Sunday, July 15, 2012

Suffer the Children

I read recently in the New Testament (actually, a few times over the last couple of months, as I am now in Luke, and it appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke) the account wherein the disciples rebuke parents for wanting Jesus to heal their children.

To this Christ responded: "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."

The words "suffer the children" have reverberated through my consciousness as I have prepared Primary (the auxiliary of my faith comprising the 18 month-12 year olds) lessons for the 6-7 year olds that we teach and reflected on the sacrifices children require over the past few weeks.

It has caused me to wonder whether, in my faith, we too often forbid little children from approaching the Savior, placing in their paths instead cartoons, games, and fluffy gospel substitutes.  This might sound rather harsh, but I have served in many Primaries and think that much, much too often, we undervalue children's ability to feel the Spirit and know the Savior.

Don't get me wrong.  I learned while in a London Primary from a Broadway-singer-chorister (tough act to follow!) that it is actually rather important to children's spiritual development to make Primary a fun experience.  But the fun should be mixed in with substantive gospel messages that help children to learn how to pray, how to search the scriptures, how to recognize the Spirit, what the Savior has done for them, and just how much their Heavenly Father loves them.

In teaching these things, which I am sure is every Primary worker's goal, we can be caught in the trap of thinking our job is to do so by providing 10, 15, 20, or even 50 minutes of solid entertainment.  This makes poor or, at best, only incidental use of the most powerful Primary tool of all: the Spirit.

Based on nearly six consecutive years in Primary, both as chorister, pianist, and now, teacher, I have seen first hand what the Spirit can do for children of all ages.  It truly does teach and helps them to enjoy church (as it does for all of us adult kids).  We as Primary workers simply need to give it place.  

Interestingly, when we focus on creating lesson and activities that welcome the Spirit to teach children and lead them to Christ, we will not need to spend countless hours cutting, coloring, and preparing visual aids and games to keep children entertained.  We will spend less time on looking at other people's ideas and creativity and more time on our knees asking the Lord for His ideas and allowing Him to inspire our creativity.

"Suffer the children (even the little ones) to come unto [Christ], and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."  I wonder how long I will continue to learn from this immortal response.

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