September 19, 2012

Church Planting With Generation Exhausted: #3 – Putting it to Bed

Sorry for the delay, I was catching up on some much needed sleep.  Anyway, the discussions I have had around the topic of how we deal with young children have been instructive/enlightening/torrid/confused/angry/frustrated/ecstatic.  So, in light of the range of opinions, here is a list of suggestions about how Generation Xhausted can proceed with church planting and not be completely overwhelmed by the question “What do we do with the kids?” (Suggestions in bold type – reflections in italics.). Not all of the offerings will promote church planting, but some common themes do come up.

1. Plant an Instant Megachurch. Completely impractical and impossible, but you can see why so many parents in their thirties go to megachurches.  There is a seamless connection between the world of school and the world of kids’ ministry megachurch style. The kids are safe (“Mrs Porter watches those kids like a hawk!”- Ed), the ministry leaders are competent, and the “show” is attractive and entertaining – just like everything else in their lives (apart from actual school – Ed).

2. Utilitarianism. Let’s face it, sometimes with a child to adult ratio of 1-1, the missional community in your lounge room approach may not always work.  What is the greatest good for the greatest number?  Sometimes, for the sake of the gospel, we may have to suck it in as the numbers of children reach critical mass, leave our preferences aside, and do what brings order out of chaos (which is, surprisingly, something St Paul actually likes in church, c.f. 1Cor7:35).  A well ordered kids’ ministry and a traditional approach that allows God’s Word to be proclaimed from a pulpit sounds like it just might work (surprise, surprise – Ed). 

3. Lower Your Expectations (at church). If your children need to sit in and learn to be a little bit quieter for half an hour, with the occasional “take-out-to-quieten-down”, whilst the older ones occupy themselves with – gasp – paper and colouring in, then so be it. Children are like puppies (not just for Christmas, messy, and able to be trained given some time and effort – Ed). Ironically this is also RAISING your expectations of your older children.  Expect questions on the drive home.

4. Raise Your Expectations (at home). If you do not consistently read the Bible, discuss it and pray as a family (five to ten minutes at night) then you are expecting the church to do what you yourselves do not value.  25-50 minutes a week of family devotions – even if snatched in the car on the way to work/school etc) is highly formative – more formative than any kids’ church ministry could ever be. Parents, don’t kid yourselves – TV, internet, church etc, have far less influence on your children than YOU do.  Is “Jesus-talk” central in your household?  If not, then no 50 minute gig on Sunday will compensate in the long run.

5. Leave Space for Serving. Something we are looking at is leaving a week free per month from actual lesson time in order to help our children to serve others.  Providence Church is committed to Three “Gs” – Gospel Telling, Gospel Deeds, Gospel Community (err, that’s actually one G and three other random things –  pernickety Ed). If it’s good enough for adults to serve as a Christian community (neighbourhood help etc), then so too our children.  We are about to embark on a project for our children in which we buy unprepped pine bedside tables and do a paint-job on them for the children of the local women’s refuge to take to their new homes.  Pink paint, sparkles and ponies for the girls , and anything superhero colour for the boys.  Having an adult supervise and chat with the kids while the prep that is a great opportunity to speak good things into their lives – and demonstrate patience with spilled paint.

6. Resist the Cultural Push to Place Children at the Centre. Jonathan Edwards said that whatever we idolise we will also demonise.  We have moved from the Victorian idea of “children being seen, but not heard”, to allowing their voice to be the loudest.   Advertising is way ahead of the curve on this one.  Whatever we end up doing with our children in church we should always allow the adults to set the agenda. Perhaps we need to form some sort of covenant of discipline in our groups that allow the leaders to discipline the children – YOUR children even!. Someone pointed out to me that schools do it all the time.  Kids have to learn to self-sooth, because if they don’t they won’t be able to do it as adults.  

 There is a heap more to say, but I am over it!

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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