I write a lot about the crises that people experience where I try to be of help. When I was a younger pastor, I reveled in the adrenalin rush. But I’m not that young pastor anymore. I still find meaning in the work, but the crises make me tired and sometimes it takes me several days before I get my strength back after a death or tragedy. Then there are some things I just don’t get over.
The children make this work easier. It has taken a couple of years in this church, but they’ve decided I’m okay. We got a bunch of them and they have that high octane energy we adults admire so much.
We have a few little boys who are wired for 220, as we say in these parts. Mischievous, good willed, funny, and sometimes brainless, their parents are often exhausted just getting them to church. But I rarely have problems with them. Usually, all I have to do is ask them to adjust their behavior, and they will. If I can’t get their attention, I’ll find an excuse to hug him and tell him how glad I am to see him, and then repeat my request, which they usually obey.
The children’s classes are my favorite ones to teach. I tell them the stories of the Bible and when I’m on a roll, they’re spellbound even without pictures. These days, I’m teaching the older kids some doctrinal material so they can decide how they will make their own spiritual commitments. They energize me with their questions and challenges. They’re much more interested in this stuff than their parents.
I love being the big smiling preacher who high fives the kids and holds four of them in my lap during story time.
When I was younger, baptizing the babies was difficult to pull off. There’s a point where I take the baby from the mom and I couldn’t figure out how to make that transfer gracefully. One time a mom got her hand caught somehow and couldn’t get free. Another time, I brushed my hand against the mother’s breast (it was an accident, I swear).*
And then the baby would cry.
But I’ve had more grace and better luck in recent years. Most of them like to feel my beard (sort of like petting the family dog). After the baptism, I walk up and down the middle aisle to let all the people get a close up and everyone waves and smiles and makes googly eyes at the tiny powerful life.
We have a preschool class during the school year. When I’m having a rough day, I’ll walk down the hall, poke my head in door of their classroom, listen to them each say hello to me, collect my hugs and go back to work. My teachers assure me they don’t mind my interrupting their class. They’re usually glad I came. So am I.
I wonder if the children realize how much they do for a tired pastor. I’m not sure I could do the job without them.
*When I apologized later to the woman whose breast I brushed, she just laughed. I realize now that mothers with small children have their clothes tugged and their bodies pawed constantly—They often get to where they just don’t care anymore.