Posts Tagged With: children
This post comes from my wife:
A lifetime ago I arranged for a photo to be taken of all the children in the church we attended. All kids under the age of fifteen or so were gathered in the church hall and the photographer stood on a trestle table to take the snap, while proud Mums, Dads, and the rest of the congregation looked on.
It wasn’t until later, when the photos arrived on my desk, that I noticed the banner hanging high on the wall behind the children. It read: Christians are different.
We used to laugh about that.
But the truth is, that when it comes to our children, Christians aren’t different enough.
We don’t see our children through God’s eyes. We are like all those adults watching the photo shoot and not seeing the bright yellow banner behind.
We go about the busy-ness of child rearing; the milestones, the school fees and homework, the music lessons and little athletics. We stress over mixed parties and drugs and driver training, just the same as our unsaved neighbours are doing.
However God has different plans for our children, and He calls Christian families to BE different. One Christian put it thus:
The Christian family must define Christ to the world, so that the world may find Christ.
May we scoop up that delightful toddler,
May we be caught up with the excited third grader who has won a ribbon for running,
May we hide a secret smile while our lovesick teenager mooches around the house,
But may we never forget that they are part of God’s plan for Gospel-spreading.
Another blog post from my wife.
Did you know there are black holes in the Bible? There are mud puddles, canyons, and prickle bushes as well.
I know about these because I tell Bible stories to kids.
Have you ever noticed how many empty spaces there are in Bible stories? For instance, what did Jesus and Zacchaeus discuss over lunch? And what was happening on Easter Saturday?
Try telling these stories to children. They’re not afraid of black holes. They will launch straight into them.
Slimy mud puddles that most Sunday school teachers avoid, such as how Mary got pregnant? Kids will take a running leap into that one.
Tricky prickle bushes that college theologians won’t venture near? No problem for the minds of 5 year olds. A group of preschoolers once explained the Resurrection to me.
Grownups can read the signs at the top of a cliff that say “Don’t go too close to the edge” or “Danger. Unstable cliff edge”, but kids only see an opportunity to explore.
Burning bushes, talking donkeys, floating zoos, miracles…
And the best part is that they will joyfully take the grownups by the hand, if we are willing to let them lead us.
Next time you’re reading your Bible and you find a black hole, find a child to tell the story to. Sit alongside them and wonder together. No space suits, flack jackets, parachutes, or safety harnesses required.
Another blog post from my wife.
A while ago I found a book in a secondhand shop near our home. It had a title that caught my eye – “Portrait of Jesus” by Alan T Dale. I bought it and put it on my bookshelf, alongside all my precious children’s Bible books.
Recently I took it down and discovered what a true gem it is. But more than that, I found one of those award certificates pasted onto the facing page.
Amazingly, I know both the Sunday school student who was given the book 28 years ago, and her teacher.
I held the book open at this page and stared at the names. I could see those women before me. A older woman who encouraged me when I was ministering to the children in our church, and a young lady who gave such dedication and devotion to the children in her care that she was an example to me. And now I was using the book to prepare for another teaching moment.
The older woman happens to be a neighbour, so yesterday I went for a walk, with the book tucked under my arm. She answered my knock on her door, invited me in, and listened as I explained what I’d found. Yes, she remembered her student from 28 years ago.
We sat together marvelling at God’s goodness. He gave all three of us faith. He gave us opportunities to share that faith. He placed us, briefly, in the same time and space so we could encourage each other. And then He sent us onto our next mission.
Here in my hands I hold the testimony to this truth.
The following is a challenging and uncomfortable reflection from my wife.
Burying our children?
What if the talents of Matthew 25 were the children in our churches? What if the servants were the adults, and the elders?
How would the parable look in your church? How would it end?
How many children has your congregation been given?
Does it matter how large or small the original number is? Did the master give the greatest number of talents to the best businessman?
Some churches have very few children or even none at all. Did they bury them a long time ago?
Some churches have children who might as well be buried. There is no sign of them in the liturgy or the worship place. There are no signs that they may occasionally be present, no expectation that some children might appear one day. (That reminds me of a church service we attended with our kids while on holidays. Ours were the only kids in the church and the preacher could not have known that we would be coming, but he had a children’s talk ready.)
Our services are designed for those aged 20 to 60 years old, of average intelligence, good at listening, reading and singing. (As opposed to being good at looking, watching, drawing, wriggling, dancing, jumping or running.)
We conveniently don’t see the rest. We have buried them.
The Master gave children to churches. He expects to get a return on his investment. What does that return look like?
What will it take to make the investment grow?
How exciting it will be when the Master returns to find his talents have grown a hundredfold!
The following is an observation by my wife:
There he was, a boy of 5 or 6 years, standing alone in front of the altar. He danced a little, twisting this way and that, and then he stood perfectly still and raised the camera to his eyes and snapped. His parents quietly moved around the cathedral as the dozens of other visitors were doing. They must have been watching him, but they never interfered with his discoveries and his picture taking.
The cathedral was nothing but the usual Spanish Catholic variety; we had seen many like it. But it was new for this lad and whatever his eye saw was quickly recorded with his camera. The altar table, the decorative railings, the statues, the windows, the tourists.
I wondered and pondered on this for a while.
A child discovering the church in his own way.
A child finding the gospel in a language he knows and understands.
A child making memories and questions.
Parents letting go of their child enough to facilitate this.
A church full of images and symbols and furniture to capture a child.
A camera. Technology that a child can use.
How can we – parents, and faith communities – symbolically give our children a camera in the church?
Grandson SensesI saw you before you saw me.I had a chance to study your little round face, framed by a snugly cap.I tried to place those familiar features, tried to find a possible source for the rest.You look like your daddy; With his nose and his forehead.You have your Mama’s red hair, and her chin.You are quite beautiful, and quite unique.I watched while you squirmed, grimaced, did the gentlest shudder. Your eyes moved under their lids, you retreated into your blanket. But all the while your eyes stayed shut. Could you hear our voices, your parents’ and mine? Did we sound clearer now that you are on the outside?I ran my finger along your downy cheek. So soft, that newly dry baby skin, like no other softness on earth. And warm still, a residual warmth from deep within your mother.We then smelled you, bringing our faces close to yours. A scent only found on the skin of the newly born.Finally, we kissed you, each of us in turn.When I came close I could hear the barely perceptible sighs and snuffles made by breaths brand new; breaths still in practice.The camera captures the moment, but my heart will hold these first senses of your life more closely, more carefully, more completely, for as long as my heart continues to beat.
Here is another post by my wife whose passion is worship that involves all ages – especially children
Why is it that preachers look elsewhere when they speak with children about the things of God? Elsewhere than the Word of God?
They spend a great deal of time conjuring “likes” out of their box of tricks. The church is like…. being a Christian is like…. forgiveness is like….
And there are a lots of objects in their magician’s kit as well. Namely objects for object lessons. Unfortunately this sleight of hand only confuses the children who are before them.
Today we had a real magic trick performed for the kids. Three pieces of string of varying lengths were produced for the audience of a dozen preschoolers up to first graders. We heard about the tall people (longest string), the middle sized people (medium string), and … “babies” one child suggested for the shortest string, and we all laughed. More examples of varying things were suggested by the pastor, before he brought all six string ends together in one hand and said “watch this”. (I thought the correct word was abracadabra.)
Sure enough, he turned them into three pieces of equal length. Amazing!
Then he did another trick.
He turned the trick into an object lesson.
“We all look different, but Jesus has made us all the same.”
Maybe I think too deeply, or too literally about these things. I suspect some children do too. Perhaps they’re thinking, “I don’t want Jesus to make me look like my brother. I don’t want my Mum and Dad or my baby sister to all be ‘middle sized'”. And that’s if they’ve managed to draw the connection between the strings and ‘us’.
Whichever way you choose to tackle this concept of Colossians 3:11, one thing’s for certain. Little children aged less than eight years old will probably not understand the abstractness of it.
This is when parents need to grow these concepts into their children as they walk along the road together, when they lie down and get up, when they eat and play together. This will be when the abstract becomes concrete for them.
And the pastors who are sitting with the church’s little ones at their feet?
Perhaps they should tell a story. A Bible story.
There is a small but growing group of Christians who are eager to see the children of the church integrated into the life of the Church body and not just pandered to by programs. Although programs, in and of themselves can be quite useful, they can also stymie the discussions that churches and families need to have about faith formation in the life of their children. Programs by themselves often focus on knowledge (cognition) and what is missed is the beautiful mystery of faith and the excitement of disciple development. I have written on previous occasions about the importance of the child’s vocation in the church. (Here is just one example).
Last night I heard David Csinos, who describes himself as an author, speaker, practical theologian, husband, researcher of children’s spirituality, and former children’s pastor, speak in Geelong. This was encouraging for a variety of reasons. It reminded me that there are more voices and often more articulate voices speaking out on this issue and it also caused me to reflect that this is not “rocket science” but requires families, churches and church leaders to engage in a prayerful discussion of how faith is developed in the most vulnerable and important members of our church communities.
If you wish to explore this important notion I have included some websites and books to explore:
- David’s blog: http://davecsinos.com/
- The Journal of Family and Community Ministries (which is free to subscribe to): http://www.familyandcommunityministries.org/
- A wonderful book is : Children’s Ministry in the way of Jesus by Ivy Beckwith and David Csinos. This is a good place to begin your reflections if you haven’t started already, or to continue your journey.
- Is it a Lost Cause: Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children by Marva Dawn.
- And if you look under Child Theology you will encounter more of my thoughts/musings on the issue.
- Another worthwhile approach is taken by the Child Theology Movement.
Once again my wife reflects upon one of our passions – how to present gospel stories to children.
The story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. (John 13:1-17)
Traditionally, we concentrate on Jesus, the teacher, humbling himself to wash the feet of his disciples. However, to a young child, this would not seem unusual at all. Their experience is normally one of adults caring for them; teachers and childcare providers, parents, and grandparents. It would be strange to them if the disciples had washed Jesus’ feet!
So how could we tell this story?
Often Bible storytellers try to interpret the stories. We want to be sure the child understands the meaning and the lesson. In short, we tell the child what they should think.
I’m wary of this approach.
We need to trust that He will guide them as they hear our stories.
Our aim should be to facilitate worship in children.
The lives of children are full of friends, family gatherings, travelling, food, and identity. This story has it all. Jesus plans a meal together with his friends. They all travel to an upstairs room in a house. They probably walked along dusty roads to get there. When they arrived there were probably hugs and kisses all around. The table had an array of food and drink, lovingly prepared by others in their circle of friends.
Most importantly, Jesus was with his friends: they identified themselves (and the community recognised them) as His followers.
So, as you tell this wonderful story, touch on these points of contact.
Children will also visualise the story as you tell it. They will “see” it using their own experiences. Therefore a table full of food will be their family’s dining table.
Enrich the story for them by telling them the colours, the smells, the icky ness of the dirty feet, the warmth of the water in the basin, the gentleness of Jesus hands, and the softness of the towel.
When we tell stories in this fashion we help a child take it into their heart. The story will resonate with them.
And finally, give the child a way to respond to what they have heard. Wonder with them, sit quietly and ponder, provide art materials, sing. Follow their lead as they follow the Holy Spirit.