Wednesday, September 28, 2005
As adults we talked about sacrifice and fasting and giving up things that control us. Two of the kids had successfully given up computer for the day as their fast and very excited about it. 2 year old Emily had given up her nap, though probably not intentionally...
We had some group prayertime and the kids were kids but very good and included.
Then we prayed in the foyer, in the sanctuary, over the supply room and office doors, in the kitchen and outside. It wasn't scripted. It wasn't planned. There was enough space for adults carrying heavy burdens who wanted still, quiet prayer to have that, too.
The kids included me in their outdoor prayer walk. They had prayed over chairs for people in the sanctuary. Now, they prayed for the trees to grow and for the people in the houses behind the church to be safe. They prayed for Artisan to be good neighbors. They ran through the parking lot praying for cars not to break down and for cars to fill the parking lot. They prayed to be lights like the street lights over the parking lot. When we were all done, they prayed for blessings on this person and that person.... Some of these prayers came from them. Alot of it came from a parent walking with them saying, "What [do the houses back there] make you want to pray about."
Bringing your children, praying with them, letting them pray with you, investing your own prayer energy and your own prayertime (corporate or personal) looking for ways for them to connect or helping them quiet themselves while others are praying is a significant sacrifice. It's ALOT of work. The work of it hit me, the sacrifice of it hit me, but I couldn't help but think that these kids are getting something very different from Sunday school and the dynamic potential for their faith to just keep growing is enormous. I have more faith than most adults for this kind of thing but I confess that I waver because I'm not sure there are parents and others willing to work and sacrifice like this. The dynamic of last night left me saying, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Lord, help us make this happen."
As parents and as a community, it's alot of work to include children and walk with them and let them walk with you - alot of work and personal sacrifice. It requires we change how we think not just about worship but about prayer and probably other things, too. I don't think it's presumptious to believe that God enjoyed watching them bounce around and being very still and that He was listening as intently to to their prayers as to the intense, serious prayers that the rest of us brought. I also believe He received the sacrifice that these parents/guardians made as sweet incense.
The next step? When God answers we can say, "Remember when we talked to God about that? I think He was listening. Let's say thank you." If God doesn't answer? Together, we'll keep praying ... something else to learn . . .
When was the last time your prayer time was solemn but fun? When was the last time God made you smile and gave you hope when you were facing an incredible challenge of faith?
God is pleased to give these little people His kingdom. This is a treasure hidden in a field that a man sold everything He had to buy ...
The bad thing? When you read someone else's blog and you find out they tagged you for something just when you thought you were done blogging forever and had nothing else to say...
1. Total number of books you own An excellent question. 50 + shelves... (some small shelves, some big shelves...) Someday (if we ever move) I'll count them and I'll know ... remember 7 people live here. I don't think of myself as much of a reader...
2. What was the last book you bought Christina Katerina & The Box by Patricia LeeGauch (yes, it's a children's book)
3. What was the last book you read All the way through, as in "finished it"? Christina Katherine & the Box by...
4. List five books that are particularly meaningful to you (in no particular order) . . . I tend to read authors...five... "meaningful" being the key word?? ...hmm... I don't know, but these are probably among the most memorable...
[The Bible yes]
Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman (Good news! Thank you, Lisa! Just because you tagged me and I had to look up the author, I found out that after almost 20 years these people are writing more books!)
The Camel Who Took a Walk by Jack Tworkov . Another children's book. It's just odd and fun in an unexpected, simple kind of way. Also books by Jane Yolen, Ann Rinaldi, George MacDonald, and I did like Harry Potter...
Leon Uris books (Mille 18, Trinity, Exodus...) historical fiction/drama. (I also liked Chaim Potok's books)
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn A coming of age novel about Wales. I also liked How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, my first read c. Celtic Christianity.
I AM by George A.F. Knight Knight is a Scots Hebrew scholar from New Zealand. This one of his little books.
5. Tag five people. Any five people who read? or who read my blog? Howabout 5 lurkers who frequently read this without comment :-) Use the comment space or send us to your blog!
When I get in the car, and turn the ignition, the radio blasts. I look at the station and I know who drove it last. My kids have music on all the time when they're home. They don't understand how I can like music and love quiet. I like to listen to music. But if my head is already full of other things (which is most of the time) I don't put music on. It competes with what's in my head and I like listening to lyrics.
I had opportunity to try out a top of the line CD player this summer when my kids were home from college. I donned the earphones, inserted the worship cd and bounced around the house oblivious to the rest of the world. Needless to say, my kids were dumbfounded then oddly amused. They didn't invite their friends over that day and I don't think the discussion about playing music will come up again any time soon. But they know I like music, they know I love worship, and maybe someday they'll appreciate the quiet.
Doing makes something more alive than just watching - doing the walkman experience, doing the worship experience. Worship isn't empty words. It isn't something imposed on me from the outside. No one can worship for me. It isn't technical or mechanical. It isn't something I can just talk about because God will require that I do what I say to Him - another mystery.
How much of worship is leadership and muscianship? How much depends on planning, prep and presentation? How much is a group of people actively seeking God with a heart to please Him? How much do we do? How much does God do? Is it enough to worship God because He calls us to, or do we have to come away having "experienced something?" Is it enough to include our children in our worship because God is calling us to or do we have to justify it? Do we have to prove something? Well, God will come looking for fruit...
To bring our children to worship with us requires that we draw them into what we're doing. The experience may be something shared but it will also be something personal. There are elements of mystery, life, impartation that we have no control over and in this day and age that's a tough thing to get your head around. Hurricane Katrina, for example.
How we think about all these things affect what we teach children about worship or rather, how we worship with our children. Complicated? Think simple. We come to bring our thanks and praise and offerings and to tell an awesome God how wonderful He is. We come to listen to His stories. We come to draw near to Him, we expect Him to draw near to us, and we bring our children. We don't have to explain it.
We think simple, maybe mult-sensory but simple. What's important? In it's simplist form what does it look like or sound like or feel like or taste like or smell like to worship God? No, a better question – what does He look like, sound like, feel like, taste like, smell like? We worship Him. But maybe we don't have to know these things. Maybe we don't have to know how. Maybe the how and maybe the impartation comes with just doing.
The growing consensus is that worship and doing is more formational than instruction. If you worship the Living God of the Universe and if you do the things He says, you will come to know Him better and you will become more like Jesus. How? It's a mystery.
We have an hour, 90 minutes, a lifetime. What's important? A visitor or a family comes one time to experience what it is to be part of a people worshipping the Living God and we hope God will meet them (through us or despite us). Our children follow us around all day and we hope God will meet them (through us or despite us). God does what He does, we do what we do and where the two cross is a mystery.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
The word "impart" implies giving something that's more alive than just information. We worship a Living God - emphasis on Living. There are things He’s revealed and things He hasn’t. We parent, teach, lead, share hoping to impart something but impartation is a mystery. Sometimes understanding gives life and sometimes explaining robs experience of its power.
I really can't explain the difference between walking 2 growing black furry four-legged walking machines and walking on the treadmill. But I can tell you that the commitment and the benefits of interacting with something alive are different than the commitment you make to a machine or a program and what you get out of it. Something alive is growing and changing and requires that I grow and change, too. If I ignore something that's alive it moves on or it dies.
Bringing children to worship is something that's very alive right now. Apparently there really are people trying to do this to greater and lesser degrees. Something to nurture. Something challenging with potential for growth and change. We can use a "how-to" to facilitate communication but the rest is relational. We're looking for life but we may not be able to measure it or explain it even after the fruit matures.
If you do something because it pleases God you don’t do it to see whether it works, you do it anyway. It's not just an experiment. The people looking at the crucifixion were probably not convinced at the time that it worked. The people of Israel were surely not convinced that the land God promised was worth battling giants.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
I had an interesting conversation with my 16 year old daughter yesterday. She asked me about my blog and we got talking about church and a little about why she doesn't particularly like church. (She invites her friends to the house for our Monday night meals which is usually about half Artisan.) She's been through the most changes in her church experience and visited more youth groups than my other kids did. I suggested she read the blog and comment. She said, nah, you can write about this.
Jenny's in a program in her high school that's preparing kids who want to be teachers so they learn alot about how kids learn. She made the comment that most kids are visual before they develope their language skills so worship should have more visual elements. I have to say that surprised me a little because the guys at Artisan are using the overhead posting art and photographic images and using far more visual elements than the other churches she's been part of. Claudia spends a lot of time decorating and setting up the candles and we often have an enacted prayer station for communion. We meet in a space that in itself is fairly simple so it's pretty versatile.
My daughter is an artist so she's a very visual person, herself.
"And you know, Mom, with a name like "Artisan" you'll probably have a whole congregation of visual learners." I'm wondering if Selah is for those moments when all you can do is sit with your mouth open and let such morsels of profound wisdom work it's way through your being...
I talked alittle about what I'm hoping we do with story and she perked up her ears. "And you can just do it as drama or...." and she went on with other visual presentations of the story. The bottom line was, she doesn't like sermons so she was thinking in-place-of. This also surprised me because I thought our young fun pastors sharing every Sunday would appeal to my kids. My son on the other hand used to tell me he really liked sermons and it didn't matter which church he was visiting or who he was listening to... Again, Jenny is visual and she's talking about visual learning...
Our conversation continued. I told her that someone might be asking her and her siblings about their experiences in a public city high school. She went through this long list of all the things they should know. Then she got talking about school and various postions she took in her US govt. class and I just listened. I probably would have taken similar positions but they weren't your typical Christian positions. When we were done she said, "Mom, thanks for just listening and not telling me what you think and whether you think I'm right or wrong." Again, selah...
My generation and my parents' generation didn't do a lot of listening to kids. We have friends in their 40's. I watched them do alot of listening to their children. The other day I watched an early 30's mom guide her preschooler through a challenging decision by asking him questions about his feelings and how someone else might feel and he came to the conclusion she hoped he would come to.
I'm sharing this because all of these people are significantly younger than I and I'm learning volumes from them. I think that generations listening to each other and learning and deciding together will shape the church differently than only top down or old to young leadership models. Maybe it will enable the church to lay groundwork for the future in ways that haven't happened before. I'm not just talking about encouraging and listening to young up-and-coming leaders in the churches. I'm talking about listening to children.
With some wise oversight, let your children take initiative and run with it. . . but that's another conversation...
Friday, September 23, 2005
...Kids are watching. God is watching. It's scary to ask but Lord, help us worship You in spirit and truth and to teach our children...and about those error messages...
[This entry isn't specifically targetting Artisan but it's an important part of the discussion.]
You know that worship is a verb, don't you? It's something we do - not a spectator sport. Maybe that's a bit harsh but it's important. Even stillness and silence involves actively choosing to quiet my inner self. Do we sing things that are true and things we want to be true in us or do we sing words with no intention of doing? It's enough to sing it, I don't have to actually do it. We don't bow down, we don't kneel, we don't lift our hands. Ok, it's in the scriptures but we don't do that in our church. I'm sure there's a wide range of thought about this.
Repetition...Do we kneel when we sing about kneeling before God? Do we dance, when we sing about dancing before God? Doing these things at home alone with God helps a little if you're self-conscious. That doesn't mean you have to dance at every service or even most, but dancing is a way to express joy, especially for little children. Do we sing about joy with a dour face? (I'm guilty!) Do we bow when we sing about bowing before God? We may not teach children to bow and kneel anymore but children still lift their hands up to us,as I believe God still looks for us to lift our hands to Him. Does an image of someone lifting hands cause us to do that or are we just watching TV? If songs and images are prayers are we saying things that we have no intention of doing? Children know.
Worshipping God in spirit and in truth pleases Him. It's the only way to worship Him. In congregations where adults are doing these things chldren see the discipline of dancing where it's appropriate and stopping. Lifting hands, kneeling or bowing when it's appropriate. God-honoring movement. Appropriate movement. Movement that maybe only be culturally correct in the presence of God. We can do it in the privacy of our closet time at home but I venture to say that these expressions are also appropriate in community worship.
Children and teens have a keen eye for inconsistancies. Children know. Inviting our children to worship with us requires that we fix the inconsistancies. It's scary to ask but Lord, help us to worship You in spirit and truth and to teach our children how to worship You.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Deut 4:10 NIV "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." [a passage to ponder]
I don't know how successfully you can include young children and families in community worship without carefully examining the worship service. From the things I've read, there are some specific ways we can make a service more child - friendly without making it child-centered. Counter to most contemporary worship thinking, someone made the comment to me that repetition says "this is important". Use at least one song for non-readers to learn that is repeated for 4 Sundays. Use short scriptures to introduce each part of worship as memorable formative words so children know what's coming. Take time to encourage beauty/awe/ wonder, focus on the Biblical story. . . What follows may look long and complicated but I think, in most services, all it involves is some simple tweaking. In addition to all this, give children as many opportunities to serve as you can and remember that they aren't adults, they're children.
-Print any recurring passage of scripture (or the reference) in worship folder
-Include at least the reference (if not the text) for story passage and reference for next week’s story
-Post your Philosophy for including children
-Prepare and label child spaces
-Provide appropriate art/craft materials for parents and children on the Response Table
-Hand out or make available “Guidelines” for Parents and Children
The Worship Service(liturgical, traditional, contemporary, emerging. You have to search your own service to find the elements you value. Then pick one simple thing that ties into each of these that a child can do, focus on, or relate to.)
Gathering/Call to Worship
“We gather together on Sunday to ….” (example: …worship the Lord: Father, Son and Holy Spirit) What is worship?
-a simple opening passage of scripture or call that doesn't change through a season or an entire series (something children can listen for and learn to say, a passage that will shape their thinking about that part of worship)
(repetition says to a child “this is important)
- in a simple sentence talk about any new colors, symbols, decor that you're using
- a list of music for parents to listen to at home or in the car so children will hear it often
- one chorus or one song specifically for non-reading children
-scripture/lyrics running through heads during the week shaping hearts and minds
-repeat at least the chorus every Sunday over a 4-6 week period
- opportunities for children to dance or use rhythm instruments
“This is the time when we…” How many unchurched people know what “confession” means?
- open with the same short passage of scripture for 4-6 weeks
- children learn to say it or listen for the phrase…
Shaped by the Scriptures/Story/Passage
- the scriptural story, the parable, the passage
-read from the NIrV,
- or told, or
- enacted on a special table with felt or wooden figures or
- enacted by people for the whole congregation.
- start message with 1-2 “I wonder” questions for children
Direct children to the Response Table
- Provide guidelines, story sheets and quiet, appropriate materials or activities on or near the art/craft Response Tables.
Continue with 1-2 “I wonder” questions for adults…
Message or ______
Sacrament of Communion –
-a simple passage or scriputure to signal that part of service
-include parent guidelines for communion
Interactive Prayer –
-a simple passage of scripture to signal that part of service
-multi – sensory and child friendly or layered for different ages
-prayer in groups or alone
-a simple passage of scripture to signal that part of service (the same passage of scripture for 4-6 weeks)
-place or opportunity for children to bring something personal to the Lord (not just money)
- Something you say together to the Lord or to each other.
- the same passage of scripture for 4-6 weeks that kids can learn and use (ie ”The Lord be with you…and also with you…”)
Post Service: Speak with a child, bless a child, encourage a child (and their parents!) the way you would an adult
I should add that we're talking community of worshippers here. Beyond individual friendships the community can provide designated helpers with photo ID lanyards and background checks who are available to offer extra hands to guests, frazzled parents, single parents, parents serving during worship, children who come without parents like a natural extended family.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
What could happen if a whole generation experienced the Word without anyone ever telling them what it's supposed to mean (in ways similar to YCIW)? I'm talking about a whole generation growing up letting the stories of God (ie God's Word) speak to them and explain themselves, without someone else explaining them - adults and children hearing and pondering the Word together, being taught by that Word, learning together, finding out more about language and history and culture together? Far out, I know, but stay with me here .
Some are scholars, some aren't and there's a place for that but where do you, as an adult, encounter God? How do you interact with the Living Word? Imagine what God can show and tell eyes and ears so tuned to Him when they still believe that God is God and His Word is true. I'm thinking that giving children time, space, quiet, opportunity to play with God's stories, ponder them, retell them is a crucial element as we include children in worship. (maybe they do this during worship, maybe at home) What a child does with this story tells us a little of what they understand.
Letting the stories of God be their focus and ours in worship puts the emphasis back on listening and hearing the Word and interacting with God through the Word. Hearing the stories of God isn't age specific if you stick to the story (the G-rated, PG-13 stories, of course) . But I think it would change all of us and have a serious affect on upcoming generations. (We talked earlier about wanting our children to have a sense of ownership at church.) "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. . ."(Romans 10:17) could take on a whole new dimension when it crosses generations.
I sent the guys an email about the Worship Service. Don't know if I posted it. I'll go back and look... I'm still trying to take what people are saying about kids in worship, wondering if we brought that element into community worship what would it look like?
Monday, September 19, 2005
I wrestled alittle over having avoided a wonderful opportunity to share something special with someone small. You can buy a book, read the story and it's the same every time you read it and little children love the predictability. But to tell a story, the story takes on a different kind of life and as the storyteller you become responsible for the telling. When you tell a story over and over some parts stay the same and some parts change.
I think sometimes we're afraid to approach the scriptures with our children because we're afraid we'll get something wrong. Being responsible for the way I share the scriptures still makes me tremble. When my kids were little I read the passages verbatim for fear that just telling the story I'd miss something important or that I'd violate something sacred. They got Bible "stories" in Sunday School. I wanted them to hear the word the way God said it (right...LOL! literalist that I was...) I didn't like paraphrased Children's Bibles. I thought this thinking came out of my reverence for the Word. Maybe it did. But looking back, if I'd given them opportunity to retell the story or listened to the understandings that they came away with the time might have been worth even more.
But maybe I was afraid. Maybe I was afraid that God's Word was something fragile, breakable, corruptable when it is, in fact, something strong enough to create the universe and accomplish all that God sends it to accomplish. Selah. Let your imagination play with that a little.
Alot of the stories in scripture aren't intended for chldren. Some, as written, go over a child's head. But you can tell alot of them in a way that even a 3 year old will understand. Even a three year old will understand that the owner of that vineyard was a very generous man. If he understands that truth, you've not violated the story that Jesus told. But the more you choose to ponder the details that Jesus included, the more you see and understand as an adult. If you tell them in a child's language holding on to all of what God put there to begin with sometimes you see things that you didn't see before.
My point is that coming to a passage alone or with a child we really don't have to come with a Divinity Degree. In fact it might be a good thing to leave behind all the things other people have told you about what the passage means. Let the scriptures tell you what they mean. I think it's pretty clear in scripture that God's stories are there to teach us. Let the passage tell the story and teach both of you, together. See what God will show you. See what He'll show your little people as you tell the story for little ears. (example: the owner of the vineyard went out in the early morning when it was still dark, at lunchtime, at naptime, and right before dinner...) See what the Word will accomplish as you tell that story over and over. When I say telling, I'm not talking about adding to or taking away. I'm not talking about taking random verses out of context. Stories in scripture can hold their own as stories.
I've read in Bibles that the mystery term "Selah" in the Psalms implies a silence. There's often more to hear in what isn't said than in what's said. Sunday, I left the Bible people drawings without faces because their faces changed over the course of the story. It's empty space for your imagination. I think that the missing pieces in the stories of scripture are like that, too.
I was trying to find a passage I remembered, implying that understanding comes from doing what God says. I don't know if this is it but this is as close as I came. (Maybe most of Deuteronomy, too.) Psalm 119:100 NIV
"I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts."
You could call this an arrogant passage or you could say, "He gleans more understanding from doing and obeying God's precepts himself than from the counsel of the older leaders of his community." Proverbs also tells us that in a multitude of council there is victory," lest we don't wander too far off on our own.
It's facinating to me that our desire to include children in worship (because the scriptures show us that was the original model), our willingness to come saying, "Lord, it looks like this pleases You. How do we make it happen?" our willingness to step out and try, even though we'll find lots of reasons to quit, is taking us somewhere that we would never have gone if we hadn't taken that first step. In taking one step at a time, with each step, we see alittle more of the path. Once on the path, God can show us things that He can't if we're just observing or afraid.
Not exactly the same thing but encouraging. Proverbs 4:18 "The pathway of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter until the full light of day."
You could say, it's one thing if you're just responsible for yourself. It's another if you're leading hundreds of people and their families and you're responsible. But remember Abraham leading his family off into the unknown, Moses leading a million people out of Egypt, David leading thousands into battle, Paul breaking new ground in faith. I think we forget that all these people really didn't have a road map. . . but what incredible faith they must have had... or maybe not...maybe they just trusted God and took it one step, one day, at a time.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Older children will be able to participate in worship in different ways than younger children. They'll process worship differently. Maybe by the time your children reach school age they will have come up through this kind of worship. If not, you may want to start with some of the same engaging tactics that were in the last two posts. You'll just have to make them a little more age appropriate!
School aged children can not only participate in worship but also serve on a team with or without their parents. (Look for ways that young children can also serve.) Set up, take down, meal prep, choir, dance, drama, lighting candles, passing offering, music, reading announcements, creating visuals ... Remember we've come to bring ourselves and our gifts and talents to the Lord.
School aged children will also be able to go beyond Sunday worship to help in community service projects, House Blend, seasonal Immersed Worship, Prayer & Fasting, specific creative gifts and ideas for other activities. There may be instructional/fun small group opportunities, rites of passage teaching and celebration (tools to study the scriptures, dating, bat/bar mitzva,baptism...)
Two or more families can do things together - church related and not. One advantage of only two nights at church is that you have all the other nights to rest, be a family at home, get together with others, do other activities or serve in your larger neighborhood community.
Anything is possible! Hopefully, at that point, just as you worshipped together you can take your worship and your lives in Christ beyond the walls of the sanctuary and out to the world!
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The 5-6 er's will vary somewhere between preschool- like and school-aged in the way they process life... When I taught preschool gym it amazed me that 3-6 months made a 3 and a 3 1/2 so different. I actually think that's true well into elementary school and maybe beyond.
You can go through a child development guide and look at implications for worship but I'm still trying to stick to simple observations. 3-6 er's can communicate. They're learning real skills. They imitate. Their minds are going, their senses are still going, their curiosity and wonder are still alive and well. Their simplicity is profound. They will believe most anything. . . oh, and yes sometimes they have energy to burn. You could always run them hard, but not too hard, right before worship. They don't sweat like adults do...
Seriously...We bring them to worship. Who is this God to them? What do they see and hear and taste and smell and touch? What do they sense? They will be very frank and honest little people. (They probably intuitively know how to worship God in spirit and truth!) They observe. They process. Bring a bag of "planned diversions" (thank you Scott!) but you can probably find new ways to engage them in what's happening around them. They understand, "listen". They understand a lot of things! And they can make connections, however strange some of those connections may seem.
When I talk about engaging a child in worship it doesn't mean talking all the time or explaining everything. I would say if a child is quiet, watching, listening, clapping let he/she just soak up whatever h/s is soaking up. Maybe they're thinking about something totally unrelated but I wonder if that isn't more of an adult thing...I don't know but I wonder...Answering a question with as little information as possible will make anyone hungry for more. When h/s comes back for more tell them more (but as little as possible)! If you have to pass notes, you can draw pictures. They don't care if you don't know how to draw.
Can a little child sing? Praise? Pray? Listen? Bring something to God? Make a joyful noise? A loud noise? Clap? "Be still" and listen? Anything here you can practice at home? What new words and concepts can you introduce to a preschooler during worship? (or a toddler for that matter?) Think through the nouns and verbs and adjectives of worship. Can a pre-school aged child understand and do these things? Probably!
Maybe you bring the 1-2 minute scripture story home and tell it again, ask a wonder question, ponder it together, and let your child respond to God through artwork or play or work or doing. Maybe during the week if you notice something that reminds you of Sunday worship you can draw your child in, too.
But this is a serious question...who is the God that a preschooler knows? How does h/s come to know this God? What does God want a preschooler to know about Him? How does He show a little person these things? I wonder...
This is about the time when imaginary friends can be very very real but God is more than an imaginary friend... I wouldn't worry if He starts that way. God is very capable of being much much more...
So let's make some simple observations.
Most contemporary worship services I've attended run 90 minutes + ... a LONG time! Remember our focus in worship during this 90 minutes is on God. We've come to bless Him. Who is He? Who is He to your baby? Who is He to your toddler? What can he see, hear, touch that will tell him/her something about God?
Whether we like it or not, we represent God to our children from the moment they're born. Being close to parents, being held, being spoken to softly, sung to, swaying, walking are all very comforting and securing to babies and small children. All of this says to a baby, "Worshipping God is a great place to be!!"
Most babies, if they're fed, changed and healthy are deeply content being held by people who love them during worship. Many are content in a pack or a seat or a stroller. Some fall asleep. Some get fussy. A pacifier is comforting . Some are content if you're moving, if there are things to see, hear (but not too loud), people smiling at them. Worship is probably the only time during the week, unless your baby is sick, when a loved one will hold them for 2 hours + and I think that communicates something even to a tiny baby about God. I'm not saying you have to hold them the entire 2 hours if they're happy in a seat or a pack but it's something to think about.
Making worship an opportunity for families to be together every week at Sunday worship doesn't mean you can't take advantage of someone trustworthy who wants to hold your little one once in a while. That's one tiny advantage to being a family in community. One pastor even made the plucky suggestion that parents can get a babysitter and come to worship alone once in a while! Appalling? Perhaps, but if you think about it, having a Christian babysitter at home playing Christian worship music where a child is secure, safe, able to take naps and play with her own toys is probably much healthier than the best childcare at church. No one will pull her hair, push her down and there aren't kids to share cold germs. And toddlers can move and talk to their heart's content. They're not participating in community but that's the trade off and this is only if parents want to worship without their children once in a while. Though I know God understands our need for times like that, it pleases God to have our children around Him. You realize, of course, He calls all of us from 100+ years down "children"...
Then you have your busy, busy, talking toddlers. They're ok being held for a while. They're ok walking for a while, they're ok eating for a while, they're ok talking..... but we're talking 90 minutes here! What do we do with them? We probably won't engage them cognitively although, trust me, their little minds are always working ... but worship and life (!) aren't just about interacting with information. Mental stimulation, experience, learning go way beyond that. Comfort, candles, colors, sounds, music, pretty things around the room, people smiling, walking, holding on to the chairs, dancing become part of their world ... But then it's time for the message and and we need them relatively quiet for a whole 20 minutes and we've run out of ideas. So what do we do?
As you prepare for worship during the week pay attention to the things that engage your baby or toddler for 10 minute intervals. How long is the service? Take out a Sunday bulletin or worship folder and divide it into 5-10 minute blocks and plan that many quiet diversions for your child (or maybe twice that many) - a favorite book of Bible stories, cherrios, walking, singing/dancing, being held, a bottle, a quiet engaging toy, a mirror, a mitten/a sock/shoe for your child to try to put on, a quiet book with things to do in it, a mini-flash light, things to put in pockets or take out of pockets, a zippper, you know the things I'm talking about - anything that's quiet, safe, and facinating for a toddler goes into your Sunday bag. Eventually you can probably put together a bag of activities like that that only come out on Sunday at worship. But don't take anything out until you need it! And it's ok to share! Keep in mind that worship is a time to focus on God (creator of all things) and ultimately, you're training your child to focus on Him so use your imagination!
I thought this might be worth a try...Have fun with this!
Sunday, September 11, 2005
When she started her blog, right after her book came out, she was obviously upset about a lot of trends in Children's Ministry. When she stopped posting, all the discussions I thought were out there seemed to close down at about the same time. So I started blogging. Why? Because someone's got to talk about this stuff. So I'm excited that she's up and running again! It gives you another place to go where you may get some different opinions or you may get more of the same. Lots of voices, it seems, which is a good thing. Dr. Beckwith has oodles of experience and expertise. She's been doing this for a long time.
As I say, check it out...
Saturday, September 10, 2005
I realized that I don't even think about communion, except discerning the Body and being right with God so I don't get sick. I know that the Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants view communion differently. I also know that some parents offer communion to their children and some don't. I understand a little of the theology but as parents, we were mentally divided between offering our children communion as part of the body and tying it to baptism. He thought our leaders have different views about communion as they do about baptism.
I was hoping he would have opportunity to comment more on this but there aren't any recent blogs that go this way, here's your opportunity!
Well, first of all, if you have little ones you probably wouldn't have enough hands. But you might keep a small note book close by and jot it down or write it down at some other opportune moment. Sometimes, even writing it down you miss something of the wonder and awe but it's the beginning of a journal for the journey, you begin to collect memories - memories that will encourage you when you doubt.
Sometimes when we get discouraged we have to go back and look at what God has done. Some people write those moments down, some just remember. I even think there's a passage in scripture about it.
The key isn't building a booth but letting those memories evoke the thanks and praise and worship that God so richly deserves. It causes you to remember that with God all things are possible.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Two of my conversations ran into our first choice which is to include children in as much of community life as we can ( right now most of that being worship) These conversations were affirming, inspiring, and encouraging.
Here is an updated resource list - books to read. If you have to pick one book, I've numbered them, not by preference, but in the order I think will be most valuable to you as you wrestle with the idea of including kids in worship. Any of these books will open windows to see a bigger picture. Some books you read about parenting make you feel guilty. I hope that these will inspire you, encourage you, enable you, and affect how you think. They aren't exactly how-tos. But I think they'll affect your thinking.
Updated Resource List (Disclaimer: all of these resources will have things I'm excited about and other elements not ... but all are definately worth discussing!)
1)Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove Ill, 1993 ISBN 0-8308-1627-5) is for any parent who wants to bring their child to worship with them or maybe more for those who don't! Very parent friendly! This book is an enabling book and very engaging. She shares her passion for worshipping Jesus and her willingness to bring two little boys 17 months apart with her. (They're adults, now.) She touches negatives and the positives. I'm about half way through it.
2)Young Children and Worship by Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman ( John Knox Press: Louisville KY, 1989 ISBN 0-664-25040-8)
3) and the 2nd book Following Jesus by Sonja M. Stewart publ. by Geneva Press, Louisville KY are worth reading. Although the larger part of each book is a collection of actual story presentations used in the program, I think their insights into young children interacting with God and worship are worth reading. Many of these books focus on worship as formational - more formational than instruction - but I don't remember which book has the most in it or maybe it was a conversation...?
4) Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith by Catherine Stonehouse (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI 1998 ISBN 0-8010-5807-4) I'm on page 44/213. This lady has done a lot of research from scripture, child development, social science sources, and her own love for Christ Jesus and children. She touches the role of family and community in a child's faith walk - not just parents. She looks at different approaches to teaching/imparting faith to children. She examines a child's faith journey. It isn't a quick/easy book to read unless you happen to be hungry for this kind of information but it's very very readable. There's just a lot to think about.
5) Postmodern Children's Ministry by Ivy Beckwith Youth Specialties/Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2004 ISBN 0-310-25754-9) . I think her insights and observations are prophetic. It's a bit of a wake up call. She contrasts post-modern parents and families with what the previous generation has known and she strongly advocates change. She highlights changes in children's ministry that are beginning to happen in churches.
6) "Suffer the Children? Why Kids Belong in Church" by D. Brent Laytham Covenant Companion August 2005 (http://www.covchurch.org/cov/companion/index.html). An Evangelical Covenant article worth reading.
I posted a resource list a while back. Did I mention these? I read these before I started reading specifically about children.
The Younger Evangelicals by Robert E. Webber. (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI 2002, 2003 ISBN 0-8010-91-52-7) Now, I waded through this one. (You can also borrow one from someone who has already highlighted the important parts.) There are also some great charts at the end of each chapter.) I didn't wade because it was hard to read but, because there's a lot to think about and I could only chew on a little at a time. This is a good comparison of modern and postmodern perspective. It's narrated by a professor but includes many voices of younger evangelicals.
Reimagining Spiritual Formation by Doug Pagitt and the Solomn's Porch Community. (Emergent YS/Zondevan: Grand Rapids, MI 2004 ISBN 0-310- 25687-9) Narrative and Community Journal (as in diary). Ivy Beckwith mentioned Solomon's Porch in her book. This is a radical but engaging look a spiritual formation that isn't isn't teacher/classroom centered in any way, shape or form... Although I was hoping to read more about their kids there were snippets here and there. The beauty of it is that perhaps they've made their children less separate, including them but focusing on the larger community. It's absolutely worth reading. Read it looking for Jesus...
Children in the Worshipping Community by David Ng & Virginia Thomas (John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1946, 1952,1971, 1973). Yes, it's an old book and I just happened to see it for 75 cents at a book sale but how interesting! I don't even think I finished it when I got to the part about children holding hymnbooks but the wonderful perspectives and attitudes of people who love to worship and to bring children to worship are always inspiring. Lots of how-tos for more traditional worship.
I AM: This is My Name: The God of the Bible and the Religions of Man by George A. F. Knight.
Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, 1983. Ok. This doesn't have a lot to do with kids until they're in High School learning about other religions and say, "so Christianity and all the other religions aren't that different. . ." When they say that, this is the book to read. The writer of this book is my very favorite Hebrew scholar (maybe because of his obvious love of Jesus, maybe because he's the only Hebrew scholar I've read :-). This was my first experience and realization that Hebrew thinking is different from Greek thinking and most evangelical thinking. ie the Hebrews didn't divide a person into body, mind, and spirit. The whole person wasn't just body, mind, soul, heart, spirit, but family and other relationships, too. Little things like that have shaped my thinking about children and Jesus and faith. (This book is only 90 pages and alot to chew on.)
I'm processing all this through Artisan's desire to include children and enable parents and because I believe it's possible. I may be seeing things, potential, ideas that aren't in any of these books. It's all sort of a blurr! To be honest, a year and a half ago, I wasn't thinking about any of this!
It's not clear whether we can do this with our 1-4 year olds without parents totally disconnecting from worship to focus on their children. It's definately overwealming. It's also only 3 out of 18 years per child. We can enable, we can encourage, we can cast vision, we can recommend books on bringing children to worship but I should say to everyone that unless you want your children to join you there we won't succeed . . . Wonder with me for a moment ... how could worshipping with parents in the larger community from birth to 4 years form a child's faith differently than if they're in childcare or Sunday school? It's a sacrifice for a parent to do this. (It's a sacrifice for a parent to have children ... ) but what can worshipping together as parent and child give each of you that you can't get anywhere else?
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
A recent article (http://www.covchurch.org/cov/companion/index.html) in the August 2005 Covenant Companion, (magazine of the Evangelical Covenant Church) by D. Brent Laytham supports the inclusion of children in worship. He uses the terms an "ordinary" (an act of worship that "repeats week after week") and a "proper" ("an act of worship that is unique to a given Sunday."). His point is that repetition and rote give you the freedom to participate, praise, and ponder what you're expressing to God or about God and special elements become more meaningful.
When everything is always changing, always new, "special" loses its meaning. A routine is a routine because it's important. Special elements become important when they add meaning. (Eccl. 3:1) There comes a time when special becomes routine and loses something.
In Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, Catherine Stonehouse writes: "When people no longer love God with their whole heart, religious observances with the greatest of potential become only hollow rituals, and the integrity of life and word is gone, draining events of their power to communicate the faith. (p. 32) In the preceding pages she shows how Israel's community feasts and customs, were multisensory visual events that raised questions and communicated faith, especially to children. Such celebrations are surely more vibrant in communities of passionate believers. These were special events that broke the monotony of life. They broke the daily routine yet were special parts of a yearly routine. She implies that the integrity and passion of the believing community give both routine events and special events their power.
I've watched two generations break with traditional routines of church. Probably not because the elements of worship weren't important but because "the power of God-filled lives communicating faith"was lost somewhere. In one generation, duty & tradition in the face of cultural changes weren't enough to impart or sustain faith in the next generation. I think if we'd found spontaneity and variety to be more effective post-moderns would not be creating a new generation of Emerging churches.
So, on the practical side as we look at including children in our worship time (focusing on God and what will please Him) what's important enough to do the same way every week? What elements are more important as special elements that break the routine? How much is for us to do and how much is for the Spirit of God to do? Most importantly, how can we always be a passionate, vibrant community of believers imparting and communicating faith?
Monday, September 05, 2005
At Artisan one of our values is to recapture our awe of God. Another goal is to engage culture - a loud, fast moving, entertainment/fun oriented culture. Traditionally worship was always a place for retreat, reverence, quiet, awe.
Although our contemporary music and worship styles capture worship elements of the Psalms that were often lost in older forms of worship (and easier elements for kids - ie making a loud joyful noise) it sometimes runs against that still quiet place - a place where we meditate on God with the scriptures, and listening, quietly ponder in His presence.
YCIW takes kids away from grown-up worship to a child-imposed voluntary stillness. Somehow my list of wonder questions sounds loud and fast to me probably because a list doesn't allow for the time and the quiet to ponder each question. I don't know about you, but it's alot of work to make my heart and mind perfectly still.
But if a child can do it...
From the Psalms, "Be still and know that I am God". That passage is somewhere at the heart of wondering.
As we're looking to create ways for children and adults to worship the Lord of the universe together, we're finding that there are a number of elements to consider... Quiet awe is only one.
Friday, September 02, 2005
so you bring your "I wonder" questions.
You could say...
...there are no answers to these questions
...we can answer some of these questions...
...what do they matter ....
You have permission to pull very different things out of this passage but let's play with this. Here's what I know...
I know from scripture that Jesus wanted to be alone. I also know from my personal memory and experience what it means to me to want to be alone and have somebody or sombodies need something. This says to me that Jesus gave up what He wanted (and probably needed) in order to minister to and love these people. (Another reason I might say this is because He went off to the mountain alone when it was all over... ) Even if He knew ahead of time that all this was going to happen it still tells us alittle of how much He loves people. Imagine the dynamic of that and being there.
I know from scripture that it got late and the disciples said, send the people away so they can get themselves some food. (Here's His chance to be alone!) But Jesus said, We can feed them. Feed them with what we have. There were children there. If you're a parent you've had hungry whiny children. Imagine walking back to town with them late to find food. (Ok, they still had to wait their turn but they didn't have to walk back to town.) I'm guessing a lot of parents said, "Thank you, Lord!"
I also know from experience what it's like for someone to say, "Oh, 100 people, no problem!" I know what it means to be tired and have that person say, "Oh...I have to be out of town but this is all you have to do..." (Thus my question: Were the disciples scowling or smiling? We don't know...)
Ok, it's taken me 3-4 blogs to say that these "wonder questions" open a door for me to interact with the story at a different level and for God to interact with me at a different level. I'm not only reading what is clearly in the passage (I'm not changing anything) but there are layers that surface when you bring your memories, your experiences, your questions, your God-given imagination. The result is that the living Word of God will be more to me than information.
I have 50 + years worth of memory and experience to bring (sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't) It still amazes me how often I can open the scriptures and see something I never saw before though I've read a passage many times. Why? The Word is alive! The Word is living and active in every generation.
A child may have only 4-5 years of memory and experience. They see and hear based on that much understanding and experience. But how often does a child see and hear things that we miss.? We laugh at childlike simplicity or concrete associations but in the end, we can't help but marvel at simple truth! That child is, in fact, interacting with the Word and the God who is speaking. Each response, each revelation, is a building block for their own faith.
Now take the passage and imagine a child like your three or four year old being part of the crowd when Jesus fed the 5000. Maybe he was healed. Maybe she ate some bread. Maybe Jesus touched him or brushed by her. Maybe Jesus made a father or mother or grandparent or a brother or a sister better. Maybe she slept through it! We don't know but we know there were children there. Even if the historic child who was actually there came away with only a parent's story, "You were there when Jesus..." they were there!
All of my talking about "wondering" is obviously laced with my adult, scientific, overly analytical thinking not just a child-like God-given imagination. But God is the God who delights in little children and I truly believe that He loves it when we come to Him like children with or despite our mature, highly refined, analytical thinking skills.
Giving children (and adults) permission to "wonder" about God and what He says may not bring answers or it may not bring us the answers we expect. But it will surely feed the wonder and awe in us that God deserves.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Wonder with me. . .I wonder...
Why did Jesus withdraw to a solitary place? Why do you withdraw to be alone?
Who are all these people?
Why are the people coming from different towns?
How did they hear?
How far did they walk?
How did they feel after walking so far?
Did they know where they were going?
How did they find Him in His boat?
How did they know it was Jesus?
Jesus traveled by boat, the people walked. Why?
If He was withdrawing to a solitary place why were His disciples there?
I wonder how those men got to be his followers?
What does it feel like to be in a crowd of family and strangers following someone you've never met to some remote place?
Didn't they have anything else to do? So why did they go?
Why did they bring their children?
What does it feel like when someone cares about you and heals you?
How does it feel to watch lots of people being healed when someone speaks to them or touches them?
How does it feel when it gets late and the people won't go away?
How does it feel when it gets late and someone gives you more work to do?
How does it feel when someone expects you to feed 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish?
How does it feel to have one of His followers hand you some bread? Was that guy smiling or was he scowling?
How does it feel to watch these men pass five loaves of bread and two fish around a crowd of 5000 and not run out?
How much bread and fish did they eat?
How does it feel to have enough to eat?
How does it feel to watch the disciples picking up more leftovers than they started with?
It's late but you watch Him send the men, women, and children away. He sends you away. How does it feel when Jesus sends you away?
He sends his followers off in the boat. He starts up a mountain alone. What do you think?
How does it feel when He tells you to go home?
How does it feel when He goes away?
What did the children experience that day? What did they ask their parents?
Would they remember?
Would their parents tell the story over and over the way parents do?