It has been called The Butterfly Effect. In the chaos theory of mathematics, a small change in a large system can have large effects later and elsewhere in the system. The idea is largely based on the work of Edward Lorenz who metaphorically theorized that the flutter of a butterfly’s wings could disrupt airflow in such a way that weeks later a tornado is spawned. In the sociological/psychological realm of systems theory, it is asserted that changing one part of a system affects other parts of the whole system. (Are you getting the feeling a small ‘change’ is about to occur at First Baptist?)
Beginning in January, our preschoolers—ages 4 and 5—will be attending the early portion of our worship service. These children have typically gone from Sunday School to Extended Session and then to Preschool Worship in the Chapel. They have had limited experience with the larger worshipping congregation until they are older. In this new system, Extended Session will be eliminated for them. They will go from Sunday School to worship, and then to Preschool Worship. They will be in the regular service through the children’s sermon. After the children’s sermon, we will share in a parting litany (Children: God be with you here. Congregation: God be with you there.), and they will exit to Preschool Worship.
This may feel like a small change—the flapping of a butterfly’s wing—but it will have immediate and long-term effects. We will obviously be adding some liturgical verbiage to our worship with the exiting litany. We will probably be adding a little more noise, movement and rambunctiousness to the early moments of worship. (Remember, Jesus welcomed the children! The scripture doesn’t say he told them to ‘sit down, be quiet, and behave;’ he just welcomed them.) This will further add to the community and diversity of our worship. We too often segregate ourselves in the life of the church; this brings us together. It will give our preschoolers an opportunity to experience God with us and allow us to experience God through their presence.
It’s the flap of a butterfly’s wing. I doubt it will spawn any tornadoes. (I’m not making promises—they are preschoolers.) I do believe, however, it will produce many positive changes in our experience of God and our experience of church community.