Alvin C. Rose was pastor of the Jennings and Dresden United Methodist churches in Jennings, Kansas when he wrote this article.

The congregation of Placid Place Community Church took out their bulletins and looked again. There it was! "Minister's Moments With the Children." Could it be that, finally, after months of crayons, paper, mints, and gum, the children were going to have their own special part in the service? Sure enough, there was an uneasy shuffle on the platform. Pastor Jay Gale stepped to the pulpit and cleared his throat (was that a tremor in his voice?)

"The worship committee met Friday and decided that the children should be included in our services ... and ... uh ... so ... will the children please come forward?"

Jimmy, who had already gone through three pieces of candy, four sheets of paper, and two broken crayons, caught the trailing invitation, and promptly responded. Leaping from his twelfth-row seat, he exercised all the energy of his 7 years to give the congregation an instant replay of the recently televised track meet. The race was on, with only a few parents having time to make an ineffectual grab at their departing young athletes.

Pastor Gale momentarily seemed about to disappear under the "hooves" of the thundering herd. Narrowly escaping, he seemed a bit shaken as he gestured for them to be seated on the steps of the chancel. The great moment had come, but it had to wait. Three year old Robbie, one of the first up front, discovering that her mother was not with her, began to scream at the top of her lungs, and headed back to the security of her mother's lap.

"Now, children," began Pastor Gale in a brave attempt to regain the initiative, "the Bible says that Jesus loves us all, and the picture I have here ..."

"Johnny! Let go!" (Johnny was pulling the pigtails of the interrupter, a girl seated a step below him.)

"The picture I have here shows a fisherman"

"My daddy has a boat too!"

"Yes, I know your father has a boat. This fisherman children, please be quiet! This fisherman is trying to do what?"

"Get away from his mommy so they won't fight," loudly responded a red-haired 5 year old.

Cringing, Pastor Gale ignored the response. Johnny (bless him), who momentarily had stopped pulling pigtails, broke in with "Catch a fish!"

(Deliverance!) "Yes, that's right . . . No, Susie, he won't hurt them, either . . . No, Dickie, I don't own a boat." (Occasionally, Pastor Gale's voice was heard amid the din.)

"Yes, I know your daddy went fishing this weekend, Margaret." (Desperation.) "The point is this: Jesus said we ought to ... uh ... be ... fishers of men. We ought to share God's love.... You've got to go what?" (The audience tittered in expectation.) "Oh, go fishing with Jesus." (Relief.) "Yes. . . uh. I mean . . . oh, let us pray! ThankYouLordforYourpatienceandYourlove amen."

As the cherubs raced proudly to their families (hadn't they contributed to the education of their pastor?), Pastor Gale fled to his pulpit, where his eleven-o'clock presentation seemed characterized by a strange, distracted air.

Indeed they had contributed to his education! It's unfortunate he could not have advanced a few grades under other teachers before joining the School for Aspiring Communicators of the Gospel to Little Cherubs. As one who has had experience in both schools, let me share a few lessons that would have helped Pastor Gale.

Lessons That Can Help

1. First, the decision to have a Minister's Moments With the Children should not be made by a worship committee, or even the pastor himself, on the Friday before the big moment.

2. Planning is in order. The committee should ask, What do we want to accomplish? What help can we give the person we ask to lead out? How can we best use the time? (Other questions will come to mind.) To place the burden of these decisions entirely upon the "anointed" leader is only to add to his apprehension and anxiety. A spirit of mutual support and encouragement should exist between leader and committee.

There are valid reasons for including children in the morning worship service. Says Dr. Harriet Miller, professor of Christian education at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio: "Children learn by experiencing a closeness with God, and with others. There are few moments of real awe and wonder in a regular worship service. Pastors need some direct relationship with children on an informal, learning basis."

3. Preparation is essential, more essential than Pastor Gale seemed to realize. Says Dr. George Boone, a United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. clergyman: "Instead of being simple, kids really do understand profound things. Preparation for Children's Worship Sharing often requires more exegesis than for adults."

If props and objects are needed, they should be in place beforehand. Always check before the service to make sure that they have not been removed by someone cleaning up the clutter."

4. Rehearse. Do not read from a script. Children sense discomfort. When you lose your train of thought, they'll be only too glad to change the subject. Maintaining communication with the majority of children before you is more than important; it is essential! Stand or sit where both the children and the congregation can see and hear you.

5. Speak clearly, but not too loudly. Children shrink from too loud voices. Move around, your audience of children does! Children enjoy movement and will relate to your freedom of movement. How you respond to their movement will determine the result of your mutual learning experience.

6. Preach the Word. Be sure you are sharing something worth communicating. Help the children into the rest of the worship service by hints about the sermon to come that may give them entry points. You may also be enhancing adult interest in what is to follow.

7. Don't be disturbed by divided attention. You will usually enjoy the undivided attention of your adults and the divided attention of your children. Most of those squirmy, wide-eyed creatures before you have come to listen. Don't worry about the few who aren't. It is difficult for any speaker to hold the attention of such a variety of ages and interests, the usual children's audience will range from 21/2 year old toddlers to sixth-graders. Make it your objective to share something of worth with the majority gathered before you in a manner that will command their attention and interest.

Dealing with Behavior

You will likely observe many forms of youthful exuberance, some of which will be difficult to overcome. Your response will determine, to quite an extent, how effective your sharing is with the larger group. Here are some of the more common types of distractions and some possible means of response/control/inclusion:

1. The showoff. This child's need for attention is extremely high. He will do anything to gain your at tention and acceptance. Your response can mean the difference between behavior improvement and chaos. A gentle word can do much to change the situation. If the child knows that he is loved and accepted when acting less aggressive, better behavior will come.

2. The talker. This child will compete with you for the attention of your audience. Encourage his participation in the group's listening activity by such a response as "Thank you for sharing. Now, children, let's all hear what the Bible (pastor, object lesson, et cetera) has to say."

3. The frightened child. This child is intimidated by the environment. A moment taken to comfort him is not out of place. Sometimes the child can be calmed by encouraging him to come close to you.

4. The wanderer. If the child is not destroying the Grandmother Jennings Memorial Bud Vase or some equally important church artifact, don't get distracted by his wandering. Should it become necessary to "rescue" the child, do it without comment and with as little disturbance as possible.

5. The bored child. Occasionally, you will be greeted by blankly staring eyes, impervious to your commentary. Don't be alarmed; include this child in the presentation by motion or touch. Make him aware that you care about his presence. Warmth will do much to open a child's personality.

6. The big kids. Remember Brother Fred? For the moment, you've got even his interest. Like most adults present, he's listening and not just for the cute response (or embarrassing response) his child might make. He may be remembering when he was a child and first heard the gospel message. This special moment is not just a time for children to become little adults; it is a time also for adults to become as little children, listening in simple faith and trust to the message of the gospel.

7. But a word of caution: Don't use the children's special time to send "coded" messages to your adults. You've got the next half-hour for that purpose.

What should leaders share with children? One pastor spent several months explaining objects from the sanctuary and relating their importance for worship.

Another printed a bulletin especially for children each week and explained a different aspect of worship. Telling about the origin of hymns or the experience of hymn writers is always appropriate. Well known church leaders may offer a rich source of stories.

Helping Rules

Experiment with a broad variety of resources and ideas. A few simple rules may help you share the gospel:

1. Use variety. No one style of communication can be effective for all children in all situations. Variety is the key to meaningful communication.

2. Be yourself. Don't try to "perform" or be someone different than you are under other circumstances. If you are not at ease in your role, the children will sense it.

3. Communicate enthusiasm for what you are doing, but never talk down to children. Strive to treat each one as an individual who has come for sharing and instruction.

4. Allow for the unexpected. Don't be dismayed by laughter at a child's comment, or the lack of laughter. Be patient when distractions occur. After all, you do have the floor, and some are hearing the message you're sharing.

5. Be prepared. The attentiveness of your audience generally will be in proportion to your preparation.

6. Have a sincere desire to share the love of God through His Word. This is the only requisite of these rules.

How will your sharing affect the children? You can only speculate how your lessons will be applied. But inevitably the cherubs will become the adults of your congregation. And each will have some harvest from the seeds you have planted in his faith garden.

What is left but to march forth in peace and love, inviting the little children to come and participate in growth experiences that will activate their faith?

Alvin C. Rose was pastor of the Jennings and Dresden United Methodist churches in Jennings, Kansas when he wrote this article.