According to Olivia B. Updegrove in the new book InterGenerate, “Most churches do not have an intentional process for welcoming children and preparing them to engage in worship”. When I read this Thursday, I gave myself a little pat on the back because just a week ago, Good Shepherd facilitated an wonderful event that did just that in our “Blessing for Welcoming Children into Worship.” The pride I felt quickly became challenged as I read on, “Without important conversations for the entire worshiping community, a child may never feel welcomed as an active participant in Sunday morning worship.” This sentence alone gave me the kick-in-the-butt I needed to ramp up my storytelling. We are making so many important intentional cross-generational tweaks to our already strong existing ministries, but if these stories are not passionately shared with the uninitiated, the vision of a vibrant cross-generational congregation could end up dead in the water.
Admittedly, it’s taken me a while to feel like a “leader” in the cross-generational ministry movement and to write openly about the topic (hence the break). I’ve even felt self-conscious about my title, Director of Cross-Generational Ministry. I’ve hesitated to participate in cross-generational ministry conferences, feeling like I’d be judged when it’s revealed that I don’t actually know all the answers. InterGenerate affirmed my validity when Cory Seibel wrote that most pastors and directors leading cross-generational efforts feel like Abraham who “obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Heb 11:8) When I read that, I knew I was not alone and probably needed my community of cross-generational leaders more than ever. I need to contribute to the community and I need to share stories with my congregation. Therefore, I write.
On Sunday, October 7, Good Shepherd introduced our new “Milestone Blessing” for our two/three-year-olds and families. Between our two Sunday morning worship services, we hosted the “Blessing for Welcoming Children into Worship” which consisted of story time with one of our OWLs (Older, Wiser Lutherans) and a roaming & rhyming blessing through our worship space. Following the Christ candle, our young worshipers journeyed from the narthex to the pews, into the Haven, past the choir loft, pulpit, offering baskets, altar and finally to the baptismal font. With each stop accompanied a short poem about that specific area.
Sit up close to all can see why we gather together as God’s family.
Whether you stand or sit or sprawl in your pew,
we need you here so we can see God’s image in you!
“We thank you Lord Jesus for the communion table.”
When we desire is when we are able to take part in this feast, with juice and/or bread.
Share in this meal, our souls will be fed.
Do you remember this place? You’ve been here before.
We’ve wound up at the beginning at the end of our tour.
Washed and welcomed in these baptismal font waters,
God has made us each God’s own sons and daughters.
After the last reading, each child was handed the poems in a laminated picture book attached to a Velcro collar and was instructed to strap in to one of their favorite stuff animal, making it their new worship buddy. Finally, parents dipped their finger in the font, marking the sign of the cross on their child’s forehead saying these words printed on the back page of the booklet – “Child of God, may God bless you as we worship and grow in this community together. Amen” – a blessing that bears repeating each and every week.
If you’d like me to send you the PowerPoint of the booklet or a write-up of the blessing, I’m happy to share. If you’re part of the Good Shepherd community, thank you for listening to my stories. As we partner together in cross-generational ministry, I have a feeling that soon you’ll have your own story to share, too!