This Advent season, you might consider a visit on December 15 to Inman, Kansas, where Pastor Dennis Ureche has perfected his camel-wrangling skills during the small town’s annual Live Nativity. This year, it will be held in the town’s Lambert Park as always, but viewing it will be just a little bit easier, thanks to a new sidewalk built in part with support from the children of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ.
At the front of the sanctuary in St. Peter’s, a simple tube stands in place, just tall enough for a child to reach the top in order to add a quarter (or occasionally, the odd dime or nickel). Children come forward for the children’s sermon, and as a part of the weekly ritual, they add change to the tube. Pastor Dennis keeps a handful of extra quarters up front, just in case anyone forgets their own.
Sharing in the offering is an important faith practice for children; but the real learning happens when the tube is full. That’s when the children, ranging in age from pre-schoolers to high schoolers, work together to decide how the money will be shared. Ureche, who borrowed the idea from a church in Missouri where he served as intern, says, “I really liked the idea because it gives the kids a voice in the mission of the Church.”
In just over five years, the children of St. Peter’s have collected and shared more than $1500 through this project. On their own initiative, they’ve made decisions about how to fairly split the money they gather between multiple recipients. They’ve supported global missions like Church World Service and Heifer International, and learned in the process about how their bees, chicks, and goats help feed the hungry while also bringing sustainability to farming families. Donations of Soccket Ball electricity generators and mosquito netting have taught them to be aware of their privilege, and about everyday challenges we don’t yet face in our part of the world.
Local recipients have been important, too, as the children grow in their role of supporting the life and hospitality of their wider community. In a church where not all the kids are always there during the same Sundays, sometimes making these decisions together can present a logistical challenge; but it’s also a way to help keep them connected as they grow together. #3GreatLoves isn’t just about the love given TO children — it’s also celebrating the love coming FROM the youngest disciples in our congregation. Thanks be to God for the inspiration we all receive through the #loveofchildren.