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Three descriptions of what I experienced this past rainy Saturday morning. The children and youth were gathered at the church to rehearse for the church service they were leading Sunday morning. Little Guy and I were running late and didn’t have time to stop at my favourite place, Tim Horton’s, for that 7 1/2″ extra-large steeped tea, black (chocolate milk for Little Guy). Therefore, my body was craving a big caffeine-fix…and within minutes of arriving, my head was too! There were no more than a dozen kids, but it certainly seemed like more. While groups of adults huddled in packs discussing the last minute details, children crawled on the pews and skipped up and down the aisles, voices at top volume. They got started with the practice just in time; I was just starting to black out from Christmas pageant rehearsal flashbacks.

First, a mini pep talk from one of the leaders, while the kids wiggled incessantly, before we filed to the back of the sanctuary to practice greeting (e.g., firm handshake, eye contact, etc.) Then I watched the kids learn how to tackle the complexities of taking the offering – 4 sections 8 kids. Next came the scripture reading and prayer reading practice. Nearly every child, when handed the microphone, immediately tapped it several times, “bang-bang-bang” through the house speakers, before blowing into it with a juicy sounding pffttt…and then asked, “is it on?” It didn’t seem to matter that it was on less than 10 seconds before it was passed to them, or the fact that the poor sound guy at the back had responded for the 10-millionth time in a bored voice, “Yes, it’s on”! As the story was read, different kids took turns putting up flannel figures on the new flannelgraph board. Yes, you read that right! Flannelgraph boards have been a tool long used circles for the purpose of illustraing stories. They’ve been used for close to a century – long before instagram and pinterest – and they are still loved by sticky-fingered kids everywhere. After every segment, the Junior Highs, being a little too “cool” thought it was fun to do the long, slow clap.

I patiently sat through it all, watching these enthusiastic kids bouncing and chattering excitedly with each other, or in some cases, just chattering for the sake of adding to the confusion. The volume of voices inside were nearly swallowed the sound of the torrential rain outside. We never heard thunder, but the lights flashed on and off only once during the music practice. It caused the microphones to “pop” loudly and a few of the younger kids squealed. But the Pickleheads, our music team, played like pros and never missed a beat. I don’t know how they got that name, but the group consisted of two singers, 1 drummer, and 1 guitarist…and this time, me. Little Guy was very excited to be singing songs that he knew during the service. All the kids got to stand on the steps to the platform and lead the congregation both in singing and in the actions. Even the “na na hey!” He thought it was pretty cool that I got to join the Pickleheads, and called me the “old pickle”.

Well, this Old Pickle was excited to part of this Sunday service, excited to sing their songs, excited to encourage them to use their gifts. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity”[1]. I was blessed to have a few adults in my life who encouraged me to use my gifts when I was younger. They made me feel like I had a place in the community, and not just to grace the back pew until I was older. Or worse, that I was to be shuffled downstairs and kept out of sight, except on special occasions when I was paraded up to the front for a special appearance. It is so important to come alongside them, as well as to listen to them. I don`t know how much I taught the Pickleheads this weekend, but I learned a few things, including the fact that even though I’m getting older, I still very much have a place in the community. They did an amazing job and a number of people took the time to tell them so! I got high-fives! How cool is that?

1 New International Version Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.