Are we blessing the children in our congregations?
by Caitlin Friesen
I have the honor and privilege of working with children and their families on a daily basis. Anyone who works with this age group of children knows how wonderful (and difficult) it can be to experience and understand the world through a young person’s mind. In the church we often talk about how to take care of our entire congregation yet come up lacking in ways to care for our youngest community members.
Which is what I hope we can unpack together in 2017: How do we care for our children in holistic and practical ways? Why do kids matter?
As I read through Scripture and pray and discern what Jesus’ life means for my own, I am completely taken with this one truth: Jesus places his hands on kids' heads.
“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’ And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left” (Matt. 19:13-15 NLT).
Most scholars agree it was a Jewish custom for a parent to take their young ones to the Temple to be blessed by a person of spiritual significance. This person blesses the child by placing their hand on the little head and reciting Scripture or a prayer or whatever words they think sound best. Jesus also places his hands on kids' heads.
As described in Matthew 19, the parents who bring their children to Jesus to be blessed get a talking to from his followers. The disciples tell the adults to leave. This might be because kids are not always clean and can be loud and don't understand theology and are sometimes super annoying. Or because they think Jesus doesn't have time for crying babies in all the highly spiritual work that has to be done. But Jesus takes those kids and puts his hand on their heads.
Jesus blesses those children more than the religious leaders when he touches their heads.
His blessing is more than recited words. It is an act of undiluted love. Because Jesus loves kids.
This year I hope to instill the same desire to bless in adults, all of us whom are trying to be more like Jesus but sometimes end up looking like his disciples. I hope we cannot be afraid of letting our youngest lead and will instead walk alongside them. I hope we can really look for the talents in the sons and daughters growing up around us and remind them of what they have. I hope we can encourage the parents who are holding their children out for a blessing.
I hope we can do good things for the kids who are looking for a hand—both literally and figuratively. Jesus loves kids. So should we.
Caitlin Friesen is a native of Fresno, Calif., and graduate of Fresno Pacific University. She has a passion for Jesus and a heart for kids, both of which have been put to use as a backpacking guide, outdoor educator and camp counselor. She recently married her favorite person in the world, Ben Friesen from Guthrie, Okla. She serves as the associate pastor of Children and Family Ministries at North Fresno Church.