Faith & Family: Children find their spirit in ‘little church’
NATCHEZ — Inside Natchez Church of God on McNeely Road, there is a “little church” just for children.
Children’s Church aims at teaching children how to worship, pray and learn lessons from the Bible in a way they can understand, something they don’t always get in “big church,” Student Ministries Pastor Michael Messer said.
“A lot of times kids sitting out in a sanctuary along with the adults, some of the things the preacher says goes over their heads,” he said. “In Children’s Church, we put it on the kids’ level, something they can understand, and discuss stuff that they deal with on a daily basis.”
The children have recently been exploring the story of Paul’s conversion from Saul.
As part of their lessons on Paul’s ministry, which involved sailing to different regions, the Children’s Church seating area has been roped off to appear as two boats, the S.S. Mercy and the S.S. Grace. Wooden palettes lay on the floor as a ramp onto the church’s stage, which includes a puppet stage, a recreation of Mary’s house and other sets used in past lessons.
The lessons are taught through songs, dancing, games, shows from the Heavenly Hands puppet teams and sermons from Messer for the big kids. The smaller children break out into groups with individual teachers after the group’s Sunday morning singing and offering.
Children’s Church director Linda Hampton said children respond well to lessons they know are made just for them.
“We see a lot of them give their life over to Christ in Children’s Church,” she said.
Ten-year-old Nathan Stroud said he thinks “little church” is better than “big church.”
“They make it fun,” he said. “They let us dance, and they have games on occasion.”
Stroud and eight-year-old Nicholas Beach recently joined the junior version of Heavenly Hands, and Beach said he is glad Children’s Church has fun activities to do every week.
“It’s really fun when we get to dance and do the puppets,” Beach said.
Children’s Church member J.B. Harrison, 11, has been coming to the church for three months and said she has learned a great deal.
“I’ve learned about God and all the great ways he love us and made us, and that we are all treated with equal love.”
Heavenly Hands director Tina Rollins said Children’s Church gives children knowledge and a foundation so they can become active members of “big church” when they’re older.
“They get a foundation here that they wouldn’t get if they were in big church,” she said. “And a lot of the kids have led their parents to the Lord.”
Messer said the church is creating the future leaders of Natchez Church of God.
He should know. Messer was once a Children’s Church member himself.
“Some of the children’s pastors I had through the years really impacted my life, and they sewed seeds in me,” he said. “Some of those experiences I use today in ministry.
“I’m hoping we can do the same for kids in Children’s Church now.”