Shades of Grey: Children and Church

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Children are unpredictable, to say the least. They are especially unpredictable in situations which they do not face on a regular basis. Church can be one of these.

Some churches have a "children's sermon" as a regular feature each Sunday. All young children are asked to come down front where they arrange themselves on the floor around the pastor or another staff member who gives them a short Bible lesson. One day after all the little ones had scrambled into position, the pastor began with, "Boys and girls, today we are going to talk about the resurrection. Does anyone know what that is?" One little fellow's hand immediately shot up. Gratified at getting such a quick response, the pastor called on him. "Well, I really don't know exactly what it is," the boy responded, "but I know if you have one that lasts over four hours, you need to see a doctor." After peals of laughter from the congregation, the pastor had a hard time getting refocused.

At another "children's sermon," this cute little girl of about five got down front first. She had on a little frilly dress with all sorts of bows, lace and ruffles. The pastor said to her, "That's a mighty pretty dress you have on." She had undoubtedly been taught to reply graciously to compliments, which she did, but she went a little too far on this occasion when she replied," Thank you very much - but my mama says it's a bitch to iron."

Some pastors cannot seem to understand that kids are just honest and will say most anything. During one "children's sermon," the pastor, knowing that the father of the six-year-old was away in service, said to him, "Are you sleeping with your mother and taking care of her while your daddy's gone?" "No, I'm not," he replied, "but Uncle Frank is."

There are numerous stories involving children in churches who baptize by immersion. One pastor likes to tell about the time a young lad came into the baptismal pool and seemed to forget why he was there. He began to swim about as if he were in the pool at the recreation center. With some difficulty the pastor managed to hem him up in a corner and to get him back to the business at hand.

Another time, a young fellow had a hard time remembering all the instructions. He was supposed to enter the baptistery on one side and exit on the other after being baptized. However, he got confused and started to go out the side he'd come in on. When he got behind some curtains and out of sight of the congregation, he realized his error and quickly found a solution. He ducked under the water and swam across to the other side. Unfortunately, the baptistery was high up on the back wall behind the pulpit and had a glass front. The congregation got quite a kick out of observing the boy's efforts to swim across undetected.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was the minister of education at a large Baptist church in the Nashville area. One Sunday he was tending to some of his educational duties while one of the worship services was in progress. He could hear the pastor preaching as he was going through a hallway behind the pulpit area. However, what really caught his attention was something splashing about in the baptistery. When he climbed the stairs to check it out, he found a 14-year-old girl swimming naked in the baptismal waters. Even though the baptistery was high behind the pulpit with a glass front, there were curtains which were drawn across it when it was not in use, preventing her from being seen by the congregation. When she saw my friend, she said, "Come on in and swim with me. The water's fine." He declined and, in hushed tones, encouraged her to come out. She refused. He ran and got a couple of women who grabbed some sort of covering from someplace and managed to coax her out without disturbing the service.

It turned out that she was stoned on pot. The church had a large campus, some in woods. He parents would drop her off at church each week where she was meeting up with some of her friends, going off into the woods and smoking pot. Somehow on that particular Sunday, she had wandered into the back of the church and found an inviting pool of water on a hot summer day.

As they were having lunch that day after the services, my friend told the pastor what had been going on just a few feet behind him during his sermon. He just about had heart failure, realizing that if someone had hit the wrong switch and opened those curtains, he would have had an X-rated service.

Lucas G. "Luke" Boyd's career spans 48 years in the field of education, retiring after serving as principal of Battle Ground Academy in Franklin for 19 years. He has published two books, eight short stories and an article in "Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture." He may be contacted at

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Luke Boyd, Shades of Grey
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