Wednesday, August 03, 2011
We try to make our programs fun, fresh and powerful so that a child will not become disruptive. We also use positive reinforcement and team competitions where points are awarded for good behaviour and deducted for innapropriate behaviour. In extreme circumstances a child may be placed back into the adult service with their parent. Parents will be notified of innapropriate behaviour (sic)."
Grrrrrrrrrrr. The above is an excerpt from a very large church website. One of the key members of this church, who founded the children's ministry programme in that place is speaking at an event in the UK. I'm afraid reading words like those above really put me off going. In fact, I don't really want to go (unless you, dear reader, talk me round!) because entirely separate churching of age groups to me isn't just a matter of taste, its about losing something of the discipleship culture we are meant to build and celebrate and show the world.
I'm disappointed and I'm tired of reading words like those above: "a child may be placed back in the ADULT service with their parent. Parents will be notified of inappropriate behaviour" (I've corrected the spelling).
Why am I so disappointed?
1. "adult service" - like the cinema classification system, are we soon to have:
"U cert" - everyone can attend this event, such as a church beach trip
"PG" - you can bring your offspring to this meeting, but if they barf or get freaked out by anything that happens, it's your responsibility.
"12" - your older primary children can probably handle this event, but you'd better be on hand, parents (e.g. Good Friday reflective service)
"15" - only for those in the yoof programme e.g. average length evening service
"18" - you'd better be grown up to have some longevity about you e.g. very long evening service, church business meetings, many church prayer meetings
2. I'm disappointed that the most extreme method of discipline is to put a child BACK in the adult service with the adults. Note the words: BACK IN.
So the message given out by this website is that the adults meeting with God equals a place of punishment for a child who is missing the excitement of the kids programme.
What does this say about the experience of being in the presence of God? I actually feel very strongly about this point in case you hadn't guessed. I have devised in the past a whole load of ways of working with children who are having behaviour issues at church; it nearly always comes out of one of two things: (a) we need to look at what we are teaching, how we are teaching it and who is teaching it and maybe make some changes or (b)things are not great at home in some way; a lack of boundaries, or there are worries, tensions, bullying, threats or abuse. I've been used to sitting with my colleagues and sharing pastorally so that I might be the lead person but we pray and support the family (and me) together, for we cared about each family represented in the church.
3. I'm also (as the regulars amongst you will know) disappointed with the term "adult service". I don't believe there is biblical precedent for it.
I favour the "part and part" approach with occasional but regular all-age incursions that we may all learn from each other and in one or other, or both the churches I have worked in, I have been liberated to do my thing, e.g. to model good pastoral care for families, kids and volunteers, to pioneer prayer meetings for all ages, large celebration meetings with everyone represented and intergenerational cell groups AS AN OPTION for those who wish to use them. Neither church has held adult-only everything (except of course the certificate 18 church business meetings!)
4. And finally, as if there wasn't enough here for you all to leave this blog and never return, I'm disappointed that this website makes no mention of the need to WORK WITH and SUPPORT parents. If a child isn't behaving, something is going on, as I said in point 2 above, I believe pastoral care and support is so important. They may just be tired or family circumstances might be causing a wobble (a parent out of work, for example) but it can be something more serious. Many years ago I worked with a boy who the team had to refer on to me for continual misbehaviour - it transpired that there was major stuff going on. As a church we offered support in a number of ways to the family and it was with great delight some years later I saw him be baptised. On a return visit to the church he hugged me and Mr HIWWC. Imagine if we had just sent him back into the "adult service"....(for his behaviour was extreme).
To be clear, I can and have sent for parents to come out of the service to support the team in serious cases but at the end I talk with the parent(s) and the child, pray with them, visit them at home if necessary and follow up. I always talk about how we have a God of second chances and how my love and care for them does not depend on their behaviour.
Rant over.......anyone with me at all?