Friday, January 30, 2009

Children and Communion

As you will know if you are a regular reader, I am now entering my sixth month on staff in a church Somewhere in Scotland, having left behind Another Place where I worshipped for a very long time and was a staff member for a few years.

The lovely people I work with here are no doubt used to Lynn's plaintive "why not...?" or "why don't I/we....?"

And so after the obligatory "let it settle" a.k.a. "Keep Quiet" three months I kinda wondered if all age communion was a possibility. Never being one to keep quiet for all that long, I asked when I could do this. I think there's a moral here. Children's pastors can be very annoying.

As in my last place, I am blessed here with a senior pastor who is very freeing (as long as you're (a) not in heresy and (b) open to his right to veto and (c) be kind by providing chocolate from time to time, you can exercise leadership in your area of responsibility.)

Communion with children present was something I was used to doing; not every time we celebrated communion but certainly twice a year in corporate worship. It's with amazement as I reflect on the past week that I realised I wrote about this almost exactly one year ago - please see
particularly for a link to the very helpful questions posed by Stuart Murray Williams on children and communion.

I also find myself thinking back to Calvin (gasp, from those who know me) and to his "marks of the church" - I do agree that a mark of the church, is the regular celebration of the sacraments, and - to be honest - it irks me should a very large proportion (I'm dealing with three figures worth) of the congregation don't get to even SEE communion or baptism, unless they come to an evening service.

So thanks to The State That I Am In for his very honest reflection on what it was like for him as a parent preparing his child for what I planned to do on Sunday. What he has posted gladdens my heart as I yearn for parents to interact as faithfully as he and his wife did so sensitively with their precious children. He talks of how his daughter said "yes, I love Jesus" - demonstrating that "even" a young child is capable of understanding the sacrifice made by him. Sure, long discussions about blood are not necessary or appropriate to a child at the affiliative stage of faith development, but didn't Jesus himself say that things of the kingdom were understandable by the very young? Do we need to rediscover simplicity? Do we need to re-learn that the complicated, weighty, learned strategising that we do in so many areas of our lives are not necessarily "kingdom"?

His teaching was beautiful in its simplicity, pictoral in its parables and understandable to his listeners. I love him so much for his ability to bring accessibility to kingdom things before the word accessibility became politically correct.............

What does your church do with regard to children and communion?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Children and Prayer and I'm off to a Conference!!

I ran a training morning today on "praying with and for children".

I did a little recap on Westerhoff's stages of faith development, in order that we might think a little bit about the type of language we use when we pray with and for children. I think a number of us realised that we can easily "get stuck" when teaching children how to pray by:-

(a) thinking that we actually know all the answers about how to pray (!)
(b) "dumbing down" prayer with children
(c) holding children back to one stage of praying "thank you" prayers, for example; when actually some children may be ready to learn about intercession
(d) holding children back by teaching about prayer when we have limited expectancy ourselves.

Ivy Beckwith, in her book Postmodern Children's Ministry, speaks about the difference between Baby Boomers/Busters and Millenials - basically - what has been our practice in the past doesn't cut it for the future - something is afoot within the younger generations; no longer is passive acceptance of the status quo acceptable - nor desirable!

Beckwith states that children born since the year 2000 are seeking an experiential relationship with God. We looked this morning at "phileo" love - demonstrated natural affection, which God shows to his children; and we looked at the place of prayer in young lives which seek to (need to?) know the demonstrated affection of God. I challenged folks to think about how our own practice and experience of prayer can be challenged to the core when we hear children pray (which could be why we reign it in at times??)

She says (on page 31) "they want to experience something before they learn about it. They want to experience God, not just learn about God. They want mystery and mysticism. They don't just want to be entertained".

[glad about that last line. I hate puppets]

Here are some steps on how to move children on in prayer. Steps 1 to 5 are suggestions by John and Chris Leach, in "And For Your Children".

Step 6 is my own suggestion.

Step 1 – leader does everything – chooses a prayer subject, prays about it and says “amen” at the end. Subjects need to be simple and relevant, linked to the teaching. The leader models short jargon-free prayers. Eventually the children join in with “amen”.

Step 2 – the children repeat prayers phrase by phrase with the leader.

Step 3 – the children are asked to suggest items for prayer, then back to step 2.

Step 4 – children suggest items for prayer and the leader suggests how they might pray. This could be a set formula like “dear Lord, please look after ________ this week. Amen.”

Step 5 – Children think of an issue and pray out loud.

Step 6 – (my suggestion/practice) – children lay hands on one another and pray simple prayers for them, are able to deliver words and pictures, and ask God to intervene in situations. Their boldness grows the more they practise this.

I'm off to Englandshire on Monday to a three day conference with these folks. Specially for children's pastors/leaders. Can't wait! Will report back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fried Laptop

My laptop, my primary means of communication died today. Our lovely shiny "go faster" PC remains in our second home [status:empty but longing for happy inhabitants], so I am somewhat computer-less.

A Specialist in a Black Suit from the church's IT support company came to take it away, saying that it was.... "making clunking noises, which isn't good."

You don't say.

Clunking noises!?! CLUNKING NOISES? What do we pay this company for?
Certainly not for up to the minute technical diagnoses - I could have got a better description from my techy friend TalkRhubarb!

Why did the hard drive fry?

Some suggestions:
* the singing pastor sang over it?
* it realised how much a children and family pastor has to do and gave up trying to process all the computery demands?
* it doesn't like January either?
* it REALLY didn't like the database management training it was put through this week?
* it doesn't like being carried about from church service to church service (we operate two buildings that I dash between)
* it dealt with one media file to many? (c'mon though: Millenials are the visual generation!)
* it suffered from Mac-envy and realised it could never compete?
* my little friend with the fart machine got his hands on it? (see last post!)

Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas and New Year Children's Pastor Reflections

I have had my first Christmas and New Year here.
So different in so many ways but not in others - I'm a creature of habit, bringing some ideas from last place to this place - for example, by ditching Santa and cheap-ish presents for childrens' Christmas party in favour of a couple of hours at a soft play centre, with opportunities for parents to mingle and chat. (Do kids really need another soft toy? I think they prefer playing with one another, laughing, running about and eating!)

And of course a children/family pastor anywhere in the world has to incorporate the Nativity into a worship service. So, with the help of a seasoned thesp who is an expert in working with children (she writes assemblies and books on leading assemblies!), we put together a short nativity that involved every one of the children in some way.

My favourite moments were the escaping angel Gabriel (who loved Mary and Joseph so much that they were followed on their journey to Bethlehem) and the puking wise man. Actually, puking in a small confined space and then continuing to be sick all the way out the door, in front of the senior pastor's shoes and on my folder.

A couple of days later I managed to present my first ever Christingle service. Not being a paid up Angligang I had no idea what the legend/myth/lie behind the orange/candle combo was and an internet search provided me with three possible stories. I plumped for one that sounded like the one the Senior Pastor used last year and allegedly I sounded convinced. Hope it was true, don't want to think that I lied in church!!!

Although one of the kids team had commented to me that Christingle was a waste of good oranges I have to admit that it was very moving to look out and see a sea of candles held by quite a lot of wee hands. I even resurrected the song "Shine Jesus Shine" - works well with flame and under 7s.

I enjoyed the Christmas Day service very much too - highlights were introducing the toys that had been brought including the fart machine - and realising in dismay that that SP was linking each toy into some facet of the Christmas story (this scooter reminds us that M and J made a journey etc) - in my last church pastors on "look-at-the-toys" duty played with the toys and had a laugh! - so I was left with a mic and a small boy (whose dad will be reading this) introducing the congregation to his fart machine.

Errr, yes......