Sunday, December 07, 2008
Children - an issue?
I read this (below) on a large church website today (ON ANOTHER CONTINENT - guess which one!) and it's making me very annoyed. It's part of a FAQ section on "joining small groups":
Is there childcare available?
Every group deals with this issue in its own way. Some of the groups go in together and make arrangements for a babysitter or take turns watching the children. Other groups require each participant to make their own arrangements.
Am I over-reacting to the use of the words "every group deals with this issue in its own way?"
Are children "an issue?"
Are they an inconvenience to how we "do church"?
Do they - annoyingly - require looking after in order that we may grow spiritually or make connections with other adults?
Is it not possible to make connections with other adults and grow spiritually when we have children with us?
Must we, the church, be childcare providers for those who come along to have their needs satisfied?
I'm VERY concerned about the Western cultural context which pushes children to the outside. We seem to place more value on material fulfillment, good money coming in to the home etc; than on fulfilling the spiritual needs of our families. I hope to post in the next few days on spiritual formation, which is what this blog has banged on about since its very first day.
I have said it before on this blog but I'm gonna say it again [...someone I respect hugely told me blogs were mainly full of hot air; with the same old thing being said over and over again. I'd like to prove his point]........we are not so different from Greco-Roman culture today - children are sometimes persona non grata in the church - send 'em off for education in their separate groups and let us debate and talk with our peers at the areopagus.
Then we'll go home from church, get our kids to watch a DVD so we can put our feet up, then later have a quick game of Wii sports with our child and tuck him/her up into bed. Perhaps I sound cynical. I like to think I am being honest as I have done all of the above!! Please note that I am not against DVD watching and game playing. I used this as an example only to prove the point that our busy lives spill over into the realm of our own spiritual development and that of our children's - we can't cope with our lives without things to distract our children and babysitters to help us enjoy fellowship. I walk the narrow path on this one and I have to be honest and humble about this.
However, I see a difference from sticking a DVD on to get some peace and quiet post-church, with getting together with other families where all might eat together, adults and children chat then adults chat and children go off to play together, using their imaginations or some creativity....this allows the development of social skills, being in community and also gives us some down-time from the hard task of raising children, for it is not always easy. But lots of families find getting out and going to church tiring and prefer to eat lunch and chill after church, rather than have their house messed up and their children running around in a gang of 4/6/8 getting excited.
Here are some of the things the Bible says about children:
• Children are a gift from God – God gives them to adults as a special sign of His love to us and as a means of personal fulfilment (Deut 7:13, Ps 127:3)
• Adults receive special blessings through their children. (Num 5:28, Deut 28:4, 11, Lam 4:2)
• Children are desirable. (Gen 9:7, Deut 6:3)
• To have a fruitful relationship with God, children must be taught to obey Him. (Prov 8:32, 19:26)
• Children are so valuable to God that He commands us to protect them (1Sam 20:42, Ezra 8:21)
• God wants to have a genuine relationship with His children – He describes how children may enter His presence and enjoy His company (Ps 8:2, 34:11, 103:13, Mal 2:15, Matt 21:15, Mark 10:13-16)
• God loves children enough to ensure they receive discipline. It is a reflection of His passion for a child’s well being.
. God enjoys the nature and personality of children – attributes such as sincerity, humility, naïveté, vulnerability and simplicity. He treasures these characteristics (Matt 18:3, 19:14, Phil 2:15)
. Children were so special that the Lord Jesus rebuked his closest friends when they stopped parents bringing their children to him to have him bless them.
He brought a child into the very centre and said "let the little children come to me, do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
Later this week I am going to post some personal thoughts and practices that I have led as a children and family pastor which counter this trend of "children at the edge". But be warned, it's not a simple list of "do this and do that" - reading it may cause some folks to freak out!
I led a seminar on this very issue to a truck-load of pastors. Lots of grey hair and splendid sweaters. And shaking heads as I spoke. Most unnerving. Or recently I went to speak at Another Church's training day and asked innocent questions about their leadership's view of children. Seemed to cause a bit of bother but in a good way (if that makes sense).
To tackle this head on is to be counter-cultural. Dare I say even - subversive???
if this post interestes you, please also see: children and family - a theological overview (my own!)