Tiny Heathens

I adore the children’s programming at my church. It’s one of the first things that drew me to this congregation. Besides Sunday school, there’s often a little “children’s time” in the middle of the service when an adult tells a story or has some kind of discussion with the kids. I love some of the creative and down-to-earth ways that people come up with to help the children connect with and understand the themes of the service. Some talk about farming, or their own challenges as children, or tell a story from their family. They often bring props–tools, plants, photographs.

I worry, sometimes, about my weird, unsocialized homeschoolers in these kinds of settings. One morning, the person offering the children’s story during worship was someone my kids know well, and Silas talked way too much, as if they were just hanging out. He didn’t seem to understand that it’s not a time for that kind of random chatter. And that’s just what I get to see. I have no idea what goes on in Sunday school. Sometimes I hear from Silas’ teacher if he and his friends are getting a little wound up. There’s been less of that this year; maybe they’re maturing, or maybe we’ve all just given up on getting them to behave.

My kids don’t know how good they have it. One thing that consistently bothers me is the fact that they seem clueless about the caliber of people who volunteer to work with the tiniest people in our church. We have people who teach at the seminary volunteering their Sunday mornings to lead these tiny heathens in singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Once, when Silas was in an especially bad phase, behavior-wise, I showed him a video of one of them giving a speech at some major event. “Look at all those grown-ups sitting so nicely and listening to her!” I said. He was three-ish, and I am fairly sure he was not impressed.

I like to look at the craft projects they bring home on a given Sunday and try to guess what the lesson was about. Sometimes, I’m thoroughly stumped (although now, it is included in the church’s weekly email, so I have some clue). And sometimes, I’m impressed with how solidly they understand what was happening, and its connection to their discussion, games, and crafts. Here are a few recent ones that I loved.

Petra’s craft usually gets right at the heart of what is going on. She does the thing she’s told, but I can see from how she executes it that she gets it. For example, she makes this sea so totally choppy, the disciples’ terror at the storm makes sense.

And in this house image, she told me the empty windows are for where the neighbors are visiting each other.

Silas, on the other hand, always tries to be funny. He just has to have his own spin on things. Once, I asked him to just try doing the activity that was related to the story. This cartoon was the result:

Since I never had much of a religious education myself, I’m always a little off balance in trying to help my children acquire one. I don’t know all the Sunday school songs, I don’t always know how to explain any of it.

I think they are getting it, though. Bits and pieces, building over time.

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