Issue 280 — May 5, 2016
Welcoming Children in the Gathered Community
Involving children in the life of the church comes naturally for Rev. Ed Stallworth, the pastor at Inman UMC in Inman, South Carolina.
When Ed and his family moved to Inman, he noticed the way that everyone welcomed his young daughter. A few of the members spoke to her, and others gravitated toward her as if she were family. The ones who gravitated toward her were people in their late fifties, sixties, and seventies. It seemed that younger people wanted to do the same, but when you “grew up in a world of ‘stranger danger,’ you do everything you can to not look like that ‘stranger.’” According to Ed, the younger generation tended to be more reserved. He realized the church needed to help the adults welcome the stranger, especially the little ones.
Ed came up with a strategy in four parts:
First, during the greeting or the passing of the peace, the members make sure to reach out to children with a handshake, a hug, or a wave. A big smile helps.
Second, Ed knows the names of all of the children in the congregation. During worship, he usually sits with the congregation until he delivers the sermon, and the children actually started sitting with Ed on the second pew during worship. He says, “It is very important that the children find me accessible. So before worship, I seek them out to give them a high five, a hug, or handshake and spend a little time talking to them.”
Third, he takes the time to insert worship helps in the bulletin. For instance, on the last Sunday that Communion was offered, he included “bullet points for parents to read to help their children (and themselves as well) learn about Communion.”
Fourth, the church welcomes the creative work that the children do and uses it to decorate the sanctuary on holidays and special Sundays.
Inman UMC in Inman, South Carolina, is a place that welcomes the stranger as Jesus taught.
- “How Should Parents and the Church Welcome Children to the Lord’s Supper?"
- Children Worship! by MaryJane Pierce Norton
- The Children's Minister by Rita B. Hays
- Children’s Ministry resources
- UMC Ministry with Children blog
- Safe Sanctuaries resources
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- How do we welcome children who are visiting our churches for the first time?
- How accessible is the pastor to the children of the congregation?/li>
- What can we do to include children in the life of the church?
Produced by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
These congregations are marked by:
- Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
- Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
- Nurture in growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
- Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable—the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
- Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the body of Christ.
- Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
- Shared clergy and lay leadership.
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