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Building on Our Strengths to Grow

You have heard it said, ‘The children are the future.’ Who is saying that?  Not the children. Ask a child if she’s the future. If she can even grab hold of the question, which I doubt, she’ll tell you that she’s the moment.  She’s the now.  Or more to the point, she’s hungry.

–  Caroline Fairless, Children at Worship, Congregations in Boom

When I was a child I remember the feelings I had when I was in church or in Sunday School.  The feelings I felt were awe, wonder, peace and a sense of belonging.  I worked hard at learning my prayers and paid close attention to what was happening in service.  I knew intuitively that church was a place for me and that when I was there, I was seen by God. This experience made me hungry for more and through the intentionality of a handful of adults and through the existence of religious opportunities designed for children, my hunger was fed.

About two years ago I walked this campus for the first time and I thought, “What a magnificent place for children.”  It’s all here – the classrooms and play structure, the bell that can be manually rung, the secret garden (otherwise known as the Memorial Garden), the storybook windows in the storybook church (otherwise known as the Little Church), the boyish looking James standing in the glass of the main church, and the cave behind the curtain.  I hadn’t been called to be your rector at that time, but I thought that if I were called, I couldn’t wait to play!

What do I love about children in church?  The same things I’m guessing many love – spontaneity,  an unhindered connection with God, wonder and an attitude of expecting grace.  If only we could all be so spontaneous, connected, and so sure about grace.

With commitment and confidence, we have recently taken some broad steps towards strengthening our offerings to children, teens and families.  From drawing more attention to Sunday School, to putting great energy into vacation bible school, to building a strong and life-affirming confirmation and youth program, to the most recent step – creating a staff position whose sole focus is to continue building a program for this segment of our congregation.  The title of this position is: Children, Teen, and Family Ministry Coordinator, and the effort will be towards coordinating all ministry towards and with children, teens, and families into a cohesive effort.

What I know is this—when we integrate all mem- bers of our community fully into the Body, when each person has a valid and valued place, we all grow and we all are blessed.  We are already taking steps to integrate children, teens, and families – with this staff position, we will do so more intentionally and more visibly.

I am so grateful to Jan Scrutton for her role in this effort.  As of now, we are not in a financial position to fund the work.  Jan has generously offered to take on the job until we are in a position to pay someone. As many of you know, Jan has the incredible gift of connecting, teaching, and nurturing young people. She also has years of experience in childhood education, both secular and religious.  When I asked her to say something about taking on this endeavor, these were her words:

I have always believed the St James’ community welcomes children. When we arrived at St. James’ five years ago, so many people reached out to welcome and connect with our entire family, and I have seen so many examples of that welcoming and inclusive spirit.  Again this summer, a wonderful team of radically different parishioners joined together to offer children a glimpse of God’s love for them.  I am excited that Lori and the Vestry have decided to move forward with a plan to coordinate all our areas of work with children, teens and families.  I hope this year I can help to bring together the work we do and lay foundations for the future.

We are well on our way to being the place to be for children and teens.  I ask each person who calls St. James’ their home to hold our efforts in prayer and to examine the ways you might support and connect with this ministry.  I am excited about our future and the spontaneity, wonder and grace it will bring.

Be sure to follow the great things happening on the new blog, accessible through the this link or through the website:  saintjkids.blogspot.com.

~  Lori

Read more articles from our monthly newsletter, “The Window”.