Posts Tagged With: Faith

Including Children in Church Community

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 photo 4pastor, 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.

 

 

 

Categories: Child Theology, Children, christian, Christianity, Faith, Family | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Telling Bible stories to young children

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.

I believe that when we impart God’s Word to young people the Holy Spirit is present and active in their hearts and their heads.children 1

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.

 

Categories: Child Theology, Children, christian, Faith, Family, Hetty's Devotions | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Dreams

Our dream life is a mysterious and unfathomable part of the mind.  My wife had two successive dreams that caused me to wonder. I usually find this area of life too ethereal to write about but here are the two dreams as my wife relates them.
Last night I had two dreams. Like Pharaoh, I woke up wondering what they could mean. Where is Joseph when you need him?In the first dream I was at a book fair run by a church and a Bible college. There were many tables laden with theological books. There were also women putting lots of delicious looking baked goods onto other tables. Little children raced around amongst the tables and everything looked ready for business. But there were no customers. One woman expressed her dismay. “We made all this food to encourage people to come.” “But there’s no place for people to sit” I said, “and you’re not offering any coffee or tea.”

In the second dream I was again at a fair. This time it was a toymaker’s. I had heard about it and Pieter agreed to take me there. He dropped me at the door and we arranged a time for him to return. As I stepped into the building, which happened to be an old wooden church, the toymaker himself greeted me. But my attention was completely taken by the sight before my eyes. Handmade toys of every description: felted dolls in gaudy colours, brightly painted wooden vehicles and puppets, metal wind-up toys sparkled on the shelves, and a hundred pretty mobiles hung from the ceiling. “Oh, this is amazing!” I enthused.

Immediately, the toymaker reached up and took down one of the mobiles. It was a nice one, but others had already caught my eye. As I continued to enjoy the fantastic array of toys, the toymaker took the mobile to the counter and began to wrap it. I believed he had made a wrong assumption and I was quick to point this out to him. “No, no,” I said, “I don’t want that!” He didn’t stop straight away, and I had to repeat myself several times. Finally he ceased wrapping. His hands fell at his sides and he looked up at me. There were tears in his eyes and his whole face crumpled with grief. Slowly he turned and walked away.

Some women were also in the shop and they’d seen what happened. One came to me and quietly explained. “The toymaker made every toy in this place,” she said.
“But didn’t he understand that I didn’t want to buy that toy?” I interjected. “I would have bought something else; it’s all beautiful, I would have found something to buy.”
“Buy?” she said. “He was going to give it to you!”

You can imagine my horror to hear this. I needed to find the toymaker and explain my actions. But then Pieter returned and still the toymaker hadn’t reappeared. I had no choice. I left the toy fair empty-handed.

Somehow I think these stories should be prefaced with the words of Jesus – “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…….”

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Uncertainty

As I was sanding down an old cot this morning, in preparation for our first grandchild, my mind started to wander.  Afterall, sanding is boring. I reflected on the fact that the older I have become, the less certain I DSC_0432am of many things.

Views that I had held solidly in the past, now, were not as concrete as I thought.  I hasten to add that my faith, belief in God and Scripture are not among these uncertainties although interpretations of some key ideas are.  Some of these uncertainties may include interpretations of Scripture, but others are social and environmental. I was very conservative when I was younger but now I realise that I am on the left of many of my friends. Subtly and imperceptibly I have shifted over time.

I can think of a host of examples where my thinking has changed or mellowed. Whereas once I was a staunch supporter of the 6 twentyfour hour day version of creation – now I see many more (Biblical) possibilities. The role of women in church, the environment, my political views are just some more examples of where my black and whiteness has morphed into something far less concrete and certain.

Being certain has a comfortableness about it. I miss that. In many areas of life I can no longer say with unwavering confidence, “This is the truth and if you don’t believe it, you must be wrong.” You may have a point after all (Michael).

As I was sanding down the frame I wondered why this had happened.  Is it that the realities of life have washed over me?  Is it that now I see some many more complexities though simple experience?

I came to another conclusion although the above might also be true. I think it is mainly that my God is far bigger and more majestic than I ever imagined  60 or even 30 years ago.  The God of Scripture, the universe and life itself has a complexity and omnipotence that cowers my certainty.  His Word has a depth in which I often feel out of my own depth! My brothers in the past said with utmost certainty and conviction that the world was flat and at the centre of the universe.  What do I say now which must cause God to laugh at my puniness and ridiculousness?

That is why I am more uncertain than ever before – and in a way – I am content to be so.

 

Categories: christian, Christianity | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Reprise: Advent Poem

Today’s poem is not a poem by a famous poet but one of mine from last year.

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.’

Gen 3:15

sunrise new

 

The first morning glimmer
of light
tells us the sun is coming:
A new day
A new hope
And eternal possibilities.

The dawn light
is a daily
covenant promise
that the son is coming:
who with a bruised heel
would crush
the enemy’s head
forever.

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Advent Poems

That Holy Thing

mary crop

From the walls of the Keldby Church, Mons, Denmark

George MacDonald (1824-1905)

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high:
Thou cam’st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.O son of man, to right my lot
Nought but thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea thy sail!

My fancied ways why shouldst thou heed?
Thou com’st down thine own secret stair:
Com’st down to answer all my need,
Yea, every bygone prayer!

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Advent Poems

In recent years I turned my hand to Advent poems. This year I thought I would remember classics from the past. My first comes from Christina Rossetti.

ADVENT: “COME,” THOU DOST SAY TO ANGELS

Stained Glass Window Cologne Cathedral

Stained Glass Window Cologne Cathedral

“Come,” thou dost say to Angels,
To blessed Spirits, “Come”;
“Come,” to the Lambs of Thine Own flock,
Thy little Ones, “Come home.”

“Come,” from the many-mansioned house
The gracious word is sent,
“Come,” from the ivory palaces
Unto the Penitent.

O Lord, restore us deaf and blind,
Unclose our lips tho’ dumb;
Then say to us, I come with speed,
And we will answer, Come.

ROSSETTI, CHRISTINA (2012-09-30). Delphi Complete Poetical Works of Christina Rossetti (Illustrated) (Delphi Poets Series Book 12)  Delphi Classics. Kindle Edition.
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They Will Know …

In my last blog I finished with the statement, “My consistency and that of the Christian community to a gospel life style should be the first line of defence against assaults on Christian values and principles.”

A number of people have responded to me with regard to that comment. It struck a chord. Christians are apt to accuse the world of persecuting them (and it does) but we often forget, particularly in the West, that our greatest witness is our life style, and in the last few decades that has been badly tarnished.  We have had the disturbing litany of fallen televangelists, abuse of children in Christian institutions, corruption, unedifying bickering and … sadly, the list goes on. I haven’t even mentioned my own poor personal example to the neighbourhood in which I live.

Picture 316cropThose of us who are old enough will remember the ’60s song “We are one in the Spirit“. It ends with the chorus, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” In John 13:34  Jesus gives his disciples a new command: “Love one another”  and he adds in verse 35, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love, agape love – sacrificial, giving not expecting in return love, is to be the badge of the Christian.

Two thousands years later it is still a difficult task for us.  We are good at making our views heard on a whole range of social and moral issues.  But often these voices are strident, judgmental and graceless with no sense of the compassion that Christ showed a fallen world.

Maybe we, and I certainly include myself, need to go back to basics. We need to go back to the attitude of grace that God called his children to have and show.  So when we are persecuted or martyred or pilloried in the media, we would hope that what the world sees is not the hissing of people like cornered snakes, but the face of a Christlike family of people who share the grief of their master for a fallen world.

 

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When they see among them their children …

20130425-165731.jpg22 Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob: ‘No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale. 23 When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. 24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.’

Isaiah 29 22-24

These verses come in the midst of God’s frightening judgement upon Jerusalem before Judah’s exile in Babylon.  In contrast to the prophecy of the horrors to come, the passage quoted looks beyond this time of exile to a future when there will be joy and genuine awe in the worship of God.

Many commentators when considering this passage jump on the word “children” and translate that as “future generations”.  There is no problem with that, except we lose the critical idea of being a child and the uniqueness of childhood. Too often commentators suggest that we are dealing with a generation of adults in the future. This, in my view, waters down the intent of the passage.

But why does Isaiah/God use the word “children”?

Which parent has not on occasions sat back and quietly mused on the joy of their children – their exploits, wonder, faith and accomplishments. Our hearts are warmed in the knowledge that they are products of our union! I know there are moments when the opposite occurs but let us stay with the positive for the moment. Children are a symbol of amazing potential and promise. In this passage they are reminders and metaphors for naïve and innocent wonder at the character and actions of God.

Children can remind jaded adults of the joy of the discovery of faith and the wonders of God and His creation and most important, the relief and exhilaration of salvation. They are God’s “sacrament” (symbol or image if you prefer) of new faith, new hope and new future – a crucial idea in the passage above.

In the Isaiah passage children are prophecies of awe filled worshippers (in the fullest sense), of God.

I believe this passage is pointing to Christ but also to his second coming when we will see, completely, how all things will be made new. In the meantime, while we wait for the return of the King. Our children are still heralds of faith and future. We jaded, cynical and worldly-wise adults need to make sure that we do not squash that vision in our children  – or our own hearts.

Categories: Bible, Child Theology, Children, christian, Christianity, Church, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dream for the Spiritual Health of Our Children

skate board ramp“We dream of a local church that is willing to radically rethink what it means to worship God together in ways that are meaningful across generations. This wouldn’t mean simply tweaking  our current elements of worship to make them more child friendly, and it wouldn’t involve the juvenilization of the church. Instead it would mean turning committed disciples of all ages to worship God together. As the contemporary world brings new ways of thinking about and doing church togther, we hope this is part of the agenda.

In her book Welcoming Children, Joyce Mercer asks, “what would happen if, instead of removing children for not conforming to the styles of worship comfortable to adults, we changed some of those styles to invite the fuller participation of children?” We imagine Jesus would answer  this question by taking a child into his arms and saying,”The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Will we follow our teacher?”

Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus, David M. Csinos and Ivy Beckwith, IVP Praxis 2013, p 125

 

 

Categories: Child Theology, Children, Church, Faith, Family, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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