Inviting her Friends

This past Sunday during worship, a young mother stood up during announcement time. She said, “We came to church this morning with invitations to M’s birthday party. I told her to give them to her friends. I was thinking of the other kids, but she’s just been handing them out randomly to anyone. So if there are any parents of young children who did not get an invitation, just check with me after worship.”

I should make a confession: As pastor of a small congregation, there are times I flirt with the sin of envy. I am in danger of coveting clergy neighbors’ large worship attendance, their spacious church buildings, their established programs, and especially their staff.

The church I serve averages about fifty folks at Sunday worship. I am the only paid staff at the church—and I’m part time. We have just two Sunday School classes for all of our children and youth. Our building is too small to host ecumenical worship services. We have no standing choir. There are so many service projects that we don’t do. So many spiritual formation programs that we don’t have.

And then there’s a soon-to-be four-year-old flitting around the congregation handing out birthday party invitations. Her parents instructed her to give them to her friends. And so she did.

I know there are churches larger than ours with more organized, more comprehensive programs for children. I know there are congregations with so many people that the ones who don’t want to deal with kids can go weeks, even months, without having to talk to anyone under the age of thirty. There are even places where people get paid to work with the children and the parents can catch a break.

Sometimes it seems that those would be nice places to be a pastor . . . and a parent.

But I wonder. I wonder, if our church had three worship services and a Sunday School class just for preschoolers, would M have understood her mother’s instructions better? Would she have dutifully handed the invitations to the other three and four-year-olds, bypassing all the “old people” who weren’t parents or Sunday School teachers?

It would, of course, be lovely to have sophisticated children’s programming and a church where the children were friends with the adults. Maybe someday . . . somewhere . . .

For now, I am blessed to be in a small congregation where soon-to-be four-year-olds pass out party invitations with abandon. Thanks be to God.

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7 thoughts on “Inviting her Friends

  1. We mostly teach our children at times we aren’t aware of what we’re teaching. It sounds like your church is doing a beautiful job of teaching and loving children. Thanks be to God! (And, yes, it did bring tears to my eyes. 🙂

  2. What a lovely post, Joanna. I pastored small churches for over ten years, and I had to keep reminding them that “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there also am I.”

    And I’m willing to bet that if you take the time to count the mission projects you do participate in, rather than the ones you don’t, you’ll be astounded at how much a small church can do. (That is, of course, if you haven’t already done so…)

    • It’s true, Ruth. We do a lot. More together than we could do apart–which is, I think, one of the main mysteries and blessings of the church.

  3. Oh, thank you for this post! This is exactly where small churches excel–at providing our young people with a deep sense of community and intergenerational friendship, something our churches don’t often recognize as “youth ministry.” I will be sharing this story at my church sometime, to be sure.

    • I know I’ve read at least one study that shows college freshmen from small churches are more likely to be involved in some type of faith activity in college than those who came through large youth programs. Can’t give proper citation though.–Glad this post provided some encouragement.

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