I'm reminded again today how important love is in Sunday school.
My Sunday experience is very busy. As each child arrives I make a connection with them, some I high five, some I hug, some I simply tell them how beautiful they are or notice their smile. Every child, every service, every week gets noticed by me. My teachers also make a concerted effort to notice every child in their care, but ultimately they may be too busy and I consider this my responsibility first and foremost.
Some of the adults in the building don't understand this mentality. They give me quizzical looks when I break away from a conversation to acknowledge a child, they are irritated when I will stop listening to them to listen to someone under ten, but I persist.
I also move through my classrooms during services to make connections with kids, tell them how smart they are, or ask them questions about their lives. At first my teachers were confused by my apparent lack of interest in them, but now they leave me to my job of connecting with kids and carry on with their own work.
When service is over and everyone is leaving, I give hugs, high fives, and tell kids that I will miss them. I also tell them that I love them. It is interesting to see the change in my students since I started telling them that I love them. Many more are running into my arms now when they see me. They are smiling shyly and saying, "I love you too," before they exit. But most importantly, they are coming back, to hear about God and his love for them. Without a connection to these kids, and without them knowing that they are entering a safe haven where they are cherished and loved, they may not want to come back. Above all, we are to love others, as God loves them, this is the next greatest commandment.