Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our Family and Children's Ministry: Part 1

I'm sure you've all figured out by now that our family is a little different. Homeschooling is where our "different" journey began. After all, educating children at home hasn't been the norm in America for about a hundred years. We didn't decide to homeschool just to ruffle feathers, of course. It was something we prayed about heavily before deciding this was the responsibility God was placing on us. Once you embark on something out of the ordinary, such as home education, it's almost like you begin to question the validity and purpose in other seemingly ordinary and acceptable things. Believe it or not, it was shortly after we began homeschooling that I began to question the Standard American Diet of boxed foods, vegetable oils, artificial colorings and flavorings, and a host of other "necessities" of that way of eating. Yes, indeed, homeschooling led us down the path to being Crunchy and Granola in many areas of our lives! Thank you, homeschooling!

Another way that homeschooling caused us to question the norm is in the area of our church-going. David and I  have chosen not to send our children to "Children's Church" (or Kids' Church or Sunday School or whatever each church dubs their children's ministry program). More than what we eat or why we homeschool or even that we make our own toothpaste, this decision has been the cause of questioning, funny looks, and suggestive comments like "You know our church offers child care, right?"

Yes, we know the church offers child care. Thank you.

We started out like most other families in church do: putting our kids in the nursery when they were about 8-9 months old so that Mommy and Daddy could sit through the service without interruption or distraction. For the first couple of years of our kids' lives, Sunday mornings were like my weekly free babysitting service. I got a little over an hour to give my full attention to something other than diapers and teething rings. Once we had toddlers around, the thought of them sitting through church with me sent chills reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard down my spine. After all, my husband was the worship leader most of the time...I'd be going at it alone. Not gonna happen. No way.

Although...there was always this tiny voice in the back of my mind, telling me that my babies were supposed to be with me. The more I dropped them off in the nursery, the more I missed being with them, and the more I felt like what I was doing was wrong. {Not wrong for everyone, just wrong for me.}

Fast forward to my peeps being four and five years old, respectively. We were just embarking on our homeschool bon voyage.

Our children would run out of Children's Church each week, a craft in one hand and the leftovers of a snack in the other. They would immediately begin telling us about all the cool things that had happened, the picture they colored, the games they played, the friend they made. They went on and on about the new indoor play equipment, the big screen projector where they watched Veggie Tales, and the Goldfish and Kool-Aid they were given to snack on. It was all very exciting for them, and David and I still enjoyed the quiet, grown-up atmosphere of church, where babies didn't cry and children weren't told to sit still.

Until we asked what they learned about Jesus, and they couldn't give us an answer.

No matter how much we prodded or led them on, Jesus was not what they came out of children's church raving about. They raved about the fun and games, the snacks and slides, Bob and Larry, but couldn't utter one word of a Bible lesson.

This is when David and I began questioning the purpose of children' ministry, and more importantly, whether children's ministry was a good fit for our family. 

Now we had some questions to answer.

Part 2 will go over in detail the questions David and I had to consider before we could decide whether or not children's ministry was for us. I will also discuss the benefits and even necessity of children's ministry in certain circumstances.


amy wright said...

I believe there is a huge place for children's ministry, I just think it all depends on the type of children's ministry taking place. Does that make sense?

I certainly wouldn't want our kids thinking that basketball hoops were what church was all about, but if there is a loving, godly person willing to invest in our kids once a week, I'm all about letting them go to a class of their own.

BUT, I also think (not that you asked for my opinion) that kids should worship with their family and not spend an entire service in their own pep rally.

Charlene said...

Great post! We came to the same conclusion a few years back and have never regretted it. I love our family discussions about the service, even the littles. Sometimes their comments won't come out for a few days, but it really impressed upon me that they were listening and absorbing the message.

I think so many are just so use to a children's church that they can't envision any other way. And the children haven't been trained to sit and be quiet. (not that they will always be quiet and still, but more often than not!). Yes, it can be uncomfortable to have your children squirm, but it gets better the more you expect them to and train them to.

The big "reason" churches give for having children's ministry/youth group is for the unchurched. As a church body, we should be shepherding them and taking them under our wing in the body of the church--having them sit with us, inviting them for meals and fellowship, etc. Letting them see the Christian walk in real life.

Thanks! Looking forward to your next post.

Brit said...

I started reading your blog after seeing your post on the SCM forum.

I must say I feel like you are telling my story exactly! We felt the call to homeschool 4 years ago and the thread has been unraveling ever since. We pulled our kids out of the children's ministry and even after having to leave our childhood church, we have been so blessed by it. Thank you for this great post and I am looking forward to #2!