Children provided the focus of study at Nazarene Theological Seminary on Tuesday April 9, via the Miriam J. Hall Lectures in Children’s Ministries. Dr. Scottie May, Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College, provided a powerful opening lecture on “Why Welcoming Children Welcomes Jesus” and followed with an interactive session on “How Welcoming Children Welcomes Jesus.”
Attendees included the board of the Nazarene Children’s Leadership Network, the important front line for children’s ministry in the Church of the Nazarene, and denominational leaders particularly from Nazarene Publishing House. The leaders interacted with students, local children’s pastors, and NTS faculty all day which led to a rich interaction around the topic of children’s ministry.
May’s opening lecture drew from scripture and church history to demonstrate how Jesus mandated the church to attend to children. Her points were quite succinct. First, we need to include children in the worshiping community rather than “absent” them from adult gatherings. May remarked how certain global cultures often “absent” children from adults by suppressing them, even rejecting the gender of girls or converting young boys into child soldiers. Intentionally including children in the worshiping community (and other parts of the church) speaks against these cultural anomalies.
However, May also believes-and asserts-that the inclusion of children in worship and the larger life of the community also rests on three basic principles:
1. Jesus did!
2. Children need and deserved to be welcomed.
3. WE need them.
Dr. May also provided a historical account of people who understood this vision and sought to include the experiential world of children as part of the life of the church: Commenius, Pestalozzi, Froeble, Montessori, and Cavaletti. May called for a “radical hospitality” of children as part of the life of the church.
The afternoon session focused on “how” we welcome children. Dr. May pressed the group to determine the “best practices” for welcoming children. Rather than give a laundry list of ideas, May challenged attendees to think beyond “whatever works” to the theological underpinnings of what constitutes redemptive practices (versus violent pedagogical practices) that welcome children.