I love seeing a family sitting in the pews worshipping together for an entire service. I know what you’re probably thinking. If you don’t have any small children living in your house, you are thinking how annoying, wiggly and noisy all of those children are and how they disrupt worship service. If you have small children, you are thinking it has been awhile since I have tried to keep multiple small children behaving during a long service.
While both of those are valid points, in my last two posts, I have addressed why I think our children really need to be in worship with us. I have also thrown out some suggestions I believe will help all of us see our entire congregations as one large family worshipping together. What I haven’t shared is my secret bag of tricks, that will hopefully make the experience more pleasant and meaningful for everyone.
One of my favorite experiences while raising my daughter has been teaching her to appreciate art. She wasn’t born with an innate love of art and art museums. In fact, some of our first experiences were almost painful. I was even known to utter such enlightened sentences as “We may never get to Chicago again and you are going to see the American Gothic painting whether you want to or not!” or the equally popular “Look at this painting. One day you will learn about it in school and you will want to remember seeing it in real life!”
We continued to drag her through art museums all over the country and then one day the light clicked on in her. She asked (at a rather young age) if she could see a specific art exhibit in a rather obscure museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. She was studying it and wanted to see it in person. Needless to say, we made sure we got to that museum. Fast forward a few years and she was actually nagging us on her first trip to New York City to get her to the Museum of Modern Art and to allow her a full morning to enjoy it. (She still whined about my need to stare at French Impressionists and Picasso, but at least she had developed her own favorites!) The pain in those early years was worth raising a child who loves art and enjoys art museums.
Call me a rebel or maybe I’m a little crazy, but I love the idea of children being in the adult worship service. Now before you start pelting me with i-bibles, yes, I have been seated with multiple small children through many worship services. And yes, I know it can be distracting for the adults caring for them and the adults around them. In the rush to make sure the adults aren’t distracted though, I think we are depriving our children of something very special.
In the Old Testament, God spends quite a bit of time encouraging the Israelites to make sure their children know the Law and their history as God’s people. When the Law was read to the people, the children were to be present. Parents were to discuss the Laws of God constantly with their children.
Having been involved in more than half a dozen different youth ministries in three regions of the country, I was interested to see what Jeramy and Jerusha Clark had to say about youth ministry in their book After You Drop Them Off. After decades of being a teen, becoming a volunteer in youth ministries and now as the parent of a teen, I have noticed a change over the years in teens and their parents.
While some things have remained constant, I believe we will see a major paradigm shift in youth ministry over the coming decade. With parents working long hours, at least one non-present parent becoming more common and some parents who are tired of parenting releasing young teens to their own devices, teens are beginning to parent themselves more than ever.
Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to a new way of helping hurting children. She found this group after adopting an older child who had been raised in a “less than ideal” environment. Since our family does a lot of work with orphaned and abandoned children, I was interested to see how the program works.