My mother always said that a church without children is a dying church. She meant it. She and my pastor father regularly drove our battered orange VW van round the town early on Sunday mornings, gathering up any child in our little community whose parents would part with them for a few hours. Often these kids were poorly dressed, tired, hungry and, once in the pew, ... a tad squirrely, but they were always excited to jump in the van, go to church and learn of the surprising truth that they were wanted, beautiful and precious in the eyes of a loving Savior.

Once, when this busload of kids was showing their lack of church culture etiquette, one church member bitterly complained to my mother.

"Those children are dirty and misbehaved. They're sitting up there on the front pew and they have no idea how they're supposed to act in church. What are you going to do about it?"

My mother's answer? My sweet mother, who was really uncomfortable with such direct confrontations? THAT mother?

"You mean what am I going to do with a bunch of children who are so new to church that they don't know how to behave? I'm going to go out and get as many more of them as I can."

I liked that answer. Fill God's church with people who've never been there before, who don't know all the churchy culture, stuffy rules and complex etiquette. Bring in anyone and everyone who just wants to know that they are loved, needed and precious. After all, they are a metaphor for us. Didn't we all come to Christ the same way? — messy, hungry and totally clueless as to how we should behave?

Carol L. Barnier is a fresh, fun and popular conference speaker who strives to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed wih the depth of C.S. Lewis, but admits that on most days, she only achieves a solid Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato. She is also the author of three books, mother to three children, wife to one husband, and daughter to one very patient pastor father. Learn more at CarolBarnier.com.

Article copyright © 2010, Carol Barnier.
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Publication date: March 28, 2011