Two things are on my mind today.
Number 1: My dad’s 79th birthday: Happy birthday Daddy!
Number 2: Church nurseries and “Children’s Church.”
Below are some things I learned as a child at church from my dad because I was not in nursery or Children’s Church.
1. I learned to take prayer in worship seriously. Image after image of my dad praying easily comes to mind when I think back on my childhood. While he bent forward and closed his eyes, I would sneak peeks at him. A child can easily spot hypocrisy. I knew my dad wasn’t pretend praying or half-heartedly praying; he was seriously engaged with God. I learned God must be real, that people could really engage with God, and that God could be sought after, depended on, hoped in.
2. I learned to joyfully worship God in song and that worshipping through song was serious business. Childhood memories of my dad’s deep rich baritone voice still resounds in my ears as he sang stanzas 1,2, and 4, from the Baptist hymnal. He would share the hymnal with me, point to the place where the congregation was singing, occasionally smile at me, and thereby encourage me to join in. I could see that he was engaged and joyful. I learned that there was true joy to be found in the worship of God through song and that God was worthy of serious praise.
3. I learned that the worship of God through his word was important. When, the pastor gave the reference for the day’s sermon, my dad opened his Bible and followed along with the text. Daddy shared his Bible with me and guided my eyes with his finger. As the text was exposited, my dad listened intently, and, when my eyes wandered or my body wiggled, my dad gently, but firmly, redirected my interest back to the pastor’s words. I didn’t always understand everything, but the language of the Bible became familiar to me, and I learned that God’s word was important that his word was truth and life.
4. I learned to really care for other believers. Before and after church, I stood with my dad as he interacted with other adults in the congregation. I heard their struggles, and I saw my dad’s genuine concern as he both listened and as he followed up with practical help outside of church. I learned how to interact in a caring way with people of all ages and how to really care for others.
5. I learned to participate in church ministries with a willing heart. I often accompanied my dad, who was an electrician, as he spend many long, uncomplaining hours, often alone, engaged in construction projects at the church. I watched him as he served in complete earnestness, with all seriousness, in Sunday School and Training Union, in the responsibilities of a deacon, and in the duties of the worship service proper. I learned that my time, gifts, skills, and talents belonged to God and should be contributed for the building of his kingdom.
6. I learned to love the church as a family. My dad made sure that our family-life centered around our church life. My family was there for Wednesday night prayer meetings, business meetings, New Year’s Eve all night prayer vigils (I did get to sleep on the bench after awhile.), Christmas caroling hay rides (all ages invited), church suppers (all ages conversing together), and much more. I knew, and could carry on a conversation, with everyone, old to young. I loved watching old Ms. Lottie warm up at the organ, and I throughly enjoyed talking to a grandmotherly Ms. Carmen and her mother, Ms. Zet who peered, smiled, and talked softly to me from her hunched-back stance. I was comfortable with these women and with the older men in our church as well. I knew they loved me, and I loved them back.
Disclaimer: I learned a lot from my mom too, but today is not her birthday 🙂
I wonder what I would have learned if I had been in nursery or Children’s Church? Somehow I don’t think anything I could have learned apart from my parents would have been better than what I learned sitting with them in church as they worshipped God and taught me how to worship him too.