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Inviting Messy to Come

Prayer for All the Children“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” –Matthew 19:14

I saw the cutest thing at church last Sunday morning. My uncle would say it made it worth the cost of admission. The pastor had called the ushers back up front to pass something out to the congregation, but one usher’s son came with him. This toddler was determined to help, and his smart daddy let him. Naturally, there was some subtle wrangling going on. The little boy wanted to choose rows of people at random instead of stopping at each row in turn. At one point, he decided he’d rather hand things out individually then trust people to pass them on down their own rows all by themselves. The dad was ready, though. Whenever the little boy tried to change course, his dad just stepped in front of him, like a shepherd keeping sheep from going the wrong way. Together, father and son got the job done—and anyone watching was thoroughly entertained. Even God was smiling. Of that, I’m absolutely sure.

Letting kids help takes a lot of patience. Sometimes they make bigger messes than they clean up. Sometimes they get really excited about starting a task then lose interest halfway through. Sometimes they want to take on more than they can handle, balking at doing the simple tasks that would really be of help to you. Parents must learn to see this process of helping the children learn to help as a primary parenting task—a task more important than perfectly done household tasks. Wise parents know this is worth the effort in the long run.

Letting kids help around the house:

  • lets children know they are members of the family. They are part of a team with something to contribute. They belong.
  • gives them a sense of ownership. The house they live in is their home to help care for. They can take pride in a job well done. (In fact, picky eaters are sometimes less picky if they’ve helped prepare the food.)
  • builds their self-esteem as they practice and master new skills. That desire to take on new tasks is a desire to learn and mature.
  • prepares them for adulthood when they and their spouses will raise their own families.

This same principle applies, though, to letting kids help around the church. The imperfect process of letting children learn to help is worth the effort and inconvenience. For example, the little boy who helped pass things out after the offering on Sunday now knows and will remember that he is a part of his church. He has something to contribute, and his church family supports his efforts, is willing to let him learn. As he grows and watches his parents and other members of the church, he’ll discover other things he can do to help, and he’ll be ready to try with confidence, knowing people don’t expect perfection right from the start. They’re just thankful he’s part of the team.

When we invite children to participate, to try new things, to do what they can, we treat them the way God treats each of us. We are His children, members of His Kingdom. He could do everything Himself, but He doesn’t. He invites us to help. He challenges us to try new things. He expects us to do what we can, trusting Him with everything else. He doesn’t demand we reach a certain level of maturity or skill before letting us join in. Instead, He shepherds us, giving guidance as needed, bringing our efforts to completion in His strength. He knows we’re messy and don’t always get it all quite right, but, evidently, He believes we’re worth the effort in the long run. He is a wise parent. To Him, the process of helping us mature in our relationship with Him and our ability to serve as heirs in His Kingdom is more important than anything else.

Father, thank You for being such a patient parent. Help us to follow Your example as we raise the children in our homes and in our churches. May they all come to know You early and live faithfully for You all through their lives. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Janet Benlien Reeves

Reader, Writer, Runner, Flower Hunter, Child of God, Prince Charming's Wife, Mom Prone to Cheer
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