This past week, I was in two meetings with a baby (Kent is often a baby; so is Manuel; but here I refer to an actual baby). Stephenie Carr was present at both of these gatherings along with her six-month old Railey. In the first meeting, Railey stood on her mom’s lap and rigorously filled her pants. The sounds were violent. I thought we were having an earthquake. In the second meeting, she gnawed a binky as she slowly drifted off to sleep. I facilitated both meetings – she pooped in one and slept in the other. Message received.
Children often disregard the unspoken “rules” of our adult engagements. They add flavor to the occasion. Their unfiltered realness is a refreshing change from our somber seriousness. Jesus pointed out children as exceptional examples of what it takes to live fully in God’s Kingdom. Trusting. Joyful. Free. Authentic. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “train up our children in the way they should go so when they are old, they don’t depart from it.” But if we, in our advancing age, are at all wise, and curious to learn, our children will train us up in the way we should go – the way of the Kingdom.
As we continue to discern how to do ministry in these complex times, one of the issues we are rethinking is the role of children in the life of a faith community. For many decades, churches (including Oak Hills) have separated children from their parents so both can have a worship experience conducive to their preferences and level of understanding. There is, obviously, much wisdom in this approach. But more and more churches are recognizing the costs associated with this separation. They are realizing the long term value of including children in their weekend worship services.
For several years we have worshiped with our children on communion Sunday (first Sunday of the month) and then dismissed them after we receive the Lord’s Supper. But as we continue to grapple with this issue, we have decided to make Communion Sunday a family worship experience and keep our children in the service for the duration of it. There are several reasons that drove this decision including:
1. Biblically, the church is one Body – male and female, young and old, black and white, child and adult. The diversity is part of the mystery. The range of diversity is a testimony to the power of Christ to unite. So our children are not only crucial to the future of our church, they are essential to the present.
2. The best way for us to impact our children in their faith journey is to model it to them. When we are together in church, we have the opportunity to show our children what it means to authentically worship God. We have the chance to show them the “communion of saints.” They learn best by seeing it in us.
3. Parents are primarily responsible for the spiritual development of their children. The church comes alongside to assist in the job. This is crucially important. Parents can’t outsource the spiritual nurturing of their kids. As such, it is good for children to be with their parents as the whole family seeks God together. It is good for children to see their parents worshiping God, praying and attending to God’s Word.
4. Older people are revitalized by those who are hungry, thirsty, curious, and passionate. Attend a worship setting at Arts Camp and you’ll know what I mean. It is easy for us to become cynical. It is easy to fall into routines. Children protect us from the hazards of aging.
Over the next few weeks we will talk more about this in various settings. We will start this adventure on September 5th at our One Service Sunday. Our children will join us for worship, communion, and the message. We are looking forward to how God will use this in the life of our church to draw us deeper into His Kingdom.
If you have questions about this, please contact me (Mike Lueken), or, Colleen Gray, our Children’s Ministries Director, at the church office, 983-0181.