Loving someone else’s children may be one of the greatest gifts of the church.
You know those people.
The people who smile at your child whenever they see them. Those people who ask about your child and what they like to do and how they’re sleeping. Those people who take initiative and jump in when your child is melting down. Those people who always have open arms to hold your baby. Those people who send birthday cards and greeting cards. Those people who understand the sleep-deprived look and offer to bring over food for the entire family. Those people who find the perfect gift and bring it over. Those people who celebrate milestones. Those people who pray for your children. Those people who smile rather than frown when your child is making lots of noise in worship. Those people who tell you you’re doing a great job raising your kids.
You know those people.
They’re the church when the church is at it’s best. They’re the church when all children who come through the church doors know they are loved and welcomed. They’re the church when the voices of children are lifted up and celebrated.
It was one thing for me as a pastor to lift up children and families. As a pastor I celebrated kids in worship and modeled faith formation for all ages. I cheered for the children who served in worship and I delighted in seeing relationships form across generations.
But it’s another thing entirely to be a parent and be the recipient of this welcome for your children.
It’s another thing entirely to be humbled when it’s your children being loved, celebrated, and blessed.
It’s another thing entirely to have a community see my children as God’s beloved and share that love with them.
I can’t keep track of all the ways my children have been loved by the church. And for that I’m grateful. They have people who love them just as they are; they have people who celebrate them in all their loud, messy, and energetic ways. They have people who want them to know God loves them. They have people who pray for them.
This is the church. And it’s one of the reasons we keep going to church. To have a community that welcomes us as we are: overtired, full of energy, constantly moving, and full of questions.
What a great witness for my children, and for all of our children. To be loved and welcomed and celebrated. To know that they are valued. To know that they have people cheering for them.
And for right now that’s enough for my small children. For them to receive this grace. But as they get older they’ll have the opportunity to share that welcome with others. They’ll know what it’s like to be seen as a child of God and they’ll have the means to tell others of that same love. The church is modeling for my children and others what it is to welcome so that they will be able to reach out to others.
This is the church.
So keep it up, Church. Keep welcoming. Keep embracing. Keep celebrating.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/