Church: Where Children Fit

This week at theStory we spent some time talking about children and the role that they have in our community. It’s been something that lays heavily on our hearts because we don’t think that the church in general has been doing a very good job with them and we don’t think we are doing a very good job with them. As it stands right now, children on Sunday mornings are no more than babysat in another room. We want to get away from thinking that the important spiritual formation and the real ‘church’ is happening in the ‘main service’ and start actually looking at children as equal parts in the gathering.

I’m quite fascinated really how the church, since I have been noticing, has dealt and worked alongside of children. It’s basically the opposite of what Jesus has told us. Jesus says that we need to be like little children, yet every church program there is somehow manages to put children through a system to make them more like us. Jesus says that the secrets of the kingdom are given to little children, yet we run things as if we have secrets to tell them. He tells us that unless we change and become like children we will never enter the kingdom of heaven, but we’d rather discipline and make the children to ‘adult things’ at their own level. There is something that Jesus keeps bringing us back to in seeing something special in children, yet we seem to brush it off or use it as a sermon illustration instead.

I wrote a post a few days ago wondering what it would be like if children were considered more important than adults on a Sunday morning. What if church was about having the adults teach the children instead of getting the children out of the way so the adults could learn? I don’t think something like this could ever happen until we start to change our theology towards them. Unless we actually believe that they have something to offer a community besides ‘aw ain’t that cute’ moments then I have a feeling understanding the kingdom of God is going to be quite tough. Why do we think that a pastor has a better ‘understanding’ about the kingdom than a child? Why have we elevated teachers above children?

I am still struggling to see what this balance will look like. We’ll be meeting once a month with different people from theStory who are going to be part of involving the kids in what we are doing and involving us in what the kids are doing. So I am praying that out of this come a new understanding of children and what they can offer a church community.

7 Comments

  • these are great thoughts, but it sounds like you are trying to re-invent the wheel.

    maybe start by asking children their thoughts, or talk to people who had good church experiences in their youth.

  • I wonder if you are missing the point when Jesus said that we are to be like little children. If you believe that we should be investing our time into the children and not the adults then what do we do with Jesus who trained the 12, the 70 and the 120. What do we do with the Jesus who preached to the multitudes. I wonder if Jesus was trying to encourage us to see through the eyes of a child. To have an open mind to learn new things. To trust without reservation. To accept the word of God as it is rather than what we would like it to say, or even try to interpret what it says to fit our needs and wants. The most formulative years in the life of a child in developing thier concept of God is between the ages of 5 & 8. There are elements that I don’t want to have in my Christian Walk that exists in children. Selfishness, yet given the right training and role modeling, children can be wonderful examples of giving. Do we see our children as a burden and inconvenience, someones that we have to tolerate and endure, or do we see our children as opportunities that we have the privlege of investing in. For the most part, our children are a reflection of ourselves, especially of thier parents. Maybe the established church understands the need to provide for thier children good solid teaching that is at thier level and so they invest into the lives of those adults who have a burden for children to give them the tools they need to teach. One of the biggest influences in my life was my Sunday School teacher when I was going to Temple Baptist Church. I can’t say that I remember her lessons, but I remember her and her love for the Lord and the fact that she was there for me and others faithfully. When I graduated Bible College and started in the ministry, I went back to the church to find her and thank her. It wasn’t just what she said, but who she was. Her faith was a part of her everyday life.
    I wonder how much of our frustration with children and how to minister to them most effectively has to do with our own shortcomings as parents and adults. As you’ve said, it’s not about me, but about Him and how we can serve him more faithfully with the gifts and talents He has given.
    Food for thought.

  • Hey DVV
    Thanks for the comment.
    I want to be sure that people aren’t getting the impression that I’m saying training and pouring into adults isn’t important, I think it is. I think where my question lies is wondering if it should be important at the expense of kids.

    What I’m hoping to do is bring on an even balance here where kids are seen as important as adults and vice versa, instead of raising one up over the other. I think that’s exactly what Jesus was doing, he was siding on the marginalized constantly because by doing that he was leveling the playing field in exclaiming that children will inherit the kingdom of God. He’s not saying adults won’t.

    You said “I wonder how much of our frustration with children and how to minister to them most effectively has to do with our own shortcomings as parents and adults.” and I can’t help but agree.

    So really I think that these posts are probably fueled from a history of watching children be treated like second class citizens until they are old enough to experience ‘real church’ and now i’m trying to come to grips with what it would look like if we put them at the same level as us.

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  • hey nathan,
    just wanted to thank you for your thoughts on this. we had a mtg wed. night to discuss the same issue in our community. i printed off your two posts and read them to get our discussion going as you articulated well what we have been feeling as a church.
    thanks for putting it out there and struggling and dreaming for more.
    peace

  • love it nathan!

    I totally agree that we can learn SO much kids. I absolutely love my work with the kids. They teach me honesty, acceptance, wonder, love, forgiveness, laughter and appreciation for what we consider the “little things. They have nonjudgmental, open minds and bring me joy each day!!

    Look forward to hearing about your journey in meeting this balance because of course, there are adults out there with miles wonderful attributes and ideas to offer too!

  • hey nathan. this is good! i’m working as a youth pastor at a church and am having a hard time convincing the interim pastor that young people are just as important as fully developed adults. keep posting on this as you guys work through it!

    peace.

    jt

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