Today’s guest blogger is Billy Jack Blankenship, Minister to Children and Families at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church and part of our 2010 Sticky Faith Cohort.
We continue to wrestle with the process of being a community that contributes to lasting faith in our kids and students. The shift from being a multi-generational congregation to community that models intergenerational relationships proves to be a slow, yet exciting, journey.
One shift we made last year was to begin each worship service (on Sundays) all together—with our kids (6thgrade and below) in the sanctuary with their families and other adults. Originally our hope was to help them experience different elements of the services (i.e. celebrations, baptisms, giving, stories of God’s movement in our community, etc). However, something cool emerged from a subtle addition to the first half of each service.
About half way through each service there is a time when we dismiss the kids to their classes. The piece of this that has shaped us is a blessing for the kids before they go. Depending on the Sunday a different minister leads the moment. We have families lay hands on their kids while the congregation extends hands toward children close to them, and the person leading extends a blessing to our children. After the blessing they are dismissed to their classes.
Our hope is that we will not think that we are “intergenerational” because of the blessing moment. Rather, our hope is through moments like this, where we posture toward our children, our community will come to understand the importance of being in relationship with our kids as they journey in faith.
A mother in our congregation asked her son how the blessing made him feel each week. She relayed to us:
“It’s cool,” he said. He went on to offer that the blessing makes him feel loved, by not only his parents, but by everybody in the church. He also said the blessing makes him feel like kids are respected. I could tell that he feels important and valued during this part of the service. Thank you, thank you. From the tone of his voice it seemed that he is filled with a warmth, seldom freely offered, by being touched by outstretched hands each Sunday.