Why is it that when we talk about children’s ministry in the church, we often think of cartoon characters and bright colors; but when we think of “adult church”, it is often drab or dark?
For Thanksgiving service this year, we printed out some color sheets and put baskets of crayons at the tables for families to share. Do you know who worked the hardest on their coloring sheets? It was not the kids. We had grown men and women diligently coloring in those pictures of turkeys and family dinners. The kids were so engaged with the activities of the evening because their parents were engaged.
Much of who we will become as followers of Christ begins when we are children. Sometimes I wonder if we are not sending our kids the wrong message about faith and life.
We tell them that being a kid is “fun” but being an adult is “serious.” Without thinking about it, we communicate to children that they might as well enjoy their faith now; because once they become an adult, they will have to stop enjoying it. They will no longer be able to worship in the language of laughter and creativity. They will have to worship through lectionary and liturgy.
I don’t think the church’s worship should be childish or foolish. I think there is a way to integrate the joy of creativity and interactivity with the “serious” activities of worship. Why should we have to dull our senses when we come together? And why should we feel we need to shield our children from worship they can’t comprehend?
I could be wrong, of course, but when I read the Scriptures, I see that the early church was a family affair. We tend to think that they worshiped the way that Paul wrote his epistles – barreling straight ahead in a doctrinal treatise. But there are hints and shadows that the worship itself was not like Paul’s letters at all.
The apostle Jude calls the church’s worship αγαπη, literally “love” (v 12). Paul speaks of their worship as day long celebrations that began with meals (1 Corinthians 11). He also reminds the churches that their worship is supposed to be full of singing and celebration (Ephesians 5:19). Paul’s letters are also full of instructions for all members of the household, including children and even slaves.
Worship is supposed to be vibrant and creative, interactive to the core.
But somehow, worship has become about listening quietly or overreacting exuberantly. Children still get asked lots of questions in Sunday School, but adults get asked none in worship.
Somehow, we have gotten it backward.
Somehow, the only time a parent talks to a child in the “adult” service is to tell her to be quiet or to sit still. Why? Because that’s what we have been told to do ever since we were children. Why doesn’t it occur to us that church is not a “be quiet and sit still” place? Why isn’t church an interactive space, where our minds are stretched and our imaginations expanded?
Are we so afraid of making mistakes or blowing it that church has become a place where you’re not allowed to express yourself? Not allowed to discover truth for yourself? Not allowed to interact with truth?
No wonder kids don’t like being in the services.