Why kid-friendly churches rock

This morning, the older children at our church (hello, First Presbyterian-Argenta peeps!) performed in a Christmas pageant.

The little ones — the toddler/pre-K set — also were tapped to participate. Toward the end of the play, these tots were supposed to gather at the manger with presents for baby Jesus.

So at this morning’s service, all of the littles who normally would be in the nursery occupied a couple of rows in the sanctuary. You could feel their excitement. Big-people church! We’re in here with the cool kids!

Once the service started, the wandering began, with our pre-K kiddos exiting pews, roaming the aisles and, in one case, taking the stage during a mom’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” — which btw, is one of my faves. I adore Dolly.

But the best moment was when a little girl — the same one who followed her guitar-playing, singing mom onstage — hopped right back up there when we were listening to a song about Mary and Joseph.

It was totally awesome for many reasons.

For one, I love the fact that the youngest members of our church feel comfortable enough to wander the sanctuary and take the stage. They’re not intimidated at all, and that’s because they know they’re in a place that radiates love and acceptance.

Also, I think Jesus probably appreciates such an enthusiastic response to his birthday. “Let the little children come to me,” he said. Well, this morning, they did.

But most moving to me — even while I was laughing over some of the antics — is the joy that emanates from our youngest members. We’re talking about delight in its purest form. And hey, that kind of happiness should be the predominant emotion this time of year. These little ones get it. And their enthusiasm is contagious.

I know there are some churches where this morning’s impromptu dancing and wandering and singing would be frowned upon.

I’m just so thankful that ours is one that revels in what the little people bring to our services.

Because this morning’s service was just amazing. And, I’m betting, it was most certainly Jesus-approved.

Here's about half of our older-kid cast. I couldn't fit all of them in!

Here’s about half of our older-kid cast. I couldn’t fit all of them in!




Inspiration at Walmart

This year, my Girl Scout troop participated as volunteers at the North Little Rock Police Department’s annual Shop with a Cop event.

We leaders try to teach the girls the importance of getting involved in their communities. I hoped this would serve as good example of what even little girls can do to make a difference.

But it was I who left most humbled.

For those who don’t know how Shop with a Cop works — This year, each child was given a gift card with $200 and assigned to an officer and other volunteers who helped him or her shop for the entire family. The children also picked out gifts for themselves.

Right before the crowd of officers and children took off with their shopping baskets, however, there was an announcement: Every child also would be able to pick out a bicycle and helmet.

Upon hearing this, an 11-year-old boy in front of me thrust his arms into the air, looked up at the ceiling and said, “Yes!!! Thank you!”

Clearly, this kid wanted a bicycle.

But there was more to the announcement: If the kids already had bikes, they would instead receive an extra $100 for their shopping.

My daughter was assigned to help this little boy. This is what she told me later:

“He picked out a bike and helmet, but then at the last minute he took them back so that he could use the extra $100 to help buy his grandmother a tablet.”

Having seen that kid’s reaction to the bike announcement, I knew that he was making a sacrifice.

“Wow,” I said to my daughter. “That was really sweet.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “It was. He also bought his mom a really pretty necklace with a cross on it.”

Earlier, I had watched a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, approach the gift-wrapping station with her basketful of presents. The volunteer who’d helped her shop, patted the little girl on the shoulder.

“You’ll have to give them the necklace so that they can wrap it, honey,” she said.

The little girl solemnly handed over a tiny box.

“It’s for her mom,” the volunteer to the woman who was gift-wrapping. “She hasn’t let go of it.”

I watched as a baby doll and other presents meant for a little girl were wrapped. But the young recipient didn’t pay any attention to the toys. She focused instead on the woman who was swiftly packaging the jewelry box in decorative paper.

Once done, the woman started to put it back in the basket.

The little girl shook her head and held out her hand.

Smiling, the gift-wrapper gently placed the present in the child’s small, upturned palm.

I thought of the mother who will receive that necklace.

And I thought of how —so often —  those among us with the least, often give the most.