I loved my first Easter here. The music was loud and thumpy. The crowd was boisterous (y’all even laughed at the jokes! Most of them...). The choir was its electric self. The band and Stephen did their usual best and then some. The preacher didn’t ruin things too badly. We managed to mark Jesus risen and reigning. And the children! An overflowing, bubbling over mass of children. Nupur was invisible at the children’s moment, covered up by so many children.
At 9:15am that is.
At 11am, the pews were even more full. But only two children came forward. This is not surprising. Some children don’t like to come forward at all. Some will only do so if they recognize their friends up there. Some get more nervous if the house is more full, as it was that resurrection day. Some families come for special days and so are naturally hesitant about thrusting themselves forward. So Nupur sat with these two, gave her usual doozy of a children’s sermon, and the stampede of little feet rumbled upstairs for children’s church.
One of our long-timers remarked on the 11am that they’d been impressed and pleased with the service. “But there were no children. None,” he said. Well, there were 2. But not as many as he, or any of us, wanted.
I checked back with Nupur about the 11am on Easter—she remembers some 12-15 children upstairs with her at 11am. So again, we had for more children present than came forward for the children’s time. But the observer’s point still stands. It stands for all mainline churches in this country—and it would stand for Catholic Churches as well if their numbers weren’t propped up by immigration. Where are the children? Where’s our future? What hope does God have for the church in this place?
The church always exists for other people. We are not a club devoted to our own upbuilding and upkeep. We hold something in trust for others—namely faith in Jesus Christ. And we make buildings like ours to look 1000 years old when they’re only 100 for a reason: this faith is ancient. We hope its future is limitless. Children are a sign of that hope. The church exists to bless a generation yet unborn. To raise up faith in folks who are not yet even among us. Some of our most creative minds at TEMC are presently working on how to seed faith in a new generation—to make the church a place where children and youth can find faith in the year 2050. Or 2150.
So on Easter there were more children present than the good question-asker could see. As Christians, we know that there are always more people present than we can see with our physical eyes: all the angels and saints. But their question remains a good one: how do we raise up a generation of believers who are not even among us yet? It’ll look different, that’s for sure. The only “thing” non-negotiable and unchanging is Jesus Christ. Everything else can change for the sake of passing Him on to others. May He bless us with children and children’s children, until he returns.
Whether we see them with our own eyes or not.