Call Him Good …

Filed under:children, church, missional — posted by Sonja on November 8, 2007 @ 10:33 pm

I had a car full o’kids today. We were running errands. For a time I was able to listen to their music, but after a while I cried, “Uncle,” and put my music on. I have my own playlist on the car iPod and I switched it over. The volume gets turned down because nobody likes my music except, oh, me! But nobody is listening to it anyway. So they were all chattering away and I was listening to my music as we ran our errands. The last of which was to pass through Chick-fil-a for lunch. I turned the music off to take orders and then give the order to the name-less, face-less screen at the drive through.

I passed out drinks, took the bag of chicken and fries from the kind lady at the window and drove away. Then I turned the music back on. As the song hit their ears, I heard LightBoy say, “This sounds like a song from Bible school.” So I listened in to the conversation that ensued.  The players were the FlamingLambs1, 2 and 3, LightBoy and LightGirl.  The song is entitled “Call Him Good” by Sandra McCracken.  It’s heavy on the chorus which is sung “Call Him good my soul” in harmony.  It’s really beautiful and vaguely Celtic, which is probably why it sings into my soul so deeply.  But the conversation around the song was interesting.  The kids weren’t buying it.

To them it sounded like a garden variety “church” song.  They’ve become cynical.  It was for “Bible” camp.  “We went to one of those one time.”  “Yeah, we go to that when we visit my Grammy,” replied one FlamingLamb.  The highlight seemed to be the candy.  They definitely associated the Bible and the education involved with church and rules … but the weird thing was that God and Jesus never entered the conversation.  Huh?  Now we’ve all been out of church proper for several months, and out of the institutional church for a couple of years, but they’d all done some serious time in Children’s Church and Sunday School before we left.  So this omission surprised me.  Despite all the good teaching and heartfelt teachers, they’d missed the main point.

Which begs the question, just what good is all that children’s ministry anyway?  I think I prefer the simplicity of the formula given by Deuteronomy 6 …

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.   Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

9 comments

  1. Sometimes, it takes a while to sink in…like about 40 years :)

    Comment by kievasfargo — November 8, 2007 @ 11:47 pm

  2. children’s church is a tricky one. I have the weekly struggle of trying to get mine to go to it. They much prefer to stay with me in “big church”. Personally I think church services should be more family friendly and include children, not send them away.

    Comment by lyn — November 9, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  3. For me the question is, are we training up our children to be good church members or disciples of Jesus? If the latter, then I think the Dt. 6 approach has to come into play.

    Comment by Maria — November 9, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  4. Yes, but Deuteronomy 6 also includes the Shema (which you quote here), the ritual confession of Jews throughout the centuries. In other words, the encouragement to discuss “these commandments” and to “impress them” on our young darlings takes place in the particular context of Israelite communal life and worship that included daily practices and disciplines, taboos, public worship assemblies and rituals. All of those gave some teeth to the conversations taking place in family life; they were the concrete vocabulary with which one talked about what it meant to be the people of God.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that, more and more, I’m understanding Chesterton’s remark that he would rather have a church 1500 years behind the times and stately moving at its own pace than a church five minutes behind the times, huffing and puffing to try and keep up. He’s not arguing for antiquity for its own sake, but rather for confidence and a certain kind of holy indifference to whether or not a handful of teenagers in a minivan ‘get it’ right now.

    A lot of ministry in general, and kid’s ministry in particular, seems to be predicated on the idea that we’ve got to talk very fast to get the kids into this faith or, at the very least, innoculate them against anyone else talking them out of it. I think that our children intuitively understand that we sure are awfully anxious about the whole thing. If we don’t see Jesus in the church, why on earth should they. I worry that we’re gifting our children with language for faith that’s built on sand, the shifting foundations of what’s hot in the market right now (so many of our consumer-driven churches) or what’s personally interesting to me and my little group (many house-churches and the like) and not the solid core of tradition (literally, “handed over”) which takes the form of particular acts of devotion and discipline, particular forms of prayer, particular rituals and public acts of worship. By themselves, these aren’t enough, as anyone who grew up in a liturgical church can attest. But when you have all of these, and then you “talk about them…” Wow.

    Comment by j. michael matkin — November 10, 2007 @ 4:49 am

  5. By the way, this was my first time commenting (and it turns out to be a Russian novel), but I’ve really been enjoying your blog.

    Comment by j. michael matkin — November 10, 2007 @ 4:52 am

  6. Interesting questions and very timely for me, anyway. I am currently serving as a Pastor to Children and Families, my first stint (and probably last…at least in a formal manner) after many, many years serving in other areas. As I see it, a ministry directly to children that continually separates them from the rest of the community doesn’t work but most churches (including the one I serve) aren’t ready to hear that. And that’s the problem. Because kids are smart enough to know when they are catered to, and not in a good way.

    The church should not be providing alternative methods of teaching ONLY for children. They should be changing their methods and motives to make the focus of the whole church, at least as the community exists and the area of faith education, on faith growth in the children who are a part of the community. This can only happen when formal children’s ministry becomes more about equipping and empowering parents to be spiritual leaders to their children and when the gathering time and whatever it consists of, allows for children to not only participate but to lead, to be not only seen and heard but also listened to. This is the last church I will serve where children are sent away to another room while every other person worships together.

    The fact is that most kids won’t “make it” in the faith if they don’t feel like they belong. And if they don’t have space to not only be taught but to teach others, through their questions, their choices,their experiences, their concerns, they won’t grasp it, ever. Or at least not in a healthy way that leads them to a lifestyle of faith. And if they aren’t given experiences outside the faith environment (aka church) that enhances what is said by the faith leaders in their life (parents, teachers, pastors, other significant adults) they won’t make it either.

    New here… found you through the blog highlights at Emerging Women. This post was timely and hit a chord with me. I will be back.

    Comment by Tammy — November 10, 2007 @ 11:56 am

  7. We, as churches, need to give the teaching back to parents. We need to be there to support the parents. I am not sure why we think it is our right / duty to do it …

    Lyn: our children do not go, they stay with us We seperate families too much at church – crazy.

    Comment by Jeff Greathouse — November 12, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  8. If you get a chance check out my post on the church is for fun.

    Comment by Bryan Riley — November 12, 2007 @ 7:38 pm

  9. I found you through Grace’s blog. Your post resonated with me. Our children are still young, but my husband and I feel a bit lost at times with how to teach them about Jesus now that we’re not attending Sunday services anymore. The verse you included encouraged me. Thanks!

    Comment by Mary — November 13, 2007 @ 11:27 am

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