Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, has set up a unique space up front in their sanctuary called the “pray-ground.” It is a place filled with small chairs and tables, crayons, coloring books and soft toys, where kids and parents can better engage in the service.
Pastor Andrea Roske-Metcalfe, a mother herself, explains that in her experience children often pay more attention in worship when they can see what is going on. Parents that first thought it would be a disaster have been surprised that the children were not disruptive and enjoyed it. It has even brought new families with young children to join the church (Living Lutheran, May 2018, pp.38-39).
While, admittedly, a “pray-ground” may not be the answer for every church, the idea of creating a welcoming environment for children is crucial in a worship setting. Consistently making children’s sermons a part of worship relates that children are a special part of the church family. Making it clear where the nursery or cry room is makes parents feel more comfortable about where to take their children if they need to, And simply engaging with children on a regular basis from week to week gives children (and parents) the assurance that your church cares about the interests and well-being of children. Even offering to hold a child for a time while a parent is busy with another child or in an important conversation with the pastor or another church worker can be a godsend.
We remember well that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). So the church should always be a kid-friendly zone, a place where we are quick to say to every child of God (big or small), “Come on in!”
According to a study done by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), of the 3.6 million baptized members of that church body, half worship in congregations with an average attendance of 150 or less. And out of the ELCA’s 9.393 congregations, 82 percent have an average worship attendance of 150 or less (Lammi, Kurt, “Would They Notice?” Living Lutheran, p. 33). The conclusion? The denomination is mostly made up of small congregations (p. 33).
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Jennifer McClard stands next to a Little Free Pantry.
An article in the November 2016 issue of Living Lutheran magazine described the growing popularity of the Little Free Pantry, a grassroots program that was begun by Jessica McClard, a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Ark. She took the idea of a concept that already was present in the marketplace, Little Free Libraries, and made it her own. She saw the need in her community for staple foods to be provided for the poor and needy and built a mini-pantry in her neighborhood and posted it on Facebook.
The idea caught on, and now there are Little Free Pantries popping up in neighborhoods all over the nation filled with boxes of cereal, canned good, peanut butter, crackers, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Check it out at Facebook.com/littlefreepantry.
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I attended a prayer breakfast last month in which acclaimed author and speaker Walter Wangerin. Jr., spoke on the “Ani Ahm.” Roughly translated, “Ani Ahm” means “the poor people of God.”
Wangerin spoke of the poor widow whom Elijah encountered in 1 Kings 17 during a time of drought. Though she had only “a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug,” she trusted Elijah when he said, “For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth’” (1 Kings 17:12, 14). She made a little cake for Elijah and then something for her and her son. And by the grace of God, “The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah” (1Kings 17:15).
The poor fed Elijah. Continue reading →
We have been hearing a lot lately about the benefits and drawbacks of the Internet of Things (or IoT, for short). If you’re unclear on what that is, here is how Wikipedia describes it:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.
For me personally the concept kind of gives me the creeps. A segment on 60 Minutes showed how someone can take control of car built in the last ten years remotely because of this new technology. It calls to mind shades of Big Brother and that feeling that everyone is watching you.
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