I received some anonymous feedback recently about the time in our Sunday service called “Story for All Ages”. The unidentified writer left me a note wondering what the purpose of this time was since it appeared to them that the children weren’t watching or listening.
Normally, I would disregard anonymous feedback because, well, it’s impossible to be in relationship when responding to an unknown. This time, however, I think there’s a bit of conversation and education we can do together, as a whole community. Here are my thoughts:
- There’s a reason we call it “Story for ALL Ages”. While we often use a picture book…which might make it seem it’s for children ONLY…it’s not. Many adults love the story, and regular feedback in appreciation of the story proves this.
- For me, the story provides another voice and perspective on the day’s topic, just like the other readings and songs in the service. I actually find the ‘heart’ of my message in the story we chose. (My seminary preaching professor used to say that if you’re having trouble finding the key message, imagine giving your sermon to children.)
- Children are continually listening and absorbing information from their surroundings, even if they appear to be distracted by activities such as coloring or playing. They’re no different than adults who might like to knit, doodle, or fidget with paper clips when listening. Doing something with our hands does not close our ears.
- Each element in our services is loved by some and disliked by others. I suggest that when you’re not connecting during the service, look around and notice how that moment is being received by others. Conversely, know that when you’re particularly engaged, others might not be. It’s a spiritual and intentional practice of inclusion…to provide things for all styles of learning and engagement.
We are made of stories. Whether jokes, personal anecdotes, movies, storybooks or wisdom tales, stories teach. Stories reveal. As the folks at StoryCorps tell us, “stories help us believe in each other by illuminating the humanity and possibility in us all”.
We are made of stories.