Plan a Recognition Service That Celebrates Everyone

I remember recognition services where proud parents beamed as their children’s achievements were celebrated. Little boys squirmed and little girls smiled at the attention from the adults. Where did those days go?

Recognition services are out of sync with our sophistication today. But what have we lost? The entire church was enlivened by the simplicity, beauty, and joy on the faces of its children. Adults saw the fruit of their hard work and were encouraged. Those who worked with children and youth were celebrated and honored for their faithfulness. Children and teens felt as if they were part of the whole church and that their service to God mattered.

But what about the children with developmental challenges? How do they and their parents feel?

Our church was celebrating the end of the semester, before the holidays, with a special Sunday night service and fellowship time. The children had memorized their verses and made posters of their missions projects. They were excited and a little scared about Sunday night’s service. Their leaders were, too.

Then there was Johnny. His grandmother brought him to church every week. What could he do? He had done his best and we couldn’t leave him out of the service. His willingness to try hard and his grandmother’s faithfulness surely deserved recognition. But what could he do? Although we didn’t know it then, now we know that Johnny would have been diagnosed with autism.

Johnny was in my group of the youngest children. We had lots of fun that semester memorizing the books of the Bible and some verses. Johnny was right there in the middle of it all, happily sorting books of the Bible cards.

Sunday night came and my little group was ready, even Johnny. He was the last child to share his verse: “Jesus wept.” So did I. The church rose in applause and Johnny’s face beamed. He did it. He said his verse! His grandmother gave us both a big hug after the service. It was a priceless moment for Johnny and our church. We honored Jesus by honoring every child.

Make room for every child or teen in your recognition service, especially the developmentally challenged and those on the fringes. A recognition service recaptures the simple joy of celebrating what God is doing through your church. It can inspire, challenge, and encourage everyone to be more involved in God’s work.

 

Lucretia Mobbs enjoys serving her church today through English as a second language.

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