Start 'em Young
These past two weeks in church we have had 2 new acolytes. Both of them beautiful 7 year old girls.Their only job was to be the Crucifer, while another acolyte assisted with other responsibilities. I'm not sure about the Rectors before me, but I sensed that when I suggested it that the church hadn't started them this young before.
We did very little training. Maybe a quick rehearsal about 15 minutes before the service. They both did great. The church was beaming as these little girls served our Lord. Their parents blew up Facebook with cute photos. It was probably bad form for me, the priest, to have my cell phone out in the service taking photos but I did so unashamedly. I love these kids.
I gave them each a little pep talk, letting them know that we, the church, and Jesus, our Lord, were proud of them and for them to not worry about or be embarrassed by mistakes. I make mistakes every week. Sometimes my whole sermon is a mistake but I digress. Both girls did their job flawlessly, were vigilant and at full attention.
I remember when my family was part of a church plant here in Syracuse called Catalyst. Everybody had a role in set-up and tear-down -- even children. My kids took that very seriously. Church changed for them after that experience. They were no longer just coming for someone to teach them something. They came to serve. That was the highlight for them. My older ones are teens now and they still serve in church running video or sound, caring for kids in nursery and leading children's church.
My hope is this experience changes these kids as well. I hope to see them become life long servants of Jesus Christ. When they put on their vestments I hope they have a sense of pride and dignity, and feel a belonging to the body of Christ that spills over into the way they conduct themselves day in and day out.
For many, many years I have thought there was just something wrong with churches who just sent kids to Sunday School, Children's Church, VBS, etc. and treated them as if they were just empty little heads that we had to pour Bible knowledge into to get them to grow up Christian. They need more than just knowledge, they need experience in service and training in areas to serve and pray.
Seven years old and they have begun serving as Crucifers. Maybe when they are 10 I'll have them serve as Lay Readers, reading the Scriptures and leading us in prayer. Maybe when they are 25 they'll become my assistant ministers getting ready to take my job.
Glory to God!