And September 11 was also the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Thousands lost their lives in the assaults, as well as in the war that followed. It was most certainly a solemn day.
Getting ready for Roundup was difficult. I spent a good portion of the day assembling props that, for some reason, would not stay assembled. I attempted to scale a 12 foot ladder to hang some streamers, only to discover that my knee and my own lack of height would not allow me to go to the uppermost rung (hooray for a very tall high schooler who fastened the decorations for me). That evening, I went home to put together some video for the next morning, but my video camera was not working. The next morning (talk about last minute!) I discovered some songs that would be perfect, only to have another equipment malfunction ruin that idea. And as is the case every year, I didn't get to the church as early as I would have wanted.
Yet in spite of the obstacles and setbacks, Celebration Roundup went great. The kids sang. Some of our teens jumped in and led songs. We played games. We laughed. We talked about the coming year and where we would be in the Scripture. No question about it: we learned about Jesus and had tons of fun. All the hard work, all the preparation, and even all the setbacks were worth it. Roundup 2011 was a success.
But in the midst of it all, I was wondering if anybody would ask the question: should we be doing something as fun and light hearted as Roundup on such a day of deep solemnity and remembrance as 9-11? I imagined a gathering of leaders who would be asking how they planned to commemorate the attacks: a moment of silence, a sounding of bells, perhaps a solemn song? Our roomful of kids would be spending the time playing assorted games and dancing to upbeat music. How respectful is that?
For the record, we did have a moment during Roundup to talk about 9-11 and its significance. As I spoke to the children, many of whom were not even born on that terrible day, I emphasized that they live in a country where they are free to worship and that no matter how many things bring us down, we still live in a great country. And with a little boy holding the American flag and an older boy leading us, we said the Pledge of Allegiance and prayed for our country. It was a simple, but moving moment.
That brief "mini-devotion" on 9-11 was the reconciliation of any concerns about the appropriateness of the day. You see, I'm a children's pastor. I work with kids. And I sincerely want kids to be kids: to laugh, to sing, to dance, to praise with whole hearts. In short, I want them to "learn about Jesus and have tons of fun." But as I reflected on 9-11, there are groups and cultures where kids most decidedly do not learn about Jesus and do not have tons of fun. Some roadblocks are environmental or economic, but some are man-made, by those who want to teach their children early on how to kill and hate in the name of whatever belief they embrace. How unbelievably sad.
9-11 was a tragedy, but it would be worse if we allowed it to stop reaching kids as kids, if it would still one foot, or quiet one small voice from worshipping the Lord.