16 July 2007

from the mouths of children and infants...~

**I wanted to just take a minute to add onto this post since recently through Facebook quite a few of my real life friends and others have been reading this blog.

The leadership that I've mentioned in our church has recently changed. We have a new children's pastor and some really awesome stuff going on. While the fundamental beliefs that I have are still what we believe regarding family worship and my frustration with parents not be willing to worship with their children, etc. I just wanted to clarify that this post *is* two years old and things are not quite the same. My heart still misses the small days and the children being an integral part of worship, and I still believe it is best for families to worship together, but I just wanted to say that we are loving our new children's pastor and the awesome stuff he is bringing and the heart he has for our children. I no longer feel the preschool area is overlooked, etc; but we do still keep our children with us during worship. I am leaving this post up because the heart of it, our feelings and motivations towards children in worship, family worship, etc. are still very much a part of who Glen and I are.


I have recently been pondering a new change at our church, and since two of my friends, Wendy and Her Royal Excitedness, have just posted on their blogs about our church, particularly how they relate to the children, I decided to do some of my pondering publicly.

Our church has just in the last month begun having children's church (1st through 6th grade) for the entire service time. It is quietly "advertised" but no one has introduced it from the front so far that I've heard. I was also told by two people in leadership that they hope to soon implement this change for the pre-school age. They've had the nursery set up like this for awhile.

My heart is grieving. That is truly the best way for me to describe it.

Wendy described how in earlier GC days, the children danced and waved flags during worship. It was wonderful. There was a rug in the very front that all the little girls (and boys) would dance on. You could just feel the Lord smiling on them. The number one reason we left our old church and began attending GC was because we could worship together as a family. The children went to classes that were small and sweet, taught by parent volunteers that took turns. That is mostly gone now. Yes, GC is still family friendly, but they've lost a lot of that "welcome the little children" kind of feel. It has changed. My friend Hailijah and her husband joke about flat-screen churches. It's what they call it when a church goes all hi-tech and changes. Now, I am not saying that is bad. Growth is good, and they needed the flat screen tv in the hallway for overflow and for people that are watching their children. But a lot of what originally attracted us to GC has changed.

Am I just missing the good ol' days? Yes, but some no, I think. We have had some new leadership come in for the children, and while I know they have a heart for our children, I feel that the pre-school area is overlooked and not valued. We have a hard time finding teachers, and the ones we have are not particularly well equipped. (I will give them credit, though, that has improved some over the last year or so.) My husband teaches every other month for the full month. But, he often ends up in there on his off month because no one wants to help. Church has become all about the adults. That is the best way I can describe how I feel. All these parents try and drop off their children way before class time, and then are irritated with my husband when he comes at the appropriate time. Then they stay and talk for awhile after church is over before they come to get their children. Meanwhile, my husband and I are trying to watch our six and clean the classroom, and we often have to deliver children to their parents. Frustrating...Anyway, that was kind of a rabbit trail...sorry.

All this comes together for me in a way that makes me feel that the young children are being tolerated more so than welcomed. I've not talked to anyone yet about how I feel. The one time I tried, I approached someone who I though would be a little understanding of my point of view, but we never got that far into the conversation. I could tell she thought it was a good idea and she also talked about it in such a way that I got the impression this was something the parents were wanting. Ahhh! Come to church, find someone to take your kids, so you can go to church? We are supposed to be discipling our children, not putting them away from us while we worship. How will these sweet little ones learn to worship if they never get to participate? If GC starts having class time for nursery through sixth grade that lasts all of church, our families will never be worshipping together. Jesus welcomed the little children, they danced and shouted "Hosanna!"

So for now, we're keeping our older two in worship with us, even though most of their friends "get" to go to class now for all of church. I'm just waiting to be asked why we are not allowing our children to go until later. We let them go after worship when the teaching time starts. This is hard. They were initially disappointed, but have been remarkably good sports. I so want them to understand that we made this choice out of our intense love for them, our desire for our family to worship together, the way we feel the Lord wants families to worship. I admit I need to do some searching to figure out why I believe this so strongly.

There are a few families in church, three that I can think of including us, that appear to feel the same as we do. They are large families, too. That is another thing that appears to have changed some. Our church used to be known for having a lot of larger sized families. Not that large families are more "spiritual," it just made for a different feel. GC was unique, and welcomed their children in church. They were an integral part of worship. Most of those families are still there, and the parents of those families are reaping the fruit of how they worshipped when their children were young. Their children, almost all of them, are walking with the Lord and are passionate about loving Him. They have great relationships within their families, too. No serious rebellion that I've seen. (Not that I know everything, I could be missing something, but for the most part it looks good.) Of course everything does not all hinge on whether or not children go to Sunday School for the entire service or not, but to me it just says something about the hearts of the people that brought their children up this way and the values our church embraced.

Anyway, a lot of that is still there, it's just not obvious or embraced as it once was. It's like our dna has been changed. We're becoming more normal. I hate that. The children still dance, but they're in corners or aisles. They will mostly be gone once class is available. What about "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:2. What will happen and what will worship be like when our children are gone?

The hospitality room for nursing moms is great, but it means that moms are not as comfortable as they once were. Now I take full advantage of the nursing moms room, but lets just say I get a lot more fellowship and encouragement than actual teaching :o)

I'm having a very hard time articulating this. I am making it sound like children are no longer welcome in our worship, and that is not the case. They are just not embraced as they once were. Families do not seem to be valued as whole parts. When did church (in general) become like this? Biblically, families worshipped together, although men were separated from the women in the temple. New Testament churches met in homes, and I just have a hard time seeing families walking into homes and children being sent away to be "taught" so their parents could worship in peace. There is teaching going on, as in Lori's post, and I don't really have a problem with there being a separate class time, but teaching does not, and can not last for the entire 2 1/2 to 3 hours our church typically lasts, espcially for the little guys. They can digest "God wants me to share, ", and color a page, but that's about it. The rest of the time is play and snack, and managing the children who have to be...well, managed. I just think my children will benefit more greatly and have a richer, more real experience if they are in worship. They can learn all about God at home (which is where they should be learning it), and learn how to worship Him by well, worshipping with us as we worship. That is how they learn. Our church worships. Really worships. I think our worship is what draws a lot of people there. And I do not want my children to miss out on that. Not for anything....and especially not for some animal crackers :o)

(I am very curious to hear what other people think and feel about this topic, so please comment!)


Wendy said...

When I told Chris about the elementary school age kids having their own service, he said, "Maybe we should just go to the service in the Fire Hall with the kids." (Do they worship out there? It might be refreshing.)

Anyway... I am sad that my kids aren't able to experience what the older Abounding Grace kids did. I remember Vange saying that they teach their children that it is a priveledge to be in church with the adults. I was just telling Lori today about how I want my children to be used of God to minister to others of all ages, as I experienced at AGC in the past. But how will that happen if they are separated from the adults? It seems that Susan really felt strongly about that as well, but now...? I would like to think that if we had a big space that wasn't crowded, some of the dancing and flag waving might come back, but it almost seems like the church has 'grown out of that stage.' Sad.

All that to say, I understand and am as confused about what to do as you. I keep longing for the smaller, (dare I say) family fellowship and freer worship of the old days, but can't imagine leaving the family I've known for so long to look for someplace else...

Adina said...

You know, I wouldn't wait until someone asks you why you're keeping your children out. Since I don't have kids old enough to go to the Firehouse, I wasn't aware of this change. I just noticed that sometimes they said "let's dismiss the preschool, the big kids are already out" and I wondered "out? Why?".

I'm with you. As much as it is easier to stick our kids with someone else while we worship, I think that having them in with us is important. I'd be willing to go with you to discuss the importance of this as part of GC's value system with the leadership.

Lori said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your entire post. You articulated your ideas with great clarity. In the old AGC days, I used to watch daddies dance with their daughters, and I would cry and cry and cry. I loved watching the little girls hold hands and dance on the carpet. I miss the dancing trains and the "let's move the chairs and worship with abandon" services. It was an incredibly healing time for me (after all the mourning and manifesting).
I kind of feel as though things changed in a big way during a Bill Johnson conference a few years ago. Bill stopped preaching when he couldn't concentrate because of all the noise and distraction (which used to characterize our child-friendly services). Things shifted.
I guess now that we're so big, we're also louder, noisier, and more distracting. I wonder if there might be an opportunity to have a separate service in the late afternoon for those of us who are looking to worship with our kids in an atmosphere of freedom.
I remember Ross Huskison leading worship one Sunday with Anthony Skinner, and he said that AGC was the place "where the children can run, free from all accusation." I feel sad that his statement is true no more.

"How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about arithmetic, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness." ~GK Chesterton

2012 November

2012 November