Jesus didn’t exclude children. We know he often went out of his way to include them, bless them and seek their presence as a lesson in humility as a leader. When his disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, it was a preschooler or a toddler of whom he made an illustration. After knowing and watching the children of his day, he used a child as an example – a person willing to be used, a person with no position or status or money.
Jesus chose to learn from children themselves. He knew their status in society. He knew how they played. He understood what they needed and went beyond what was asked of him in his care for them. In essence, he watched or listened to children to mold his understanding of how the faith and grace should be lived.
Of course, Jesus was a leader of leaders – guiding the Apostles as the first church planters in history. And who does Jesus ask these twelve future leaders of the church to pay attention to as their example? Children. He not only looked to the status-less to define the best example of leadership, but he looked to those who would be the future of the church. He took and made his own lessons about leadership based on the actions and needs of kids.
In an article regarding avoiding the abuse of power in the church, Annemie Dillan asked, “One can ask whether children really get a voice, whether their own perspective is recognized and whether participation is considered as more than just adaptation.” When was the last time we, who call ourselves leaders, asked the children – not their leaders or their parents – what church and a life of faith should look like? When was it that we allowed a faithful child to guide us? I imagine our faith and our leadership would look very different if we did ask.
The simplicity in this principle makes it easy to practice. It’s a few questions to kids every now and then with a listening ear. Perhaps by listening to and watching children, we would begin to pass on a similar legacy to what Jesus asked the apostles to pass on. For, when we welcome children, and those like them, we welcome Christ. And in welcoming Christ, we welcome the Almighty himself.