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The View from a Seven-year-old Churchgoer


Juliana Payne is a seven-year-old rising second grader at Niles Adventist School and attends the Niles Westside Seventh-day Adventist Church, just south of Berrien Springs, Michigan, where Andrews University is located. Last week, we had a FaceTime conversation about Sabbath School, science experiments, Bible stories, and more. 

Question: What do you enjoy about Sabbath School? 

Answer: I like the lesson, and I like the coloring and the nature table. And I like everything else, too. 

What do you do at the nature table?

We do activities and we color and we do nature stuff. (We don’t do all those things in one day—sometimes coloring, sometimes science, and sometimes nature.)

And what do you like most about Sabbath School?

Science experiments—and church.

Tell me about one science experiment you did.

We put some liquids on an old pan, and we let them run down and saw which was the fastest. 

Which was the fastest?

I think maybe mustard.

What do you really, really like about your church?

I like snacks and I like reading and I like the children’s story and the sermon. And I like the pews and the way the air conditioning makes my breath fog up sometimes. And I like the pulpit. I basically like everything in church.

Do you listen to the sermon?

Not usually.

But recently I listened to one about Jonah. And there was one about Mary bringing the perfume. It was a great sermon. He [the visiting pastor from a local regional conference] was some preacher.

Are there things that you think would make church more interesting?

Maybe more Bible quizzes for the adults. I would ask them hard questions. And maybe they could tell Bible jokes and play Bible games. That would make it not as boring as a sermon. And I would maybe put in a lost-tooth department. [Juliana shows off her gap in the bottom row.]

Do you talk to the other kids in your church?

Not usually. The other kids in the pew are usually far away.

I actually meant to ask whether you talk to them before church starts or afterward?


Do you talk to the grownups?

Yes. I say hi and I ask them questions sometimes.

Do you feel like the adults in your church treat kids seriously?


What is one thing you learned in Sabbath School or church recently?

I learned that Africa is smaller than Canada, but it has more people.

[Juliana’s mother interjects that perhaps the teacher was talking about the country of Nigeria specifically, rather than the whole continent of Africa.]

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to go in the woods and go to Australia, and I want to own horses.

Are you going to have a job?

Probably. I would like to help with horses and forest animals and stuff.

[Juliana’s four-year-old brother interjects: "I want to drive a big pick-up truck."]

What is your favorite Bible story?

The crucifixion and the resurrection. 


Because Jesus died on the cross. And because he rose again and lots of happy stuff happened. 

I also really like the story of Jonah and the whale. Because the whale swallowed him up and because of all the other stuff. Do you know that this still happens? Once when some sailors were rescued one was missing, but they caught a whale and cut it open and he was in there, and he was still alive.

What are you most looking forward to about heaven?

I’ll get to see people again. And I think that I will be able to bombard Jesus with lots of questions that no one here can answer. Like how does the universe stretch forever, and how does God live forever? And did God create himself?

How do you think the Adventist church is different than other churches?

Probably I know that there are Adventist churches and non-Adventist churches, that are in different churches. But I don’t think I have ever been to another one. 

Do you think they might believe different things?

They might think that people who die go to heaven immediately.

What songs do you like to sing?

Deep and Wide, and We Are Soldiers and other stuff.

Do you have your own Bible?

Yes. [Juliana runs to get her Bible to show it to me. It’s The Remnant Young Scholar Study Bible, New King James version.] It’s pink.

Have you read it?

In January we started reading the Bible in a year. We started reading through Genesis, but I wanted to skip some parts. Now we usually read the story that is the lesson for that week.

Or I open it up and choose random verses to read. 

Is there anything else you want to tell me about your church?

One thing I love at our church is that some weeks, between Sabbath school and church, we can go to the church library and pick out books. It’s a huge library with a huge children’s section. I like Miss Brenda’s Bedtime Stories.

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