By Brett Hetherington*
Children are not the church of the future, they are the church of right now.
That is the message being at Brecksville United Methodist Church (North Coast District). Church leaders believe this idea so deeply that they dedicate an entire Sunday morning service each year to their children. The service is not geared toward teaching the children, or even celebrating them, but it is led by the children in the church.
Every year in early November BUMC Director of Christian Education Jenny Gee meets with the current 7th graders to discuss topics that they would like to cover for the upcoming Children’s Sunday. They then search the Scriptures for passages that relate to the topic and Gee works with the Sunday school teachers to put together a plan for how the service will run. In years past this service was limited to the 5th and 6th grade students, but it is now open to all students K through 12th grade.
This year’s theme was food, and the group decided to feature The Last Supper, Jesus feeding the 5,000, God providing manna from Heaven for the Israelites, and Jesus turning water into wine. So many students wanted to speak, that they decided to use a reader’s theater, where students would read the passage from stools on the stage while the story was acted out by others.
Some of those students were not even on the stage. A newer 7th grade girl volunteered to work with students who were too nervous or uncomfortable about being on stage. She gathered with them in the weeks before the service to photograph these students acting out pieces of the stories to be shared, and those photographs were shared during the reader’s theater on the church’s overhead screen.
The children’s choir and a few high school students provided some time in singing while other children in the church served as prop crew, ushers, and other roles that would normally be filled by adults. Aside from the adult members of the worship team, the only adult who was featured during the service was the Reverend Clark Stein, who provided the blessing of the communion elements.
Gee shares that a big reason that this has been going on for the past decade is that older people in the congregation appreciate seeing the youth up front. It gives them – and others who are on the fringes of church membership – the opportunity to get to know the children in the church in a unique way. There is also a large benefit for the youth in that they do not see this as a show to perform. They see it as worship and they give their all. Some even enjoy the opportunity so much that they seek to become liturgists. Gee points to a few of the high school students who were involved this year as a reason to embrace children in this way, as these girls were involved in Children’s Worship Sunday a decade ago.
Brecksville UMC acknowledges that the children are a vital part of its congregation and they offer a unique viewpoint on God and Jesus. The church sees the children as a blessing, and the members offer their support, encouragement and love for them year-round. They validate the many varied gifts and graces their children have, and they encourage them to utilize them in worship.
In short, the church does not just say that the children are the church of today, they give them the opportunity to show that they are indeed the church of today.
If you have a story of how God is using your local church in your community, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The East Ohio Conference Communications team wants to tell your story.
*Brett Hetherington is the Communications Specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.