N.B. Me and Jeni spent this last weekend away with South Green church, looking after the 2-4 year old's. I've come back exhausted. Our sessions focused on the different things that God loves us to do, including making joyful music, dancing, reading and being ourselves. Reflecting back on the weekend now, there are two events that I remember with a firm smile imprinted on my face, and a warm feeling in my heart.
The first occurred in Session 2, and after making streamers out of popsicle sticks and crepe paper, we have a little mini dancing session around the room while we played some upbeat -Doug Horley type - children's worship music. The kids loved this bit of the session, all of them tearing around the room, their streamers flailing behind them. I joined in eagerly, prancing around the room and encouraging those who were a little unsure what to do. I loved the freedom of it, being able to be silly whilst worshipping and not worrying about what the kids may think, because they were doing it too.
The second occurred in Session 3, and we are all sat round in a circle, waiting to listen to Jeni tell a story, when little Emily, just 3 years old, tells us she is going to read us a book. (The book in question is titled 'He Lives' and is a children's book of the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus.) Me and Jeni exchange surprised glances as even though the book has pictures, there are large sections of text that we were fairly certain Emily couldn't read. Even so, I exclaim, 'Oh, wow. Go on then, tell us all the story!"
We all sit quietly, as Emily, (bless her) confidently opens the first page of the book - a picture of Jesus and his friends in the garden of Gethsemane. "One day, some people were walking along in the forest..." She stops to turn the page, and there is a picture of Jesus standing on a balcony with the people down below shouting and waving their arms. She continues... "The people shouted 'Hooray' and the king shouted 'Hooray' cause it was a sunny day"... (Me and Jeni again exchange glances. We feel that she isn't quite gripping the storyline, but allow her to continue, giving excited feedback) ... the next page is a picture of people walking and on the top of the hill are three crosses... "And then they walked some more but got worried cause it might rain..."The story continues like this, Emily eagerly interpreting and explaining each picture to us, until she concludes "Then is was a sunny day. The End." We all give her a round of applause and thank her for reading us the story, and continue with the rest of the activities.
Afterwards I thought back on the dancing session, and how such an event would go down in church, and how a five (even twenty) minute talk on God loving it when we dance would more than likely have no effect whatsoever on the state of our collective worship. As I looked around the room, every child had a broad grin on their face - such a vast contrast to the faces of so many I watch worship. And sometimes, I really don't get that. The children I was working with are completely unaware of the vast pain and suffering that Jesus went through to pay the price for the wrong things they will do. And yet they were completely engaged and absorbed by singing songs and dancing to a God they don't really understand. Then why so many adults; who are much further along in their spiritual journey and able to grasp (albeit only a small part) the magnificence of Christ's death and resurrection; who don't express any joy whilst singing songs about it?
It's times like this when I realise why Jesus expressed such a keen interest in the children, and indicated that only those who become like little children would inherit the kingdom of God. Because kids are kids. Most of the time it's the adults I don't understand.