Last year, my wife and I began looking for a good pre-school for our four year old daughter. We looked into a number of different options, weighing the benefits of different programs. Ultimately, we decided to enroll her in a nearby private preschool that is operated by the local Grace Brethren Church, a Protestant denomination.
Pre-school has been a wonderful experience for her. She loves the classes, loves practicing her letters, reading and writing, making art, doing activities. She’s made good friends, and tells us stories about what she and her classmates do every day. She enjoys bringing cool things to school on Fridays for show and tell. Her classmates are nice, her teacher is great, and the school offers lots of fun programs — rodeo day and Halloween parties and gymnastics.
Once a week, the kids go to chapel. There, my daughter and the other students learn about Jesus, and sing songs, and listen to Bible stories. This has led to a few . . . changes.
First, frankly, she’s much more interested in Jesus than she was before. Our usual routine of Church meetings on Sunday, and intermittent scripture-study on weekdays, hadn’t really built a lot of enthusiasm for church topics in her. Now, though, she walks around the house singing songs about Jesus that she learned in preschool; she even teaches them to her brothers. Her favorite is a catchy little tune with the lyrics “Jesus is the Savior”:
“Jesus is the Savior / Jesus is God’s Son / Boys and girls sing joy to the world / He’s come for everyone.”
Second, prayer has become slightly different. She likes to give prayers that she learns in chapel. And so when it’s her turn to say family prayer, sometimes she’ll recite reverently, “Thank you Jesus, for the birds that sing. Thank you, Jesus, for everything.”
All of these changes seem fine. The school is respectful of the fact that the children have different beliefs, and the doctrine taught is basic Christianity — Jesus is the Savior — that is clearly compatible with church belief. (In fact, it’s light-years better than what our other kids learned in non-religious preschools: fighting and cuss words.) Her regular chapel attendance has even increased her interest in Primary and church in general. Her excitement about Jesus led her to give a great Primary talk a few weeks ago. She wrote the talk herself, and included many simple statements of faith; she ended it by singing “Jesus is the Savior.” None of these are changes that bother me.
The third main change came before Christmas, when we asked her what she wanted. Along with the usual list of toys, books, clothes, she had a particular request: She wanted a cross pendant. “Maybe it’s just because she sees her friends with them,” suggested my wife. Should we get our daughter a cross because of peer pressure, or style? We weren’t sure that was the best reason. But we also weren’t sure that was her reason, either. And so we asked, one day, “why do you want a cross?” And her reply was short and simple: “To remind me of Jesus.”
We bought her the necklace for Christmas.
A well-meaning Mormon relative gasped in shock at the idea, and asked in concerned tone, “do you know what that represents?” And we replied, “it represents what she wants it to represent, and for her, it represents Jesus.”
Sure, I’ve heard the anti-Cross rhetoric before in various Seminary and Sunday School lessons. I’ve been told that crosses are bad; that they celebrate Christ’s death rather than His life; that they are “inharmonious” with proper worship, and on and on. This time, I’m not buying it.
For my daughter, her necklace is simple — it’s a reminder of Jesus, a simple and personal reminder that she can wear daily. As a parent, I’m happy to have been blessed with a daughter who already actively seeks out reminders of Jesus. I see no good reason to stand in her way.