Kids & Church

I grew up in the church…as a pastor’s daughter….I go to church now as a pastor, but my siblings don’t ..but they might someday, who knows? I don’t think it was about whether they were in or out of church service, I think its about their beliefs and the problem of they aren’t sure how they feel and the church makes it out like “you shouldn’t go to church unless you believe/act/do exactly what we want”

I feel like that may be the answer for them, but for different people, the reasons are different.

Two blogs about children surfaced this week Sunday School is killing the church (which is really about the timing of Sunday School, altho the title makes our poor underpaid youth pastors even worse off)

and The Church Should Be the Thing that Backs Down

Both of these blogs actually are trying to address a larger issue

Which is Families are CRAZY busy!

 

I mean seriously, a parent used to stay at home with the children, one working person households used to be totally feasible, plus kids had more free time. Primary socialization for families (I mean the entire family , the parents and the children) used to happen at church.

Unless we change the economy (are you helping by justly paying your church workers? or asking them to only work the hrs they are paid for? If not your church is PART OF THE VERY PROBLEM YOUR COMPLAINING ABOUT) …….we need to look deeper.

Let me tell you something, almost every stay at home parent is one because they can’t get a job that will actually contribute to the family monetarily….i.e. childcare, work clothes, gas, etc. eats all their pay

Almost every person I know is being told to work harder (put in more hrs, be more available, don’t complain about anything ever) in their job (or risk losing it) with almost no prospects of moving up

Almost every person I know with children has more demands for homework and time than ever before…plus you are never supposed to let your child play out of your sight ever again (assuming you are a middle or upper class parent) because that is “bad parenting”

Want to know why parents put their kids in babysitting/Sunday School during church? They need a break

Some parents even send their children to Sunday School and don’t even bother going to church themselves (gee…what need is that signaling) More than once I’ve heard of a church with a “problem” with it being just used as a free babysitting service.

Why is it those activities that happen not on Sunday Morning are rarely attended by kids? Usually parents have some other activity they have to attend, like sports or family time or other things (I would say “How dare they” but I don’t think everyone would hear my sarcasm)

Its tough to be a family…

And the church offers very few family resources…almost nothing to parents about parenting, few things where the entire family will ENJOY the activity (note letting children come to something IS NOT the same thing as welcoming them)

Plus most church meetings are over bedtime, which makes it really hard for a parent to come unless they pay a babysitter…even onsite care won’t help to defeat bedtime. (as my colleague Ryan Timpte says)

Deeper issues

1. Families are busy

2. We treat children as a commodity

3. Families are rarely given truly family appropriate activities to join

4. Parents are tired

5. The Weekend doesn’t exist for most people (Saturday used to be a day off too, rarely is it)

Can we reclaim Sabbath? (do we know what that means to different people and how to build that?)

Can we work with families?

Can we support parents?

Can we help the economy and idea of overwork–even if its just in our own church environment?

Can we address these problems as opportunities….because until we do, we will continue to make claims of “such and such” killing the church. And as Katie Bombalurina Mulligan said

1. We are a resurrection people, so death is not an existential crisis for us or our institutions (easier said than realized, but yeah)

2. No one thing is “killing” the church

3. The church isn’t actually something that can die. It’s an institution that might end, but the people inside are what is living.

4. The articles are written with lazy generalizations (this too is a lazy generalization. back atcha).

5. There are so many different forms and ways of doing church. if you feel yours is unfaithful, go try some more ways. and then some more.

6. If we’re going to animate the church as a living entity, then the church is supposed to die, because nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky (~Kansas. or Ecclesiastes. Take your pick. Also, that rhymed.)“

Something to SERIOUSLY consider when discussing “those cutesy beings who are the future of the church”

or as I prefer to think of them “These children of God who have so much to contribute”

Children and Church!

Children and Church!

“Just tell me the Bible story.  I know it sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how complicated this can get.  Honestly, I don’t need gimmicks, flash, fluff.  If I want entertainment I’ll ask my parents to take me to the movies.  I don’t need a Vacation Bible School that “takes me on an Amazon expedition” or involves surfing, camping or clowns.  And please, don’t let some random B-rate Bible cartoon video do it for you.  I want you to tell me the Bible story. You. Me. The Bible. That’s it.”

To me Church is…

 

To me Church is like a Wedding, a Memorial and a Grand Opening, it’s like a party,

like a neighbor welcoming you in for cookies (fresh baked) and like a playground for children. It should feel like a space that can be sacred and quiet and joyful noise-y.

Church should feel like there is no “right” way to behave, just respect, love and mutual upbuilding. It should feel like a place to ask questions, to stumble and fall (figuratively and literally). It should feel active, alive and full of stories. It should feel imperfect and incomplete (because we all are), it should be rich in tradition yet lacking in all stuffiness. To me church’s should feel more like AA, College Ministries and

Children’s Museums. It should feel like birthdays and Christmases, Yoga and Meditation, Gardens and Sunsets. It should be full of music and laughter, whispers and wahoos, hugs and kisses. Every single door of the church should be wide open, it should be advertised on craigslist and facebook, there should be huge signs welcoming everyone thru the door, and it should be as easy for crawling babies to find a comfortable spot as those in wheelchairs or who have to pace constantly.

It should be a place to find surrogate grandparents, helpful aunts and uncles and annoying brothers and sisters….It should be a place where interruptions are welcome, surprises are a good thing and change is associated with growth! Church should be Home; at least that’s what it is for me.

“A Family Church”

What does it mean to be a family church?

It means that we are a church that welcomes families (come please, especially if there are a lot of you…) No, wait I’m pretty sure that’s not it…

What it means is that we are a family that happens to be a church. Sure we have our wacky cousins, and the siblings squabble a lot, but we are committed to meeting and talking on a regular basis, because we consider one another family..

That is what we are called to do!

Christ keeps urging us to love one another–in fact he argues that his joy is based on us loving each other (really? God didn’t create us to bicker?)…

“As the Father has loved me,(A) so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands,(B) you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.(C) 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you

…so if this is our command, than to be a “Christian Family” is to love one another as Christ loved us…in fact, in verse 15 Jesus calls us Philo–friends, or if you like brothers and sisters. We have become family with God and we all know its not nice to hit your siblings….

In an age where we talk so much about valuing “Christian Families” we seem to be much more focused on the DO NOTS than the DOs. And it strikes me as being nit-picky, it is easy for us to tear each other down, but a true friend knows how to build one another up…

And as a mother of 3 children, I tend to read the Parenting magazines, blogs and articles, but sometimes all the negatively leaves a sad taste in my mouth. Let’s stop harping on what I should worry about (I feel like I can worry just fine all by myself thank you) and think, plan and move towards what we SHOULD be doing instead.

So Christian Families, what should they do together?

Rule no. 1 Eat together, as often as possible. Science shows it helps with discipline, squabbling, eating disorder, and Eating is FUN. Its a great way to build relationships, (all you visitors who sneak out during coffee hour don’t think I don’t know what your afraid of, its that eating together means your accepting our hospitality, it means that we’ve reached you, and you don’t want to commit yet).

Rule no.2 When there is a fight going on, make a covenant to stop and pray whenever ANYONE requests it (and I mean immediately, so far every time I’ve requested prayer, people have wanted to argue more and then pray….see anything wrong with this?)…Pray together, because prayer refocuses us on love and God instead of letting the argument devolve into personal vendettas

Rule no. 3 Be gracious with time, whenever possible give families and congregations time to just be together–and don’t forget to get your party on. My professor Kenda Dean at Princeton Seminary said that we should “Party People into the Kingdom” and I wholeheartedly agree. We should give people time to celebrate and celebrate with them. This means that if we are part of corporations, churches and companies we should enjoy those commitments made to each other and God in spectacular ways (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-coffee/maternity-leave_b_1518412.html?ref=parents where family is put before work, and support is the model.

Rule no. 4 If you are worried about someone else’s relationships, its time to work on your own. To gossip about someone else is easy, to stand in confession about what we are aren’t good at ourselves is difficult. This is why we have to constantly confess the Good and the Bad about ourselves, owning our true selves, taking responsibility for our entire beings, and then turning that Complete self (the good and the bad) over to God. This is what confession is all about, and as we are not without sin, we would do well not only to avoid casting the first stone, but even worrying about other people’s sins. Let them stand in confession with God, and instead focus on our own relationships (and I’ll give you a hint, what bothers us about other people are often things that remind of our own faults, or what we could be on our not-so-good days).

Rule No. 5 Setting boundaries is a good thing. If you’ve ever dealt with a child you know that part of loving someone is setting up rules so that everyone stays safe (no hitting, no crossing the street by yourself etc.)…There is a whole sermon in here about the rationale of the 10 commandments but I cannot possibly address that here. However, it is important to know your limits, and to set reasonable boundaries with those you love about what you can and cannot do with them. Set limits, stick to them, and then offer up the ways you are available to love. Setting boundaries and keeping them are a good way to maintain a relationship (setting no boundaries is a good way to burn out, and dropping someone because you are unable to set limits sets up hurt). You can love someone and not allow victimization, triangulation or some other form of hurt by setting up good boundaries…

Last Rule (which is really the principle of the Rules in clever disguise) Love without Labels (see you never would have guessed that this is just saying Love one Another in a new way). I have heard the sentiment hate the sin love the sinner and I understand where it is coming from, but to me it is a human attempt at graciousness. One where we love someone, but are constantly seeing their sin as a label on their forehead. I love so and so EVEN THOUGH they are a…There is no even thoughs for Christ. Christ doesn’t say love one another even though you drive each other crazy–Christ doesn’t love us Even Though we are human, Jesus loves us for and because of who we are. None of us are complete on our own, and it takes love to connect us to the people who complete us. (We are like puzzle pieces, trying to fill each other’s holes, so that, as Christ says, our joy can be complete)

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If we followed this rules in our immediate family, and then did so with our congregation. What else can we do to be a Christian Family? How can we upbuild and maintain our relationships with one another???