Counting Train Cars

We love having our team share some of their thoughts around church and what they love. This week we have Margaret Thiessen (newly married) sharing a bit of her thoughts about kids in church and what really keeps them coming back.

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Sunday Mornings - I remember waking up to go get coffee from Tim Hortons with Mom so Dad wasn’t cranky. I remember getting my dress a little dirty every week with the powdered doughnut I fought with each week as my mom told me to eat ‘nicely’ (still a work in progress). I remember we would all pile out of the truck, me on the floor in the front sometimes and roll into church. I remember hours going by as my parents would talk to old people and they would pinch my cheeks (I had some pretty cute cheeks). And then the organ would play as we sat down on wooden pews and listen to the nice lady sing songs for us. And most of all I remember when my best friend would walk in with the same mischievous look every week - what trouble can we get into? We would then proceed to sit at the back of the hall rolling marbles down to the pew and getting caught by the pastor. Now not all of this sound exciting, but they were memorable moments. Yet it wasn’t the old people pinching my cheeks, or the messy doughnuts in the morning that made me want to come back. It was that amazing moment every week where we were dismissed from the adult service and we went to our own. My best friend and I would leave the auditorium running to our classroom where our favourite teacher waited patiently and quietly for the enclosing stampede. Ms. Lori was the most genuine, caring, happy person and she cared about each and every child in kids church. She greeted each of us by name, asked how our week was, and listened to each and everything that we had to say with great interest. I remember one time when we were in the middle of a lesson and we suddenly a heard the train come by. The horn was really loud and each of us, including Ms. Lori, gathered by the window, sat there and counted each train car. There were 175 train cars that day. I remember because after the train passed we made our own 175 car train with paper that wrapped around our classroom and didn’t even finish the lesson that day. I remember going home with a big smile, so excited for next week.

She greeted each of us by name, asked how our week was, and listened to each and everything that we had to say with great interest.

What makes any of us, let alone a child, want to return somewhere? When was the last time you went somewhere and said you would want to go back, or you have been back over and over again? Often it is a moment that captures our imagination, somebody that gets our attention, or more simply, an obligation we feel we must respect, but what I’ve learned is that children are different. When it comes to children it is much more simple. As adults we tend to over analyze each situation that we encounter and seek perfection or importance. But when it comes to children they want the simple things. They want to laugh. To play. And to have someone listen to them. In my experience it is not about how fancy your equipment is or how well you can sing or how nice you look or act. None of that matters to them. What matters is if you are willing to listen to their ideas and imagination. It’s about the Ms. Lori’s of the world who pause to count trains.

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I believe that Sunday morning is about so much more than teaching them a lesson. It’s about creating space for moments that invoke laughter, joy, and authenticity. It's about communicating the truth of Jesus through the love that we show them. Not just in saying we love them but in showing a genuine desire to lean in and listen, to sit back and laugh, or better yet to stand up to be silly and dance like a crazy person.

So when it comes to asking the question “Why do kids want to come back to church?” really in my eyes it’s simple. They come back because they are loved, they are heard, and they are valued. They come back because silliness is encouraged, creativity is celebrated, and laughter is the norm. They come back because even if they don’t know why - they know that the church is a place that is different. A place where they can be themselves without being judged, and where they can feel safe and loved. Some of the children that will come through our doors will be bearing heavy burdens. Some may be fortunate enough to not, but I am so sure that each child that joins us should experience an overwhelming sense of love, acceptance and assurance that they are wanted. This is what we get to build at City Collective - a space where kids from all backgrounds, age groups, ethnicities, socio-economic platforms can gather and discover an amazing friend in Jesus. I think we could use more people in our lives like Ms. Lori. Who wait patiently for us at the door, greet us with a smile regardless of our attitude, listen carefully, welcome us into learning about Jesus, but are also willing to be silly and count train cars. Because when I reflect on my own discovery of Jesus, well those train cars they brought me back.

I believe that Sunday morning is about so much more than teaching them a lesson. It’s about creating space for moments that invoke laughter, joy, and authenticity.

So thanks Ms. Lori, I hope I always remember to pause and count train cars with the kids.


If you have any questions about our kids program or are passionate about children and serving in the local church we would love to hear from you!

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