Tales From the Church Refridgerator: The Crying Acolyte

Children are a wonderful part of church. They are a blessing and a joy. The sound of feet stomping up and down the stairways is a sign of life we should be thankful for. I would love to say most people feel the same way, but I have heard too many complaints about children making noises during the worship service, scuff marks on the floor and crayons in the pews. That’s another post for another time. To those who are more willing to put up with noises in church (oh, the jokes we could tell), I want to tell you a story.

Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time a young child was asked to be a church acolyte. How exciting! The child had watched the older kids and was excited about this almost rite of passage. Training? Got it. Plays well with others? Always. Bringing in the light of Christ? Easy like Sunday morning.

Months passed, with plenty of other candle lighting opportunities with no problems. Until. One Sunday there happened to be an extra amount of candles to burn away the darkness. The extra candles were on a newly purchased candle holder, being a little taller than the usual ones. It was a lovely purchase that prominently displayed the candles for the entire congregation to see. The child, however, had a hard time seeing the top of the candle from his/her point of view; children are closer to the floor than their adult counterparts.

It was a precious site to watch the struggle to get the wick burning, with no success. No one could ignore the ripple chuckles throughout the church—not even our once excited and eager acolyte. It wasn’t precious for the mother to hold her crying child; didn’t Mom hear everyone making fun of him/her?

We Didn’t Mean It
Of course, no one in that story meant any harm. The experience, though, does teach us something. Many times it is difficult for me not to laugh during our children’s moments. What we have to realize, though, is that while kids may say the darndest things, they aren’t always trying to be funny. They give honest answers to our questions; they’re better at it than we usually are. They want their parents, teachers and others to love them. Then again, don’t we, too?

Many of our children get ridiculed, rejected and let down in many ways. Church shouldn’t be another place where that happens. Realize that sometimes when we, for example, laugh at something our children do, we may be communicating something we don’t intend to. In this case, and in others that I am aware of, it is the equivalent of me ridiculing you for mispronouncing a Bible name, or missing a line in the prayer that you are leading. Those kinds of things happen all the time, and the thought of them happening "to me" keeps many people from participating in our worship experiences that way.

Imagine being a child and feeling as if everyone is ridiculing you that way.

What to Do Instead
Kids in worship--it should be a reality show. Children will make mistakes, tell the truth and be children. Love them for that. If, and when they do make a mistake, let it go, please. It might be more helpful and thoughtful to say something to them after service. Tell them how much you appreciate what they are doing, that they are doing a great job.

You would hate for your local young acolyte to grow up to be a 6’4”, 315lb monster who could whip you up. Then again taking a beating might be better than being thrown into the sea with  a millstone tied around your neck.  Actually, you want the church to be a safe place for children to grow in their faith and meet with God week after week—just like you want to.

What are other ways the entire congregation could encourage our young people? What would you tell the Crying Acolyte?  Stay blessed…john

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