What About the Kids?

Sign up for any conference or workshop on “home-churching” anywhere in the country and I guarantee you that you will hear pretty much the same questions asked at every one of them. The first one is almost always the same: What do you do with the kids?

I have mixed feelings about this ubiquitous question. My good feelings come from the fact that I identify with parents who seek to actively integrate their kids into the activities of the church. I happen to think that if a church has any desire to live beyond one generation then it will have to somehow involve the kids at every stage of their development. Somehow they must come to “own” church life as their own, and the Lord must be real to them as they grow up. As my kids are entering grade school, I’m becoming more and more eager to include them in some form, maybe writing songs for them, or occasionally scheduling a kids’ meeting (something they’ve elected to do on their own on a couple of occasions), or simply including them in one of our regular meetings (with some preparation of course).

But there’s also something not-so-good underneath the perennial what-do-you-do-with-the-kids question. Too often the church asking the question is operating with a meeting-centered mentality. If you think church=meetings then the kids aren’t a part of the church if they’re not in the meetings. When the life of the church isn’t based in community (i.e. a more comprehensive involvement in each others’ lives), then the meetings are all you’ve got. On the other hand, when “church” means who you are all the time, then you see that the kids are already involved in the life of the church. They spend time together, play together, sometimes eat together. The interact with adults from families other than their own, and that fact alone places them in a priviledged group (Research shows that kids who get regular, positive interaction with adults outside their own nuclear family have a higher chance of success in things like social development, behavioral expectations, etc.)

We “westerners” (products of the European Enlightenment) have always been program-centered. When we think of education, for example, we inevitably picture a classroom situated in rows with an educator perched at the front. Our concept of learning is teacher-centered, lecture-based, and restrictive. But there’s another model (a much older model) for learning that happens naturally in a church like ours. It’s relational. It’s “situational” (anchored in real-life situations as they arise). It involves active learning based in the needs of the kids as they discover them.

Think about it this way: Which kind of learning do you think sticks with a child better: When they hear a biblical principle illustrated during a Sunday School lesson in a classroom, or when a life circumstance motivates the child to ask her mother a question about the right thing to do in that situation? I’d definitely go with the second one. A family and a church community who love the Lord and actively pursue Him in daily life will prepare a child to know Him immeasurably better than years of Sunday School lessons. Even from a standpoint of educational theory, stuff learned in real life situations are generalized into the rest of life more easily than stuff learned in an environment like a classroom, which is too divorced from daily life.

So how you approach this question of “what do you do with the kids” turns out to reveal a good bit about how you see the church and daily life in the Lord. The church isn’t about meetings. And knowing the Lord is a relational process, not an intellectual procedure. Knowing Him isn’t about memorizing the right things. It’s about knowing and loving a Person who also comes to you in the form of your brothers and sisters in Christ. The meeting is when you come together to report your experience of Him to each other. More on that in the next blog, I believe…

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4 Responses to “What About the Kids?”

  1. Herobill Says:

    Dude… you wrock!
    Keep up the posts, please!
    The blogsophere may be listening…

  2. Sarah Says:

    OH my stars. You are so RIGHT ON. SO clear. Thanks.

  3. J. Samuel Thomas Says:

    I would like to embellish a bit on your already beautiful insight into church living:

    “When the life of the church isn’t based in community (i.e. a more comprehensive involvement in each others’ lives), then the meetings are all you’ve got. On the other hand, when “church” means who you are all the time, then you see that the SAINTS are already involved in the life of the church. They spend time together, play together, sometimes eat together.”

    Not to derail the attention from the kids, but this principal is equally true for the adults in the church.
    When I see the community life of the “little people” here in Lithia Springs, I cannot help but long for the same experience among the “big people”.
    Unfortunately, as you know,the adult life comes with it’s own unique set of obligations and responsibilities which have a way of pulling us apart.

    And yet something tells me that this is still divinely prescribed.

    Our children growing up as second generation “church-lifers” may very well prove that they already “own” more of the true christian church life than do we!

    How my heart yearns for their simplicity!

  4. Goody Says:

    This is so clear and so true!

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