Blessing the Children

It was the first Tuesday in September, the first day of school, the day to bless the children at AnchorPoint Christian School. As the opening chapel service was coming to an end, parents and grandparents, board members, teachers, and staff surrounded the children and pronounced a litany of God’s promises over them.

The tradition of blessing has deep roots in Scripture. God loves to bless his children. The very first thing God did after creating Adam and Eve was to bless them (Gen. 1:27-28). God blessed Noah and his sons (Gen. 9:1). When God called Abraham to father a nation, (Gen. 12:1), the very next thing God did was bless him (Gen. 12:2-3). After God called Moses to lead his people, God pulled Moses aside and said, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace’” (Num. 6:22-27).

In the Old Testament, Hebrew parents passed along God’s blessing to their children. Isaac blessed Jacob (Gen. 27:26-29, 39-40). Jacob blessed his sons and Joseph’s grandsons (Gen. 48-49). It is a tradition that continues today as Jewish parents pause on each Shabbat to verbally and intentionally bless their children as a part of their family worship.

In the New Testament, Jesus “took the children in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:14). And the apostle Paul reminds us that Christ “redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:13-14).

Blessing is a particularly biblical word. Blessing is of such high significance that it occurs in the first chapter of Scripture (Gen. 1:22), in the last chapter (Rev. 22:14) and over four hundred times in between.

The Hebrew word for blessing (barakah) means to “to bow,” or “to adore with bended knee.” And while this adoration makes perfect sense when we “bless” God, the amazing grace in this word is that the God who created us “adores” us enough to make promises, offer provision, extend protection, and provide a pathway back to him through his Son.

The Greek root words eulogia (Gal. 3:14) and makarios (cf. the Beatitudes, Gal. 4:15) are often translated as “blessing” in the New Testament. The later word underscores a sense of contentment, provision, and freedom from cares; the former word carries a sense of praise and plenty.

While only a child of God can fully experience “blessing,” the word has been hijacked by our culture. Twitter is full of examples: “I got 57 Facebook wall postings on my birthday! #blessed!;” “Strawberries at Trader Joe’s are half-price this week! #blessed!” Jessica Bennett, in her New York Times article “They Feel Blessed” (May 2, 2014) indicates that the word is the current way to brag about one’s accomplishments while pretending to be humble. That’s the antithesis of biblical blessing. It is time the family of God reclaims both the word and the practice.

A biblical blessing is

  • a declaration of God’s sovereignty—that God, and God alone, is Lord.
  • an assurance of God’s endless promises, abundant provision, and endless protection; all blessings ultimately emanate from the faithfulness of God.
  • a refresher course in God’s amazing grace; God’s blessings are never deserved or earned.
  • an unmerited gift that elevates the recipient to a place of significance.
  • an impartation of the supernatural power of God into our lives.
  • a feast of encouragement powerful enough to shape our destiny.
  • a declaration of unconditional acceptance and affirmation.
  • an affirmation that we are loved by God; we belong to our faithful Savior; we are children of the King.

So, as our gatherings for worship come to an end, a blessing is given; a blessing is received. This blessing, or “benediction” is a parting reminder of the sovereign God we have worshiped, of our elevation into God’s family because of his Son, and of God’s commitment to remain with us always and everywhere.

God’s blessing is a blessing worth receiving, and it is a blessing worth passing along.

The Blessing of the Children has been an annual event since AnchorPoint Christian School first opened its doors. This first chapel of the year serves as a template for future chapels and classroom blessings, for parental blessings at home around the table and before bed at night, and for developing an atmosphere of blessing among the staff and student body. We know that children, regardless of their age, tend to live into their expectations. And we long for every one of them to grow as a child of God.

Maybe we should all start blessing our children, and each other, more regularly.

The Blessing of the Children

(The blessings in bold type are spoken in unison by the adults in the group; promises indicated by the bullet points are read by individual parents and teachers around the circle.)

We bless you because you are special to your parents, to your teachers, to us, and most important, to Jesus!

We bless you with a safe environment to grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

We bless you with our prayers for God’s daily protection and provision.

We bless you with a heart for God that no matter where you are or what you do, you will always remember that God is your ultimate source and strength.

We bless you with all the promises of God written in his book, including. . .

  • “I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you . . . ” (Gen. 12:2-3)
  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)
  • “May goodness and love follow you all the days of your life; may you dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps. 23:6)
  • “As you hope in the Lord, may he renew your strength. May you soar on wings like eagles; run and not grow weary; walk and not be faint.” (Isa. 40:31)
  • “This is what the Lord says, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” (Jer. 6:16)
  • “I know the plans I have for you, declares the lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jer. 29:11-12)
  • “May God, whom you serve continually, rescue you.” (Dan. 6:16)
  • “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” (John 15:7)
  • “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
 (Rom. 15:13)
  • “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to us through Jesus Christ, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal. 3:14)
  • May the “fruit of His Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—be yours in Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 6:22-23)
  • “You have not been given the spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)
  • “May you grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

We bless you in Jesus’ name. We bless you because we love you and we believe in you! The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Num. 6:22-27)

Douglas Kamstra is a specialized transition pastor currently serving the Park Christian Reformed Church (Holland, Mich.), a spiritual director, and the spiritual advisor for the AnchorPoint Christian School board (Wyoming, Mich.).

Reformed Worship 120 © June 2016, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.