Across the Pastor’s Desk: Young worshipers learn from us

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Jennifer Gonsalves

Jennifer Gonsalves


“Amen,” I said, my voice in unison with the rest of the congregation.

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“Amen,” one small quiet voice echoed a few seconds later.

I smiled as I heard the child’s voice. It belonged to a small toddler who was starting to figure out how church worked, and was learning that when the church says “amen” we all say “amen,” but did not yet know the rhythm of the liturgy to say it in unison with everyone else.

But this toddler would figure it out quickly; in just a few weeks or months that little echo would disappear as they learned to speak at the same time as everyone else.

But for now, I smiled, because there is something precious about a child learning to add their voice to the church’s worship.

I love this story, and it’s one I have seen played out several times, because it speaks so strongly to how the youngest members of the church worship. They worship by being present, by listening and watching, and then by mimicking what the people around them are doing. They learn to worship by participating in worship.

There is popular saying in Christian education circles that goes, “Faith is caught, not taught.”

And even as stories above show me the truth of these words, I still find them a little scary, too. I think they can be scary words for any pastor, parent, teacher or just someone who cares about children to hear. Because we know how to teach. We can create a class or a lesson plan, we can plan a program — we know how to teach. But catching sounds hard. How do we plan for that? How do we ensure that our faith is passed on from generation to generation?

It sounds hard, except it doesn’t have to be. Because faith can start with a simple “amen.” Faith can start with a child folding their hands in prayer at the table. Faith can start by hearing the church’s music and starting to sing along. Faith can start by simply being present, being present at worship surrounded by other people who love God.

So, to parents who wonder if it is worth it to go through the battle of getting kids up and in the car only to wiggle and make noise in the pews — it is worth it. They are picking up more than we will ever know. And to those without children, the next time you see a parent struggling at church or a kid who is finding it hard to keep still or quiet in worship, remember when you welcome them, when you show them grace and love in these moments — you are also sharing God’s welcome, God’s grace and God’s love.

So, let us all give thanks for young voices who say “amen” and for all voices who share the good news of God’s amazing love.

“Amen,” I said, my voice in unison with the rest of the congregation.

Jennifer Gonsalves is an associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.