Children provided the focus of study at NTS with the Miriam Hall Lecture in Children’s Ministry. Scottie May provided a powerful opening lecture on “Why Welcoming Children Welcomes Jesus” and followed with an interactive session on “How Welcoming Children Welcomes Jesus.”
Attendees included the board of the Nazarene Children’s Leadership Network, the important front line for children’s ministry in the Church of the Nazarene, denominational leaders particularly from Nazarene Publishing House. The leaders interacted with students, local children’s pastors, and faculty all day which led to a rich interaction around children’s ministry. The day included an brown bag lunch as well with attendees.
May’s opening lecture drew from scripture and church history to demonstrate how Jesus mandated the church to attend to children. Her points were quite succinct. First, we need to include children in the worshiping community rather than “absent” them from adult gatherings.
This decision has larger ramifications, May remarked how certain global cultures often “absent” children from adults by suppressing them, often rejecting the gender of girls or converting young boys into child soldiers.
Intentionally including children in the worshiping community (and other parts of the church) speaks against these cultural anomalies.
• Jesus did!
• Children need and deserved to be welcomed.
• WE need them.
May focused primarily on scriptures that support the inclusion of children, but I was struck also on the need for children to learn the rich culture of faith early in life and also the need for adults to receive from children a larger view of worship.
Scottie then provided a historical account of people who understood this vision and sought to include the experiential world of children as part of the life of the church: Commenius, Pestalozzi, Froeble, Montessori, and Cavaletti. May called for a “radical hospitality” of children as part of the life of the church.
The afternoon session (where the photos were taken) focused on “how” we welcome children. Dr. May pressed the group (NCLN leaders, NPH staff, students, pastors and faculty) to determine what were the “best practices” for welcoming children.Rather than give a laundry list of ideas, May challenged attendees to think beyond “whatever works” to the theological underpinnings of what constituted redemptive practices (versus violent pedagogical practices) that welcome children.
Scottie did present narratives of newer congregations that sought intentionally to welcome children as part of the organic life of the congregation… and narratives of mega churches that also excluded children through entertainment strategies, activities that often freed adults but did not form children.
Overall a great day of learning at NTS!