Children are often touted as the “future” of the church, but their role in the church today is less frequently considered. In The Gifts They Bring, New Testament scholar, pastor, and mother Amy Lindeman Allen challenges readers to reconsider the way we view children in the church, focusing on our present life together as a diverse, inclusive community of faith. To do this, Lindeman Allen looks to the past, rereading familiar Gospel accounts with an eye to the experience of childhood in Jesus’ world, highlighting both the gifts that children brought to Jesus’ ministry as well as those they received from him.
Through this lens, she invites readers to reconsider the age and relationship of well-known and lesser-known Bible characters, including the Bethlehem shepherds; James and John, the two disciples who followed Jesus alongside their mother; and the young boy whose lunch Jesus used to feed the five thousand. In the process, Lindeman Allen reconsiders ministry with children today, moving away from a transactional model of imparting wisdom to children to a dialogical model of learning and serving together with children. Each chapter reads a different Gospel story in conversation with experiences of real children in the church today, bringing into focus the varied gifts that children bring in a practice of inclusive ministry. These gifts include participation, proclamation, advocacy, listening, sharing, and partnership. Readers will grow more attuned to recognize the gifts that we each bring—children and adults—as essential members working together as one community in the body of Christ and so to share in the gift of Christ together.