The Common Good

Children, Church, and God

One of the joys of vacation Bible school (VBS) is watching what the kids take away from the week. Having such an intense daily experience where the kids get to "do church" and learn about God outside of the ways they normally do truly does affect their lives. My kids, for instance, have been singing the songs from the week around the clock. I hear my daughter singing to herself as she lies in her bed at night, and even my barely verbal toddler has got the "na na na" chorus down. These songs, these ideas, these themes are part of their life now even if they don't fully grasp their meaning.

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As an adult who knows that she will never fully understand her own faith or the ways God works in the world, I get that the kids will only partially understand what they are singing or what they are learning. But they are internalizing these ideas in a loving and safe environment. That is how God is working in their lives in the moment.

Of course, that partial understanding can be amusing at times as well. As my daughter sang a VBS song about dancing and singing for her king, I asked her who her king was. She gave me a weird look and after thinking for a moment said her brother's name. She explained that he was the person she liked to dance and sing with so he must be her king. We had a nice little chat about God being the king of kings, but I was moved that at the age of 5 she grasped the joy and exuberance of worship that song suggests far better than most of us.

God is working in these kids' lives -- often in ways we don't plan or expect. Creating the space for them to experience God is, for me, at the heart of what it means to serve children. And often in helping create that space, the children in turn teach me something and draw me closer to God.

Julie Clawson is the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (IVP 2009). She blogs at and

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