As I was recently working on a new writing project, I found myself struggling to talk about welcoming children into churches. The word “welcome” didn’t seem right, even though I’ve used that word in other writings, like Children’s Ministry that Fits.
So here’s what went on in my head and here’s a preview of part of the project:
In the past, I’ve written about the importance of welcoming children into congregations. However, as my thinking has evolved, welcome seems like a problematic word to convey my hopes and wishes for children and the church. Hosts welcome guests. Citizens welcome visitors. Families welcome strangers. Welcome speaks of an insider doing the welcoming and an outsider being welcomed. But in faith communities, shouldn’t children already be seen as members rather than strangers? These young ones that Jesus holds up as exemplary members of God’s reign are certainly not guests, visitors, or strangers in the kingdom of God. So who are we to treat them as outsiders to our faith communities? (Maybe they’re the ones who should be extending their hands and welcoming us into the kingdom.)
So what is a more appropriate word? Invite? Embrace? Include? Each of these words fails to fully hold children as full community members. Each word assumes an active and a passive role. Someone actively invites, embraces, or includes while another passively is invited, is embraced, or is included. Maybe participate is a better word. Or engage. Or share. Or belong. These verbs don’t automatically place someone in the dominant active role and another in a submissive passive role. Many people can participate, engage, and share together. They can belong to one another. These words speak of human beings, of people who actively are and do together. And they move us toward views of children and adults being church together.