It is time to be realisitc in our expectations concerning our ministry to children. Here are some of the shortcuts, all of which in themselves are fine, but cannot deliver on the unrealistically high expectations of parents and many church goers.
Children’s Church is not a magic cure for worldliness; there is no Scriptural command where God promises that your children will be on fire for Him if you send them. Children’s Church can be a blessing if used properly, but we cannot expect a weekly session on ‘being kind’ or the story of ‘David and Goliath’ to somehow combat everything the children have learned in school; no matter how dynamic the workers. They cannot be expected to download a proper worldview, correct presuppositions, genuine interpretations of Scripture, a living experience of the risen Christ in an hour, including a break for drink and biscuits; that expectation is to say the least, unfair and totally unrealistic.
If children’s church was enough then our congregations would be bursting, because we have done Sunday School for over a hundred years, and we have had a lot of children in that time.
Listening to Sermons
Some people think that if you make children listen to sermons, they will somehow go on with God; this is the same magic mentality we have with children’s church. The thing is, I have preached hundreds, if not thousands of sermons, and I have seen how children handle them (similar to adults really). Left to their own devices they ignore, play or play up. With encouragement (bribery, threats etc.) they can be made to sit still and even take notes; the problem with this is that we are conditioning them on church behaviour, which is quite different from being a disciple.
Sermons can help people who are already inspired to grow, but understand that for real growth the teaching must be outworked in the flames of daily living whilst the cross works its power in us.
“Ahh, how I loathe the smell of legalism in the morning”. Whilst proper discipline is a vital ingredient in the proper development of a child, never confuse that with mere rules or even laws. God is a relational person; disciples grow in the soil of relationship with God and one another. Simply laying down the law doesn’t work; after all, not even the law of God Himself could save us, so why would we think that our petty definition of righteous living would convert our children? I have seen many a parent mourn as they see their children abandon the rules of their homes in favour of the world; why? Simply put, the law according to Mum and Dad hasn’t got a chance against the might of the school system and the rules of survival in the playground.
Christian Youth Group
This is yet another example of our belief in Christian magic. “If I send my child to the church youth group, then they will follow Jesus.” Maybe the anointing in the pool table or the prophetic power of cheap carbonated drinks will wash their minds in the truth of Jesus Christ? Too sarcastic? I don’t know, because the faith I have seen some people have in youth groups is almost cult like. If the culture of the group is governed mainly by the children their mind set won’t be threatened. If their mindset is challenged by the leaders, they have an immense task because the next day the world system will be undoing it all.
Youth groups can be a helpful and enjoyable part of a childs upbringing, but make no mistake; on its own, it isn’t enough.
Lots and Lots of Meetings
Here we have the christian magic mentality believeing that there is some mysterious power in the church building, or that with God’s presence around them the children will come into discipleship by osmosis. However, we still face the same problem, we are simply outgunned by the system. Three midweek meetings to a tired and bored child may condition, but it will rarely convert. I have seen children want universities away from home so that they can escape the overly churched culture of their homes; and some of them were believers.
What does God say?
I think God uses what we would call immersion training. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9. The picture we have here is of a community that is agreed and focused on who God is and what He has said. The children would hear the same story where ever they were; in the fields or at the table, with the rabbi or with the family. The result would be a congruent world view, their home, work, worship and recreation would all be in agreement with each other. Our children are no different; make no mistake, a child’s education defines his or her life. They will be defined by secular humanism or the knowledge of God; we have to decide which one we will allow our children to be immersed in.
My friend’s kids went through school and are serving God.
Brilliant! There are those few who make it. Is it outstanding parenting, the makeup of the child, both? I don’t know; but this doesn’t do away with the fact that between 80% & 90% of our children have gone by the time they finish their education. We cannot base our decisions on the success of the minority; it is essential that we come up with solutions that assist everyone.
My experience of God has taught me that He rarely gives the details up front; He tells you to do something and then as you go He reveals what is next. I would encourage parents and leaders to make the decision to educate their children in line with heavens policies and not the government’s. Once that decision is made the next step (which will probably be impossible) will become clear.
Go well 🙂