praying that we will praise and love and worship Him
~Hannah listening so closely during family devos that she knows the answer before her older brothers
~Christopher sitting in a tree, listening to God, hearing God tell him that He wants us to tell everyone who doesn’t know about Jesus and that we can start by giving our Spanish neighbors a Bible.
~Timothy dancing and sharing with his little sister when no one else will.
~Aaron singing God’s praises in the middle of the grocery store.
~Hannah dancing in praise and singing in the sweetest, worshipful voice “Blessings” by Laura Story.
~Christopher telling another friend that he needs to get baptized, and then him being so excited when he finds out that after someone becomes a Christian, they are his brother or sister in Christ!
~Timothy remembering memory verses from up to two years ago!
~Aaron drawing pictures of Jesus.
~Hannah reading her Princess Parable books over and over again, learning how to be God’s Princess.