What Church Members Can Learn from Teddy Roosevelt

Over the years, I’ve cringed when I’ve heard people say some variation of “I’m not serving in the kids ministry because I don’t have kids anymore.”

Flashback to the 1870s and we see a teenaged Theodore Roosevelt teaching a Sunday school class for underprivileged children in New York City. Even while at Harvard, he continued teaching a children’s class at Christ Episcopal Church (Cambridge) until he was booted out for being Presbyterian. 

With studies, sports, and girls on his mind, it’s might seem amazing that someone like Theodore Roosevelt, wealthy collegiate and future President of the United States of America, would be found teaching a kids’ class on Sunday mornings. Or is it?  

It seems to me that when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matt 19:14), he wasn’t just setting an example for their parents.  Jesus was never a parent, but he saw the value in children. He loved them!  Their simple, humble trust is a model of the faith needed to enter the kingdom (Matt 18:1–4).  Though the disciples thought it was a waste of Jesus’ time to have children brought to him, he was happy to receive them (Matt 19:13).   

So, back to that statement of not serving in the kids ministry because we don’t have kids. On one level, I get it.  Some of us aren’t as young as we used to be. It’s harder to be energetic and sit on the floor.  Rather than growing in patience, our fuses have shortened over time. Maybe we even feel the sting of not doing such a good job raising our own kids.  And we may wonder what we have to offer children today. Still yet, maybe you are parent and still not sure what you have to offer after a long week.  

The short answer is love. You have love to offer the kids in those classes. And love to their parents who are trying to point them to Jesus.  

Maybe you can teach and let others sit on the floor or lead singing or play games.  Or, maybe you don’t feel qualified to teach, so you will be the person helping with worksheets and handing out snacks. Whether you are busy college student like TR, a single adult like Jesus, or an aging grandparent like the generation ahead of me–or one of the numerous other types in between–it’s pretty easy to love kids and their parents by giving them a little bit of your time. 

And, if you’re not convinced by TR’s example, remember Jesus thought they were worth it.

Note: a version of this post appeared on the Providence Bible Fellowship Blog.

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