Yesterday morning I sat in church with a pew few of girls between the ages of 7 and 14. About 10 in all. Two pews in front of us were three more girls of the same age.
Half of the girls were church veterans. Kids and teens who have done the church “thing” for at least a year, or in the case of our own two PK’s their entire lives. They understand the schedule in the service. They know when to sit, when to stand. They are still learning, very participatory and are quite intelligent learners with a strong desire to be in church, its activities and its mission.
These are some strong young ladies who have no problem sharing their opinion, and consider themselves to be quite capable of what life brings them.
And they are.
And they know how to have a good laugh.
These young woman are martial artists, musicians, artists, and horsewoman who can aptly clean a barn and control a horse. They are gifted leaders and equally as gifted followers. They are kind, gentle servant leaders who value hard work. They love each other and are loved by each other; will follow the adults to the altar during prayer in the worship service, confidently laying hands on them and pray. There is no question in their minds as to whether they are old enough to do this or not. They just do it. No one taught them this, other than by example, or has to tell them to do it. No one has to encourage them to walk out of their seat to make their way to the front of the church, regardless of how many eyes are on them. They set an example for the rest of us.
I taught a class for some of these girls a few weeks ago. While I had my lesson planned, it went a way I didn’t expect. My discussion with these soon to be fourth, fifth and sixth graders included questions on Nazarene vs. Catholic, Wesleyanism vs. Calvinism, free will vs. predestination. And what IS orthodoxy, they asked?
And that’s just the start.
Our white board was filled with charts and words that far exceeded what I had planned for the day.
They wanted to know: wanted to know why we believe what we believe and who we are as a faith community. Where we fit into the bigger picture of this thing called Christianity.
It was humbling.
I saw myself in these young girls, who are still navigating their way through adolescence, still trying to figure out the world of friendships, who desire answers to the questions they ask and are rarely satisfied with a pat response. They want to know THE answer not a passive answer.
So here concludes where my story has begun…the younger kids sitting in our pew had left for their own lesson during the adults sermon, but would be returning to participate in communion together with the rest of the congregation.
Communion as one body. Communion as a unifying experience with every single person represented in our community of believers, that which serves as a tangible reminder that our Lordship is Christ and we are ALL forgiven under His blood and resurrection.
Just before the littles came back in to join us for the Table Celebration, I slid over to the two oldest girls,13 and 14 and told them we needed to split up amongst the younger kids and help them understand what was happening. Many of these younger ones are new to our church. They are still learning the ways of church-the whys, hows and whens. Beautiful, excited kids who just want to be in church.
When the group came in and made their way to our original seat (and the three that had been sitting in front of us were now joined with us) I also whispered the game plan to them. We quickly divided responsibilities and each older, more experienced girl took one or two of the younger, less experienced girl (and the one boy who had joined us) under her wing.
They led the littles to the front, helped them get the elements and led them back to the pew. I turned to see each older girl sitting in amongst the younger ones giving them instruction.
Tears filled my eyes as I asked them to now explain what communion meant to these new, teachable kiddos. There were whispers rising out of the pew. Whispers of God’s story being told over again. Whispers of ministry. Whispers of the message of the church. Whispers of the gospel traveling from one child to another.
The kids were dispatched into ministry.
They accomplished their task, became agents of the gospel and helped carry on 2000 year old voice.
The world needs strong women who love Jesus and love others in the name of Jesus. Who do a job simply because the job needs to be done. Who have no reason to fear. And no reason to hesitate being who God created them to be. Who don’t hesitate to ask a question until they get an answer. Who seek justice. Who don’t question their place of value and ability to use their gifts in the church or community.
Strong women begin with strong girls. Girls who are raised to see life and people through Jesus’s eyes, not the world’s eyes. Who see all of their life as part of God’s story. Who don’t hesititate to share and serve and love. Who can climb trees in a dress and fashion their lives around the truths of Scripture. Who can spew opinions and still love at the end of the conversation. Girls who can build and create with pink painted nails, or whatever color they feel like. Girls who know that Jesus completes them. Girls who know when to act and when to wait, when to lead and when to follow. Girls who believe entirely absolutely in the power of prayer. Girls who have been recipients of God’s story through a community who loves and supports them, who in turn can give the story away to others just like them and very different from them. Girls who change their part of the world and will raise up the next generation to change their part of the world. Girls who speak truth in love and can wrap their arms around those in need.
They are little girls and young teenagers who are learning to mother and nurture others into the kingdom of God and will one day in the too quick future, mother.
Now is the time to teach them.
No one is ever too little to be dispatched into ministry.These girls set an example for the rest of us-an example worth watching.