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.