A MOMENT FOR MISSION
"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." —Luke 6:38, NRSV
"We celebrate Children's Sabbath with the children doing the entire service," said the Rev. Angela Flanagan, Silver Spring (Maryland) United Methodist Church. "I work with three to five kids to prepare mini-sermons." She asks open-ended questions and records everything they say. Then she rearranges and edits—using only their words—to create "their" sermon.
The church's last Children's Sabbath sermon was a conversation between Flanagan and the boys and girls, scripted with the same process outlined above. "We videotaped the sermon," she said. "This was the first time I did it this way."
Flanagan added, "The kids greet, usher, read Scripture and do the prayers of the people, and the children's choir sings. The only thing not done by the kids is the welcome (that I do) and the children's sermon (that the director of children and family ministries does).
"The whole service is not only child friendly but also child led, and it is very well received by the congregation. We have amazing kids!"
In The United Methodist Church, Discipleship Ministries coordinates the annual Children's Sabbath. While the official ecumenical weekend is in October, congregations may choose a date that works for them. It's an opportunity to learn about the problems facing children, explore sacred texts and teachings that call us to love and protect them, respond with outreach and advocacy and inspire year-round action to improve children's lives.
Honor the children who enrich your congregation's life. Celebrate Children's Sabbath!
Loving God, you give us so much, and we are grateful. Help us to share our gifts through ministries that improve the lives of your precious children. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany — Lord of Love and Compassion: How easy the road of discipleship would be if all you asked from us were the gifts we bring to your altar. How convenient would it be if we could write a check or swipe a card and leave here to live like so many do, focused exclusively on our own wants, needs, and passions? Remind us again, as we present our tithes and offerings, that the real challenge of discipleship comes when we leave this place, as you send us into the world to respond in radical love to those who would judge us, hurt us, and threaten us. We pray this in the name of Jesus, who loved and forgave, even as he was tortured and nailed to a cross. Amen. (Luke 6:27-38)
Every Sunday is Children's Sabbath at the Spirit Lake Ministry in North Dakota. The Rev. Mike Flowers, a United Methodist pastor, explains.
"The children have Sunday school in the back of our small sanctuary, and the crafts coincide with the message. The children hear the message and learn what it's like to be in church."
Indeed, involving people of all ages in the church's life and ministry begins when even the youngest children are invited, welcomed and encouraged to share their God-given gifts.
Children's Sabbath observances can take many forms, but most include all or some of the following:
- service/worship/prayers/faith community gatherings focused on the moral, spiritual and ethical imperative to nurture, protect and seek justice for children;
- educational programs for all ages;
- advocacy and hands-on service activities to meet immediate needs of children and raise voices for justice; and
- long-term, year-round action to make a difference in children's lives.
Remember Jesus' words, "Let the little children come to me."
— Adapted from Children's Defense Fund website