He said to them, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:14
Have you ever wondered why the disciples were shooing the kids away from Jesus in the first place? If you've ever volunteered in Children's Church, you know... You instantly understand.
Children are funny and sweet and adorable and precious and wise beyond their years. They are also loud and obnoxious (especially in packs) and willful and annoying and... You get the picture. I know you do. You've been there. The little wild things may even be your own kids! (Mine sure were at that age!)
"All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." Matthew 25:32
The groundwork we lay now, while they are young, can become some of the most fruitful seeds planted in their lives. This is easy to visualize when we look at our own kids or those we know very well. We see their sweet moments; we know their parents, the hopes and dreams they have for their babies.
But what about the kids your church busses in from the low-income apartment complex near you? Do we look at them (ALL of them, yes, even that one) with the same tenderness for who the Lord created them to be? Rather than how they are behaving in our church services?
Discipling children who have not been raised in church, and whose parents aren't present (maybe just at church but maybe they aren't in the kids' lives at all) can be incredibly challenging. While of course, you need to teach children how to obey and treat the church and its people with respect and courtesy, we must always be careful not to expect goats to behave like sheep.
Well-meaning people can inadvertently add stumbling blocks to the paths of these children because they don't understand the difference between what Beth Moore calls "rib issues" versus "spine issues". What things are truly important to understanding, and accepting, the Gospel, those "spine issues"? And what things are not important to Jesus, (no matter which Deacon might feel otherwise??) Those "rib issues" that fill out the Gospel in your congregation: habits, traditions, and unwritten rules.
What "rib issues" can you ignore, giving room for the Holy Spirit to operate on these young hearts?
Can you allow children to draw Jesus as a Transformer? As a ninja? Can you accept that some children will not be able to sit still or will prefer to play under the table, rather than sitting politely in a chair, like the other children?
Can your teachers hear words like "pissed" and "crap" without getting upset? (Because, I promise you, if you continue working with poverty-level children, they will eventually hear far worse! But that's another topic for another day.)
Can you and your people focus on the "spine issues" of sowing seeds of the Gospel in these children's lives and allow the Holy Spirit to work on cleaning up the "rib issues" in His timing?
Or will you place stumbling blocks in front of these children, causing them to reject their opportunity to know and embrace the salvation and forgiveness of Jesus Christ?
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