Thursday, May 27, 2010

Third Time's a Charm

Argument Starter: How much focus does it take to worship?

The kids. What do we do with the kids? Did you know nursery and childcare facilities and staff are what draws many, many families to church? And if the parents find a church community below their expectations, they often leave.

Here's how this generally goes down on Sunday:

"Here's your class, kids! Have fun! Oh, I'm sure it will be fun, look who else is here! It's SuzyQ, and isn't her dress so cute?! No, you don't want to come with me, it would be so boring for you. You can do Big Church when you're bigger. This is fine, it will be fine, it'll even be fun if you try a little. No, you cannot have your DS. Put it back in my purse. PUT IT BACK in my purse, you can have it on the way home.....Did you like Children's Church? Did you have fun? What did you do? I said when we get in the car!"

Next comes the great nursery drop off.

"She needs a bottle, a paci and her blankie in order to walk across the room. She will only cry if you put her down. Please don't feed her. Last time she choked on the Cheerios because she's only used to organic food....if you could be really nurturing and motherly to her, but also consistent with sharing and definitely make her sit in the corner if she bites someone again. Is there someone who could just kind of follow her around? It would make me feel so much better. Thanks. Have fun little Sweety! Oh, she's starting to cry. You'll take care of this right?.....Did that woman just wiped my kid's nose without washing her hands? Did they change her diaper? Why did they change her diaper? It was barely wet!"

But what about tweens?

"Hi, this is Leonard Jr. He goes by Lenny. Do ya'll have adult supervision at ALL times? Is there any way you could keep a fire extinguisher close? He has a little history with fire issues...I'm pretty sure it's because we never went camping when he was younger. Anyway, um...are you going to do some games or do you have donuts....? Oh, good! You have video games, because our last church wanted the kids to interact with each other and the adults, and we found that created some interpersonal conflict. This is so great! Lenny, it looks like you'll fit right in here."

And while I don't have a teenager, I remember being a teenager and I'm pretty sure the following conversation may be the most verbatim.

"Mom, I don't want to sit with you guys. All of my friends sit together. No, they don't want to sit with my family, that'd just be weird. We listen. Really!! We do. Gosh, I just don't get the big deal? Why does it matter where we sit or who we sit with or whose hand we're holding during church? We're there to worship God! Why are you watching us anyway? And usually we only start holding hands during the prayer time. Thanks. And afterwards a bunch of us want to go to hang out. Well, of course in cars, where else would we sit? (this was back when there was no indoor seating at the local DQ, anybody remember that?) Great, so I'll see you at church and I'll be home by 10:00."

Whew. Glad that's over.

Can somebody PLEASE give me some good reasons for seperating by age on Sunday morning? When did this start? Whose idea was it? Why did we go along with it? Here are the reasons I've heard.

Children are:
too young
not well behaved

need a break
need time to focus on God
don't know what to do about communion
think subject matter is too deep/heavy/PG 13

want to worship, not be distracted by kids
need to feel welcomed
aren't used to little kids around
like it quiet when they worship

I have an answer for all of those. All.of.them. This doesn't surprise you, does it? But that might get a little tedious. If you beg, I might share more, but here I'm gonna lump together some of the biggies:

Children are distracting, disruptive, & noisy.
Yes, they are. So what!? When did worshiping as group of people who love God become something un-distractable, un-disruptable and decidedly quiet?

Worship does take focus. Focus on the Creator of all. Focus on what He's done. Focus on who He is. Children are a great big part of what God's done and who He is.

Being able to worship God and take care of the needs of snotty-nosed, noisy children does take a level of patience and understanding. But that level is bottom-ground believer's faith. This is not one of those "have to mature into it" kind of issues. This is people are more important than things. Others are more important than self. God is not waiting for the children to be quiet so we can worship him.  He's not!  Have you asked Him?

I don't understand the rationale behind asking other adults to facilitate "Kids Worship" because the kids might interrupt my worship of God .  What kind of value does that place on the adult facilitators? On Sundays at church as well as every other day of the week, I’m modeling worship for my kids.  And modeling it for the other kids and adults around me. If you watch my life and don't see and hear worship, shame on me.  If you watch me on Sunday morning, you’ll see me sing, pray, raise my hands, bend down and correct my son who is kicking the seat in front of him, and go right back to raising my hands and singing my heart out.  Am I less of a worshiper because I had something else to do at that moment? Am I less authentic or more authentic because I welcome the cost of distraction in order to gain the goal of kids who know their mom loves God and wants them to worship Him too?

Children are too young, uninterested & not well behaved
Too young? When do they become old enough to worship? Can my child worship in the nursery? Can she worship? Does she think? Can she think about her creator being so fresh from creation?
 When will we let her prove her worthiness to worship with the rest of believers? Have I proved my worthiness to do so? Because there are loads and loads of folks who would say I'm seriously disruptive!

What about in the preschool room? In the K-2nd class?  In Kid's Church? Are they worshiping there? Are we telling them to worship there?  I don't know. 

I'm with them on the uninterested part.  Sometimes it's really hard to be interested in worship. Especially when I'm self focused and waiting to see what's in this worship service for me. Have we taught our children that worship is about God? About bringing something to God? Providing something for God? So us big people tend to hind our disinterestedness.  It's not any more holy just because it's quiet. Knowing God intimately breeds interest. In adults and children.

Children are not well behaved.  Shame on us.  Seriously, seriously shame on us.  Children are not new to creation. Their issues are not new to creation. Their schemes and tactics and disobedience are not new to creation. If we, as believers, take responsibility to teach our own children and to teach other parents how to teach their children according to principles in the Bible instead of pop culture, this shouldn't be a problem for long.  But somehow it's really hard for a parent who has a child who disobeys to take responsibility for it as their problem. And stuffing all the kids away from the eyes of the whole group of believers does a disservice to those parents. Because we have people who have done this. Who can help. Who can teach.

Ok, guys, I don't have time today for the other areas.  Sheesh! I got on a roll there. Oh, well, maybe tomorrow if this post doesn't stir up enough arguing.

p.s. Sometimes my kids go to the nursery. Sometimes my kids go to Children's Church, everyone once in a while even Sunday School. What I've seen there are adults who genuinely care about my kids and teach them from the Bible and pray for them. For all of that I'm truly thankful. This argument is in no way aimed at the integrity, effectiveness or motivation of people who serve children.I love those people! It's aimed at figuring out if worship of God could be done better if we did it altogether.


Karen Robinson said...

I know that some of my strongest memories of Church as a grade school kid involve everyone being together from 3 years on up, and the witness of those much older than me. They made a significant impression on me. There is probably no one answer, but I love for families to worship together whenever possible.

Edward and Gretchen said...

It Starts with you and me

To answer your question I reply with this, start with yourself. I realize I can’t change the multi-billion dollar business of the contemporary church, but I can change myself. I can change the way I think about church, family, and worship. I can teach and train my children a different way. I am desperately trying not to marginalize my children, but teach and train them to think Biblically. How you ask? Well that means I have to begin to think and act Biblically. This is caught not taught and until my kids see me acting and living by faith won’t. I am constantly shocked when I hear parents talk about their kids like they are little diseases. We have only four kids, but when I tell people at school or work about my kids they frequently make comments like, “Oh my gosh, how do you do it?” or “I only had one and can’t handle even thinking about another child to take care of, so I got “fixed”. Fixed????? Like God made you broke and then you had to rush to the doctor and get snipped to be made well?? No what is broken is not our nether regions, but rather the church’s view of family. If you only had the Bible to base your concept of children and family, which do you think you would conclude: Children are a nuisance and that you should limit your exposure to one or maybe two of the little leaches so they don’t suck all the life, joy, resources, and free time from your life. That once you have had your couple little bundles of joy rush to the Dr to get fixed. OR That life is a gift and children are and inheritance from God. They are given to disciple and enjoy until they are sent like arrows in the hands of a warrior to change and impact the world for Christ. That we invest our very best into them and anticipate their greatness. HMMM, I wonder. Life or death, gift or curse (remember fixing the disease of fertility by getting fixed).

So what do you do? Stop the fifty billion activities that rob your time and invest in your own family. Yes, I said your own family. Not reading what someone else ate for dinner on their Facebook page or who they are hanging out with this weekend. Stop living vicariously through others and live your own life. Second, if you go to a church that has you so busy and frazzled that you are left empty, OR you check your kids at the door so that they don’t interrupt the real service/worship, OR the Bible is only slightly referenced during the 28.5 minute sermonette, then find a new church. If a business owner purchased services from a vendor who consistently did not deliver and in fact was failing 80 percent of the time, it would be insane to continue to do business with them. Yet that is what we do in the church world. Churches are failing to deliver the goods and few are changing course. So find another church. If there isn’t one close then drive a bit. If you still can’t find one the pray that God will connect you with several like minded families and start worshiping together at home.

I have studied the Humanist Manifesto I and II and the origins of the feminist movement. One thing they saw as an obstacle to the success of their movement was...... a strong traditional family. To change the culture they knew they must weaken families. And so they have. And the church has gotten sucked in right alongside. To change we have to begin to think generationally and disciple our kids to be influencers not followers. I love homeschooling because it allows me to be around radical people who are willing to do things a little different. I believe God is using people who are willing to say no to the status quo and return to God in the area of family.

So the bottom line, change starts with you and me. We must be the ones who say no more faking it and be real.

Edward and Gretchen said...

So I must confess I had not read this post before writing my reply last night which was really a reply to part 2. That being said, I love your thoughts here.

I think we age segregate kids because we are following alongside the governmental system of education. How is this method of education working, just a thought? And while this may seem logical at first glance it doesn’t seem to be in line which what scripture has to say about the older teaching, training, and discipling the younger. While by separating kids out of the adult service we may create a more pleasant experience for the “its all about me” worshiper, we miss a wonderful opportunity to share a very intimate and bonding experience with our children. We marginalize our kids by saying you stay here so I can have a free babysitter for the next hour or so and be undisturbed.

While I initially disagreed with your position that worship is centered around music, I really appreciate your putting out a thought provoking challenge as to why we do what we do. In the counseling world there is a concept that I hold to that says much of what we do is based on automatic thought and response. That is, we assimilate information and act on it based on social factors. So we build a database of subconscious information from cultural norms and what others think and say and then we act. The problem is we often don’t challenge these actions because we are not even aware of their presence. So when someone or something comes along that challenges these assumptions we have an opportunity to change our actions based on intentional thought. My challenge is to live deliberately and if the Bible is important to you then stop relying on accepted norms to determine how you act . Ask why, why do it think, feel, and act this way. As Christians our conscious needs to be bound to scripture.

Ginger said...

I assume that was Ed. I agree. Churches segregate by age because we're following the government system of education.
So, have you recently read Family Driven Faith or what's up? This sounds fabulous!

Edward and Gretchen said...

Not read the book. Have heard Voddie speak and really like his perspective on family. Wish there were more pastors like him. His church is a great example of what can happen with a willingness to do church different than a seeker oriented church. This message has been stirring in my heart and mind the past year or so. The birth of Amelia, our church environment at Grace, and personal study of Genesis 1-12 has affected my world view. Praying and seeking with an open mind specifically questioning what God has for our family.


Ginger said...

Sorry. I was unclear. I was asking Jody if she'd read the book.

Ginger said...

Also, Ed, I have it to loan if you're interested. :D

Ginger said...

Thinking more about this. The reality is: We want children in children's church for totally selfish reasons. We can make it sound pretty by saying we want to focus our attention on God and not on our children, but the truth is we just don't want to be bothered by the gifts God has given us because we're busy focusing on the Giver. Huh???
The bottom line is: Discipling our children is OUR responsibility. We can't just pass that off to some volunteer. Deut 6:6-9 says nothing of delegating our God-given authority. It is my job to tell them of Christ when they rise up, when they lie down, and when we walk along the road. That's ALL THE TIME!
We have been lied to. We have been deceived into thinking just the way the world thinks. That children are a burden and we have better things to do than care for their needs. When I wipe my kids' nose in the middle of worship, I am serving God and thus worshiping Him. When I get up out of church to take my child to the bathroom, I am serving the blessing that God gave me and thus worshiping Him. Taking care of our children, the blessings God has given us, IS worship!

Jody said...

Ginger, I have not read Voddie Baucham's book. Is he stealing my ideas again?! :) But I am reading my Bible. Maybe he's reading it, too. :)

"What's up?" is that we're in the middle of a 4 week study on worship with our church. I think the leadership is doing a great job addressing the ideology and the practical side of worship.

Some of the focus has been on individual worship, life as worship, worship is an attitude toward God, and how we worship when we're together.

I can't help but find that powerful, powerful things happen when we worship together. And according to how many times it's referenced in the Bible, I think worshiping Him with a bunch of other people brings Him glory and pleasure in a way individual worship can't.

I'm actually not so interested in HOW people worship, as much as WHY they worship. But usually, if I ask 'why' people give very Biblical, ideological answers that don't represent their actual life. So I'm delving into the the 'how' questions which I believe are more telling.

How do we worship together? How do we worship along? How do we worship with kids? How would we know if we weren't worshiping the right way? Who would tell us? Would we listen?

Kelly said...

Am I not as spiritual as those who "worship" together as a family because I send my kids to children's church? Is the ONLY reason I like my children in kids church because I'm selfish? Do I think my kids are a burden so I need an hour and a half break on Sunday?

I don't know if you can find out the "Why" of worship but exploring the "How" of worship.
"How" I write does not explain "why" I write.
How I feed my kids does not explain why I feed them.
How I go to church does not explain why I go to church.
We are commanded to Love. Love God, Love our neighbors, and Love our enemies. Let's do that.

Jody said...

Kelly, my friend, I did not think I was questioning your spirituality by writing a post about how we worship as families when we're with other people. But I did try to question why you AND I have separated our children from us when we worship inside a church building?

As I meditate on scripture I'm finding I have to rethink the things I've thought before in order to figure out why I'm doing what I do. (How's that for a complicated sentence?!)

I'm certainly in the arguing/thinking stage of this topic and haven't come to firm conclusions yet, but like you, am asking lots of questions.

So to the extent that this post or people's comments actually made you ask yourself the questions you posed above, I'm thrilled with your response! That's what I'm doing, too! To the extent that you think I'm judging in an area that probably has Biblical latitude, I'm sorry. I'm certainly trying to provoke thought and consciousness while walking the fine line (perhaps not well)of not ascribing ill-motives. That's why I'm asking how/why, I want to know what people are doing and why they're doing it.

When I read about God in the older parts of the Bible He gives guidelines for corporate worship that were probably next to impossible for most people. And when I read about God in the newer parts of the Bible, I see that Jesus changed everything! He bridged the gap between God and us and really has done all the hard parts of worship for us!

But that spurs me on to worship God even more. And I want to do it with other people...which leads me back to the beginning of all these posts! How/Why do we worship when we're altogether as a group of believers.

Amy said...

Hi Jody! I am catching up on all this...very interesting stuff! I'm late to the party, so sorry about that!

Just had a question about the Children's Church issue. For those who feel that worship should not be "segmented", for lack of a better term, what is the feeling about men's/women's ministries? This is not a loaded question, I promise. I'm just trying to follow the line of reasoning. If we feel it is best to always be in church together, to learn and worship and pray together as one group all the time, are men's and or women's groups not ideal for that reason?

I totally understand the convenience issue as a reason for offering kids church and/or nursery services. As a mom and a pastor's wife myself, I "get" the convenience thing--for better or worse. But I'm also thinking of specialized needs, differing needs that the varying people that make up our congregations have. Even if she sits quietly and behaves herself in church, a 4 year old is not going to follow a 45 minute message--if it's a message designed like most church sermons are. Yes, the parents can follow up and talk it through with her. And that's awesome!

But as parents, we know that kids learn through touching, singing, listening to stories, playing. They aren't necessarily linear thinkers and auditory learners. And shouldn't we be sensitive to that when thinking of what church life should be for them?

Jesus communicated his message in a way (parables) that the people of that day could receive it and apply it to their lives. To me, that's why "we" do Children's Church.

Love ya!

Life on The Rowland Ranch said...

Here's my two cents worth...
I LOVE our Children's Pastor. :)
As the wife of a Children's Pastor, I see the broad spectrum of why we do what we do. Sure, it would be ideal to worship together as a perfect world, but there are many reasons why I think Children's Ministry works in our culture. Yes, maybe it's plan B, but I definatly see first hand how God uses it to touch the heart of families. As I sat in our service today listening to our pastor talk about deliverance/oppression/sexual sin..etc..I was thankful that I didn't have little ears around. The message ministered to many but wasn't intended for children.
I think of the single Moms that are ministered to by having strong men in their children's lives even if it's only that hour and a half a week.
I think of the volunteers who have come to us over the years with tears in their eyes, sharing how the children have ministered to them!
I think of David Funke who brings a van full of kids to Children's whose parents don't who are hearing for the first time about the love of Jesus and what it means to have relationship with Him.
I think of times when the children have surrounded the one who needs prayer for her Grandma to quit smoking, or the bully to leave him alone, or Mommy and Daddy to stop fighting...or the times when we stop and listen for Jesus to speak to our hearts and then give the children an opportunity to share. Wow. It's incredible to hear some of the awesome things God speaks...we really do have precious times in Children's Church. (and yes, some wild times here and there) :)
When I think of family worship, what comes to mind more often than a Sunday service are those times that we sit together as a family and study the Bible, sing together and pray for each other.
And what about all those super wonderful Children's Pastors..we wouldn't want them out of a job would we? Especially the ones that have seven little mouths to feed.. :)
You know I'm one of your biggest fans, Jody. It's really interesting hearing other perspectives on Children's Church. Thanks for sharing. Love you!

Jody said...

Amy and Jane,
So sorry I'm very delinquent in getting back to this conversation. I feel as if we were talking on the phone, and I hung up really quick and then never called you back. So sorry. But I'm leaving tomorrow for trip and on my To Do list was: Comment Back to Amy and Jane!!!!

So, here we are. Do you have your coffee in hand? Let's chat again.

Amy, yes. Definitely within this shake up of worship would be redefining Men's and Women's Ministry. Your brilliance shines through once again in taking it deeper than surface level. I think looking at origins of why and when we started segmenting male/female would be helpful. And figuring out if our motives in keeping it that way are just because it's been that way for a while or because we're not comfortable talking openly across gender lines or because this is the way God wants to be worshiped?

And I totally concur that worship should be done in a way that kids ARE engaged. I know a lot of adult kinesthetic learners who are also NOT following along on the 45 min sermon. I'm thinking our approach to what we do on Sunday is based upon leaving the kids out, instead of planning and preparing for worship that would actively include them and one in which adults would also actively participate.

Jane, I know Ginger replied to some of the practical application things you brought up, but I guess at my heart is this notion. Why can't all that great worship kids are doing: praying for each other, singing together, hearing about Jesus and engaging in relationship and serving be done in the context of the whole body of believers?

Are we devaluing the family unit and parental connection by creating peer oriented environments?

I'm in no way suggesting that Children Pastors aren't doing a good job! But I'm wondering if we're asking them to do a good job outside of the original context for corporate worship? Your particular Children's Pastor is SUPER FABULOUS not because he's in charge of the kids, but because he's SUPER FABULOUS! I would love to see our God worshiped by his teaching other Daddies how to worship right along side their children corporately, or displaying how to speak in way that's intellectually stimulating and also engaging to youngsters.

I wouldn't think this approach would leave him out of a job, but rather give him greater latitude and influence.

So, that's my defense of my post.Perhaps a weak defense because I'm truly at the beginning of this stuff. Nothing physical has actually changed within my church or family along the lines of kids/adults worshiping together. Which tells me, I don't yet believe this stuff all the way.
I really appreciate the comments that stimulate further thought.
Kelly brought some things up early on, and Ed's always got something to add to this subject. And I really do appreciate the challenge to have to think further through some of my awkward thoughts.

Life on The Rowland Ranch said...

Thanks for the feedback, Ginger and Jody. :) I guess I just don't see what's wrong with maybe having both. What you're describing sounds more to me like a small group. In fact, before the Rodriguez family left for Bolivia they were heading up exactly what you are describing, a family small group..children involved, simple message, prayer and worship together. We would love to see more of these.
I don't feel like any harm is done by "segregating" for an hour and a half once a week. Maybe you do...and if so, then by all means you need to do for your family what you feel God calls you to.
And I was really just being silly about Matthew's job. ;)