Monday, June 05, 2006

Church is boring, Unwritten Curriculum Lessons 2

“No, we can’t do that we have to go to church in the morning.”

“Just sit quietly through church and I will buy you a toy.”

“If you learn your memory verse I will give you some candy.”

Sound familiar – the subtle intonation of a parent’s voice speaks volumes.

The most powerful lessons that children learn are not in our formal teaching plan. Despite our good intentions, children learn more from our attitudes. This can be a powerful tool for the good – or it can erode the foundations of their faith. These unintended lessons form an unwritten curriculum that will shape our children for the rest of their lives.

Our attitudes about church are not lost on our children. If church attendance has become a necessary duty of your Christian life, be sure your kid will notice. This cold-hearted approach to corporate worship is a direct contrast with God's design for the church.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth. (1 Timothy 3:15 ESV)

The community of Christ is a blessing – not a burden. It is not a building but a people. Can your kids perceive the importance of the church from your attitude?

I have often heard well-meaning people say, “If we make church fun (entertaining) for the kids, then they might keep coming as adults.” This subtle shift makes fun by itself an acceptable reason to participate in a church body. It assumes that church according to God’s design is boring. This attitude is unspoken. But your kids will pick it up.

We must point children toward God. By His grace, they will begin to delight (enjoy, desire, want) in His glory. Then the proper function of the church will become compelling – the display of God’s glory. It is the household of God. It is the pure and spotless bride of Christ. The church is a place for love and encouragement toward godliness. As we grow in the body God provides for our perseverance.

So ask yourself - what lessons am I teaching?

Will The Next Generation Treasure Christ? is a dialog on reforming children’s ministry and equipping parents - for the glory of Christ and the joy of our children.


R. Mansfield said...

There's got to be some kind of balance somewhere. In the church we attended when I was a small child, the nursery "graduated" (no, not in an actual ceremony) at four years of age and then you had to sit in the service. I admit that it was a miserable experience and I got "taken out" by my father quite a few times. It does help to yell "Yay!!" at the top of your lungs at the end of the closing prayer either. I learned that the consequences for such would not be pleasant.

However, just three years later when I was seven, and although a different church, the setting was similar, and it was on that day that for the first time I listened to the message and accepted the gospel invitation.

I don't think we have to make church for children dull and boring--that itself teaches an "unwritten curriculum." However, there must be balance. One problem I continually faced while teaching Bible at the high school level when I was chaplain at Whitefield Academy (2000-2005) was that my students were used to having a high level of energy and entertainment surrounding their supposed "study" of the Bible because that's what ALL of the churches give them. It's very difficult to get students to sit still and have a logical, orderly discussion about scriptures without the circus tricks these days. I even added PowerPoint at one point to make things more visual, but found it to only be a temporary passifier.

The problem is that those kids, who have been raised in an extremely high energy atmosphere with lots of video and in your face excitement eventually grow up. But they don't know how to "be still and know that I am God." They don't like to be alone and they are uncomfortable if there's not noise from the radio or television close by. And unfortunately, one day we'll look up and realize they aren't in church anymore. Then what? Do we make the Sunday morning service more circus-like? Heaven help us, I hope not.

Tony K. said...

I appreciate hearing your experience. The balance between accommodation and appeasement is always difficult. I often wonder how kids raised on an entertainment model of church will raise their own kids. Does it mean having a separate "children's church" and then "youth church" and then "college church" and then "young married church" and then "middle aged church" and then "almost retired church" and then "post retired church" and then "golden years church" and then "I wish I was in heaven church"

At some point we have to be the body - yes every age group is different. But our personal preferences must be laid down out of love for one another. So if it blesses my Lord and accommodates my brothers I will worship to hymns/rock/southern gospel/Derek Webb - provided the music is in line with a biblical understanding of worship.

Thanks for your thoughts.