Friday, December 15, 1995

Why They Stay With Us

Why They Stay With Us

Of the thirteen people who currently attend our church, six are under the age of twelve. We do not have a Sunday School or Children's Church; even if we had more members, the kids would stay with us. "Why?" you ask. There are really several reasons.

1. Their example

The refreshing thing about kids is that they have not yet learned how to wear "masks." Age brings self-consciousness which causes us to protect our ego. Children say what we would say if we weren't so worried about what our neighbor might think. For example, Mr. Schermitzler, the man who does most of the teaching at our church, might ask the kids "Do you ever get angry at your brother or sister and want to hurt them?" A chorus of "yeah's" fills the room. Adults would tend to qualify their answers; the honest of the children is inspiring.

The other quality which children display is faith. While adults have a hard time trusting God unreservedly, often hampered by their intellect, a child simply believes. Some of the most poignant prayers I've heard in our church have come from the mouths of children.

2. The "Authority Structure." The only authority children's workers have is delegated to them by the parents. So they can use threats like "Johnny, if you don't stop bugging Suzie, I'll have to send you down to sit with your dad!" Fear works well, but entertainment is easier on the child, the worker, and the parent. So the teacher will tell jokes, use puppets, sing crazy songs, and do just about anything to keep the kids' attention. There is nothing wrong with using puppets, but when you have to do a non-stop one-man comedy to keep the kids under control something is wrong. Entertainment should be used to teach, not manipulate. (I remember very little of what I heard in Children's Church as a boy, but I can still sing a song I learned there called "Fried Ham.")

When the children remain with their parents, there is no transfer of authority. There is no need for entertainment-style child control. And no poor soul has to exhaust himself trying to manage other people's kids!

3. Their spiritual health.

The myth of children's church is that kids cannot comprehend the things of God at least not at the same level as their parents do so they need special "dumbed-down" instruction. True, their minds may certainly have difficult understanding some of the words in the Bible like "redemption" and "sanctification." But, their spirits will not! While the mind must be exercised and instructed to grow, the spirit is fully developed at conception. (Either that or the abortionists are right.) When Paul wrote Timothy, did he say, "The goal of our instruction is knowledge of the Bible, understanding of the difference between sanctification and justification, and a thorough acquaintance with escatology"? No! He said, "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Tim. 1:5, NASB) Faith, love, purity, and a good conscience are products of the spirit, not the soul! Spiritual comprehension is not limited by the age of the mind. Both children and adults need instruction for their spirits. Knowledge is fine, but only when added to faith and virtue. (See 2 Pet. 1:5) If the kids can't understand the instruction, it may be directed at the mind instead of the heart.

There is only one other objection that can be raised against abolishing Sunday School and Children's Church. "Kids are distracting! Their parents will not be able to worship the Lord if they have to keep disciplining their kids." How pious that sounds! True, kids can be distracting, at least they can be at our church. They wiggle, ask strange questions, act silly, make noise, and interrupt. (Remember, we attend an "open" church which is less formal than most churches.) One of the boys often gives a long discourse on a subject barely related to the topic at hand.

But, doesn't sending your kids off by themselves so you can have a good time praising God sound a little selfish?

Besides, if we had a big church and sent the kids away, we would miss four-year-old Matthew's hugs, given at random times to random people; we would lose Greg's keen mind; we would no longer hear Justin ask for the song "Arise and Sing" again; and we would forfeit baby Kristen's smiling face to the nursery worker.

Yes indeed, without kids church would be almost boring.