Trust me, this is strictly G-rated. Several years ago, a colleague in ministry shared with me a cool Children's Time that I incorporated into the life of our church for a time. It's simple: give a kid a box and tell them to bring it back next week with something that reminds them of or makes them think of God. The only rules are that there are to be no creatures, living or dead, and nothing that can spoil between home and church. They bring the box, share the item during Children's Time, and the child and minister have a little conversation on the ways the item relates to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and/or the church.
What I love about this is that it encourages our children to begin to articulate their theology and to share something important to them with the other children (and the congregation). It's also an opportunity to dialogue with the minister about faith. I will say it's rather nice to not prepare a message, but to do a little theology-on-the-spot with our kids. My colleague once had a kid put in a Barbie-sized martini glass - which provided a chance to talk about the fun we can have when we follow Jesus.
Our box is a shoe-box, covered in paper that was spray-painted a nice copper color, and we'll probably continue to decorate it with stickers and such as time goes by. It was a great experience when we had several children in church, but when our children dwindled to two, I let "What's in the Box?" go for a while. But I kept the box. And now that we have at least eleven children associated with the church in one way or another, I knew it was time to bring it back.
Well, Abs got it first. Abs is a serious young thing, sincere and earnest and very intelligent. When she brought the box back to church this week, I was really excited to see what she had put in. It was a silver cross necklace, with little crystals imbedded in the cross. Given to her by her grandmother, it has quite a bit of sentimental value in addition to the obvious religious value. She said it reminded her of Jesus' death, and I pointed out it was also a sign of the resurrection (as it was not a crucifix). I also said that Jesus is the light of the world, and those crystals helped reflect that holy light into the world (Abs liked that). Finally, I asked if her grandmother's love, close to her heart, might help her remember God's love. She agreed it might. We all prayed, and then the kids went off to play.
Maybe you'll want to try this at your church. I suggest that if your church as 12 or fewer children (especially if there are multiple kids in one family) to do it monthly so families and kids don't get burned out, and so it will continue to be a "treat" for the kids. But if you have a lot of kids during children's time, maybe this is something you want to do weekly, to make sure everyone gets a turn in a timely manner. Also, a little "instant theology" is good for preachers and the church, and might be a good tradition to create.
Next month, at our church someone else gets the box. Will it be Sho-tee? The Diva? A kid I don't have a clever nickname for yet? You'll just have to wait and see. If you're in the area, summer worship is at 9:30am and you are most welcome to see this unfold live and in person!