by Rev. Kay Ash
It is likely that you did not hear about the small moment in time between a group of retiring clergy with their families and several children from North Texas Conference churches. It was a small moment, quiet and unassuming. Probably no reporters wrote articles about it, and there were just a few pictures taken. If it was such a small moment in time, why was it important?
Here is the story: when a couple churches got together with support from the North Texas Conference several years ago to collectively and intentionally re-energize children’s ministries, we wrestled with how to begin and what to do. What would be our best practices and how would we make those strategies available to a large and diverse body of churches? From the beginning we had too many ideas and no focus. We knew that we needed guidance, so, we looked in the scriptures. What did Jesus do when he encountered children in His ministry? The simple answer: he blessed them (see Mark 10:16). He insisted that the disciples allow the children to surround Him, He laid hands on them and He blessed them. We found our focus in a hurry, and blessings became the foundation of a movement.
Blessings are very simple – hold someone’s hand, look them in the eye and say: “You are a blessing!” Some people use water or oil or Chap Stick to make the sign of the cross or a heart or a smiley face on someone’s hand or forehead. Blessings are simple. However, just because blessings are simple does not mean that blessings are simplistic. From the very beginning we learned that blessings are deeply profound.
We started blessing children everywhere – Sunday School, VBS, Bridgeport Camp, during children’s sermons, at hospitals, at sporting events, at lemonade stands, in front of schools before State testing, everywhere. The speed of change took us completely by surprise. Parents chasing us down the hallways of churches asking for blessings took us completely by surprise. The depth, the power, the split-second experiences of God’s bold and undeniable presence in the midst of simple blessings knocked us to the knees. Blessings became and continue to be the foundation of our movement to re-energize children’s ministries.
In June of this year at annual conference, the basics of what we have collectively discovered about children’s ministries were highlighted by the Center for Leadership Development. In an effort to demonstrate what we have learned and what we hope to accomplish, a group of children from nearby churches took Chap Sticks and blessed our retiring clergy. It was truly a small moment in time, yet a deeply powerful small moment in time.
This is what we have learned through several years of blessings: God is always present; blessings are appropriate everywhere; and, all people of all ages are yearning for opportunities to experience intimate moments with God. Most importantly, even small and simple moments with God are deep and transformative. This is the reason it was important for children to bless retiring clergy on the floor of the North Texas Annual Conference of 2018. This is also the reason why it is important that we bless each other at every opportunity here at Kessler Park United Methodist Church. This is why we bless our children in Sunday School, during Wednesday Night Live, and during children’s sermons; blessings just might change the world.
Chap Sticks, looking each other in the eye, holding hands – let’s spend some small moments in time together, Kessler Park UMC; let’s change the world one blessing at a time.