One of the first significant injuries I inflicted on my younger sister involved an offering plate and a mismanaged game of "Pass the Offering Plate" which wasn't as much a game as much as a way to pass the time at one of my father's endless choir rehearsals.
Just so it's in print, the incident wasn't my fault. It was my sister's. I had carefully instructed her on the proper way to turn so that the passing of the offering plate passage would be seamless. She wasn't listening to the specific details of her then 10-year-old sister, of course, and the brass lip of the plate connected with the corner of her eye, opening a sincere half-inch gash.
A typical older sister, I quickly tried to quiet her screaming, but it was no use. I got into trouble in spite of my she-wasn't-listening-to-me defense. I can't remember how I was punished, but the small scar remains on her face. We laugh about it sometimes and by we, I mean, just me. It is a facial scar after all.
It's an unusual thing to grow up as the child of a minister. The church becomes a second home, so you come up with creative ways to entertain yourself. It's a challenge, but more likely the reason we minister's kids get a bad reputation. We've all taken a dip in the baptistry or stolen sweets from the church kitchen.
Now that I've subjected my own children to this lifestyle, I've found myself at the mercy of a different perspective. Last week, I tried to wrangle my kids from a game of under-the-pew crawling races. I fruitlessly tried to catch the ankles of my own children as they scurried under the pews, their uncontrollable giggles drowning out my admonishments.
A fellow, former minister's kid caught me before I could cut them off, mid-pew.
"It's good they are so comfortable being in the church," she said.
Comfort? I thought. They were acting like, like kids in church. I stopped.
She was right. They were completely relaxed around the people gathered for an after-service conversation. Many laughed at their actions. I watched as they nonchalantly walked through the small groups and climbed on the stage. They sat on the steps next to the altar. They were completely comfortable.
I've seen kids who weren't comfortable in church, basically because they were completely unfamiliar with it. They pulled at the scratchy fabric of the pews and clung to their mothers' dresses. They didn't wander among the unfamiliar faces.
I often wonder the impact that formal ministry will have on my children. I hope they embrace it because they have understood God's love. A happy byproduct of our ministry is the fact that my children will be comfortable in the church. They will know God's love through the people who understand that kids will act like kids.
With this new perspective, I can further enjoy my children, knowing my church family cherishes their souls rather than their ignorance of decorum.
I imagine this is the attitude of Jesus welcoming squirmy, irreverent children into his own arms.
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14, NIV)
Email Jamie H. Wilson at email@example.com.