Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I wonder if, because it's God's story and because we come to His stories through religious institutions with our scientific thinking, I wonder if it causes us to sterilize His stories. We don't get all the gory/graphic details that come from the media today. (Apparently we don't need them yet the details the authors chose to keep and not keep must be important to God.) I think we forget that all these things happened to real people, in real life, lives that weren't clean and sterile. That understanding should pull us up, not down. It means God was there and He still is . . . here in places that aren't clean and sterile.
I think we forget the "Living" part of our Living God - God of the Living, not God of the dead. Living gets messy. Babies are messy. Children are messy. "Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest." (Prov 14:4 NIV) Keeping oxen is a messy job.
God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) existed before He started telling us His story. (Should the time ever come when there is no one left to tell His story, He will still be.) His stories tell us of His power and His glory. If you ever want a word study at Christmastime - try "glory." Watch and see how often references to His glory occur beside His willingness to stoop down to the lowly.
God's story tells of our Living God becoming a man (hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, feeling, understanding, learning about his world) a very human natural birth in a barn, being baptized in a gross muddy river, walking sandled in a dusty Palestinian marketplace. It tells of his spending time in a prison, dying the death of a criminal and a traitor. And yes, He was God - resurrected from the dead but do you think He lived a sterile life? Is that possible? Do you think if He hung out with tax collectors and sinners He never heard swearing? And if they called Him friend and wanted to be around Him, do you think He spent all that time correcting them? Without sin but not sterile. He came to reconcile these men and women created in God's image back to God -his father - the God He knew.
We think of Jesus (and Father God) loving people who could or would never love Him back, forgiving people who could or would never give back to Him. He forgave and people were healed.
Perhaps we underestimate the power of forgiveness. I wonder if part of His anger in the temple was that the religous people just didn't get it. He was God and representing God but He was also a man.
Jesus came - God/Man. Does God alone have the power to forgive? Is that what Jesus came to show us? Or did He come to show us the power of forgiveness even if the person forgiving is just a man? Maybe both? Because He's God or because forgiveness brings healing? I don't know. I've always thought of Jesus as coming to set us straight, which He did, but when you think of Him as man, yet "one with the Father," it seems the stories of God and man can't help but get hopelessly tangled together. A little messy. Some people hate "messy."
God never stops being God. Jesus is still God, still the Christ - God's annointed. He was also a man - baptized in the Holy Spirit. We are men and women, but created in God's image - He left His Holy Spirit with us. Some things are clean and neat, everything in it's place. Some things aren't. Life is life. Jesus said, "I am the Life." We're encouraged to continue telling God's story, to keep His commandments, to grow to know the scriptures, Christ Jesus- the Living Word, and the power of God. No promises it will all stay clean and neat - just that He'll be there.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Technical difficulties here but we'll try again. If this looks like a normal/bold cacaphony of color...sorry
As the people of God we have many different styles and verbally/visually/kinesthetically live and wield the scriptures with varying degrees of wisdom, in varying circumstances.
After I posted the last post, I searched "scripture" as a word search initially looking for the passage from 2 Timothy 3:14-17 [N IV] but of course finding myself in the middle of an interesting forest. I thought I'd been there before but maybe not. Here's that passage broken down alittle so you can ponder the parts:
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of,
because you know those from whom you learned it,
and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures,
which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for
and training in righteousness,
so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
I used to read this passage thinking in terms of verses. These days, I need to read it again and include the sacred scripture dimension of "story".
Every time I search the scriptures, I inevitably discover something I've not seen before. When I did my word study this time, Matt. 22:28-32 caught my eye. Religious leaders are asking Jesus an application question about scripture. They question Him to understand an issue they may have already assumed they had a corner on. But Jesus called them "in error." and in the same breath Jesus says, "because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. . ."
For whatever reason, I don't recall seeing that before.
Weren't these men religious leaders? Teachers of the law?
Apparently, for Jesus, knowing the scriptures and the power of God go together. They're both important.
Jesus, of course, goes on to dazzle them with His explanation and He reveals something about His Father to them in the process. Pushing past the tall weeds of the issues of resurrection and being married or not in heaven He helped them see the revelation they really needed to see - that God isn't the God of the dead, He's God of the living.
Anyway, the error of not knowing the scriptures and the power of God (together) or the error that comes from not knowing the scriptures and the power of God got me thinking...
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
. . .and we are His Body (what people see of God, His Son and Holy Spirit) . . .
. . . aren't we (His) walking words, living stories, living books, too?
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thought I'd start a typical question-filled chapter by chapter post after Christmas, question asking being much safer than claiming to have answers. But now I'm not sure. The authors ask their own tough questions and make rather astute observations . . . still pondering . . . I need to go back and re-read the chapter.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Ever think about the stark profound contrast - a Father God who is Spirit and Truth sending his only son into such profound earthiness? Just words unless you tie it to something concrete.
The point of concrete is that things like stable, hay, sheep, birth mean something different to people who have real life sensory experience tied to the words. I'd like to say that there's more for God to use with the story. Not that he can't act independently but hey. He's the one who sent his son to be born there - I mean here - I mean . . . .He didn't have to do that.
Does that make sense? For centuries the experiences and memories tied to those concrete words - barn, hay, sheep, birth weren't so foreign to the general public.
Some churches have live creche scenes. Do you take field trips to working farms? Sheep farms? Busy season, I know. Not a time for field trips.... Not one more thing to think about . . .
Not to downplay the Giving of the Gift. To me it makes the giving of the gift that much more profound: The Master of the Universe leaving his son as a infant in the hands of a teenage mother with an uneducated poor skilled laborer father in someone else's barn. And their first visitors were smelly dirt poor sheep farmers and foreign diplomats from the Middle East, lol! Oh. And the leading government official was out to kill him . . . but that comes later . . . the plot thickens ... and it's Christmas and He's still God and we still worship Him!
It's not being so focused on the barn that we downplay His Gift or the fact that He's God. It's soaking in the fact that he left His most precious gift in a barn and He is God.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Anybody ever been in a working barn? And you inhaled, of course.
Anybody ever deliver a baby in a barn? You can include baby animals if you want.
Anybody ever spend the night in a barn? Ever sleep in the hay? Did you sleep in the hay barn or with the animals? Any creatures show up after dark that weren't there in the daytime?
Anybody ever eat a meal in a working barn? Ever drink water?
Ever wake up in a barn and find that you had strangers come to visit? Shepherds that probably smelled worse than the barn? Rich folk who probably never even stepped in a mud puddle? Where did they sit? Did they sit? Did they sit close to you? to the animals? What did you feed them? How did you extend hospitality?
Ever wake up in the middle of a field of sheep in the middle of the night and see the sky lit up and hear a choir of voices singing? I promise, I won't tell so we can keep you out of a mental institution.
Anybody ever ride a donkey? Ever ride it from here to there for 3-4 days? Ever walk it? Were you 9 months pregnant? First baby?
Anybody ever on a trip and it was past midnight and there were no vacancies for an hour each way because of some national conference? Ever have to find a place that would also accomodate your animals? And you probably didn't even have much money for a room as it was but the cheap rooms were definately gone.
Maybe there are kids or grown ups that have memories somehow related to the answers to these questions. Pick their brain and see if maybe some of the elements in the story come to life.
Track back to a year or two ago and read the post about disappointment, too if you want.
Friday, December 05, 2008
We did a lot of handmade gifts, ornaments, and food for Christmas when the kids were growing up. She thought it would be fun to make tissue paper snow flakes for some of our multi-paned windows together this afternoon.
I pulled out some abandoned white tissue paper* this morning and I'd try a few. I was going to mass produce (cut multiple snowflakes at a time) but then I realized that every snowflake God creates is unique and different from the one before.
I was thinking fast, not pain-stakingly detailed! Not sure I'm that creative - to make 34 totally different snowflakes. I thought, "God is really is amazing!"
Made me think about God's time and how He chooses to spend it. Made me think about His creativity and about how very special and unique we each are because He made us that way.
*Try glittery tissue paper,too. Be creative!
Thursday, December 04, 2008
A random discovery
Dead Preachers. (They aren't all dead!) One of my more favorite speaker/writers listed here.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
1) Re-motivating young adults (20's) - ie. keeping them coming to church through their late teens/20's/early 30's.
I guess I'm confused. I thought that much of "post-modern" "emerging" thinking was a response to this dilemna. And I thought the changes were bringing this age group back. Maybe it was just Artisan. Artisan had a very high % of college-aged attenders - the majority of the congregation. That may still be true, I don't know. A large college population doesn't do much for the budget (especially in the summer) but if they stay, that may not be an issue 5 - 10 years from now. The elements that lead to its appeal for this age group often proved to be a deterrent to those older - (people with income to share - not that it's about money, of course...) and to people who wanted programs for children and teens. Because the leadership cared more about keeping the '20's their initial focus was on church life that would do that.
A large % of this age group is transient - leaving their community for school, home in the summer, then back to school. It would be interesting to see whether church attendance is still an issue (kids in their 20's stop coming) even when they remain in their communities to work, attend school, or return to town after school.
Are we talking about a place for students on local campuses to plug in with us while they're in town? A place our own kids will be drawn back to? If these kids leave our churches on fire and committed does that guarantee that they'll plug in some where else? Notice the emphasis on "place" here. Is "place" what we're talking about? In this phase of their walk with God, what is this age group hungry for? And, yes, real food always appeals to teens and college students. "Feed them and their yours!"
If you take the Yust article from earlier posts we're asking the same questions - how can we to share the God we love, making the most of the attributes this age group has to offer, helping them make meaningful contributions to the larger community, still meeting needs specific to their age group? How do we include them?
What about campus ministry or local church outreach to college campuses? Affective? Not? Many of the kids at Artisan came by way of campus ministries bringing groups of kids to visit local church services or through campus ministers. News spreads. They car pool. Church members who work on campus offer rides.
2) The other theme is technology and Cyber-church which (as usual) always leaves me with more questions than answers, though virtual in this case . . .
. . . but join the kidology discussions . . . especially if you have stories of success and how-to suggestions.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
From another early Emerging author/blogger: Will Samson - January 2005 "One of the topics I would love to see enter into the emerging church conversation is families, children, and inter-generational faith. The emerging church conversation is great, but if we are talking about something that is one generation long count me out."
I'm curious to know whether Postmodern Emerging Church today looks the way anyone expected it to look when the conversation first started 10 years ago or whenever it began. I know lots of people who are still looking for something they haven't found - or don't think they've found.
My friend, a hair stylist, says people come to her with a better sense of what they don't want than what they want. Made me think of the church.
Sometimes we're so intent on seeing what we think we're looking for that we don't see what's actually there because it doesn't look the way we think it should look. We often don't notice God moving in our midst and beyond, according to His word of course, because it isn't what we expect to see or what we've been taught to look for.
What do you see God doing with families and children in Emerging Churches? In any church? In your church? Not, "this is what I'm looking for and it isn't happening," but "what is happening?" What do you see that causes you to give glory to God? Catch it in a story - not a story about people, but a story about God.
Sometimes it's very difficult to find words to describe the work that someone does. Some things are better experienced without words. I have friends working on a website for someone who's work is more non-verbal than verbal. Some of what this person does (observation, experience, skills) can be learned. Some of what this person does mixes learned skills with decades of acting on intuition and the wisdom that grows from that when you're right time and time again. This person, so very effective, doesn't fit into our boxes. You have to listen, watch, and do in order to learn and appreciate. Sound familiar? Most of what makes this person so effective isn't something you can define or describe. It's something else. It's something other. It's a non-verbal "knowing."
Infants, toddlers, animals - non verbal learners. Non-verbal communicators. Non-verbal knowers. It's very doable to learn to understand much of what they communicate but you have to pay attention. You have to want to "see" and not think like a grown-up. Sometimes defining something causes it to lose its essence. You can't catch, measure, describe someone's intuition except perhaps as story, but to the degree that it's accurate, intuition and feelings deserve acknowledgment and respect.
"In everything give thanks" requires we notice - especially things that may not look like what we think we're looking for. Maybe we shouldn't ask "Did God answer that prayer," but rather "How did God answer that prayer." Maybe He didn't answer yet, but maybe He did.
For some - worship is an emotion, an experience. For some - duty and discipline. For most, some combination of the two. Same God, I think. I wonder if somewhere at the heart of worshipping in spirit and in truth is the simple act of paying attention - giving God thanks and praise when we take the time to notice what He's done.
Scripture says there is nothing new under the sun. Sometimes when God answers prayer it doesn't come in a form I expect so I miss it. It doesn't fit into the box I wanted to keep it in. I feel compelled to define and describe in order to capture, judge, appreciate but sometimes the act of defining/describing lessens what I think I've captured or ultimately makes it something other than what it is. I wonder how often God finds Himself caught in that place - but of course He's God and as C.S. Lewis said so eloquently of Aslan, he's not a tame lion.
There is nothing new under the sun but I can notice things I've never noticed before - new lines, colors, shapes - not because they weren't there before but because I wasn't looking or I didn't notice or I didn't know what I was looking for. But one day something clicks and I see. Something inside me opens up that wasn't open before and I can't even explain it. But that's ok!
I think stories more than any other word tool open up new worlds to us and help us recognize and give shape to what might otherwise be undefinable. It's like giving a creature a home but leaving the doors and windows open. Maybe that's why God uses stories.
". . . [F] aith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Heb 11:1 NAS
". . .[F} aith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1 KJV
What is God doing? Is it something I can define? Something I can hold in my hand?
Try it! If I can't, does that mean that it doesn't exist? Faith, is because God is -Invisible Living Word but much more.
Once upon a time that spoken Word ignited a creative process that gave us all that we see, touch, smell, taste, hear just because He spoke. But it was more than anyone could capture with mere words. He remains generation after generation. Alive. Moving. Revealing Himself to those with eyes to see and ears to hear generation after generation. Father, Son, Holy Spirit yet One who's name may be best left unspoken.
When you think of someone who rules what do you think of? When I thought about the peace of Christ ruling in my heart somehow I think He has to be a dictatorship, lol! A benevolent dictator but dictator, none the less.
"members of one body...called to peace..." if my arms and legs aren't getting along...if the different parts of my brain aren't communicating with one another. . . what does that look like? My mom has serious Parkinson's Disease. It looks like that.
If you're like me you take peace for granted. If you're used to a crazy classroom and one day everyone is focused and intent and quiet . . . makes you thankful.
More thanksgiving to you!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Turn on your auditory imagination here.
from the OT [Cymbals, brass, and strings - no sound techs]:
. . . All the people dedicated to God who were musicians— and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the church altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres.
They were accompanied by 120 more people sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD.
Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
"He is good;
his love endures forever."
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the pastors could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.
Were the children there?
From the NT:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus . . .
Do not put out the Spirit's fire . . . May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
When someone was reading Paul's letters to a house church, were the children there?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
[from Preschoolers (Yust p. 4-5)] My challenge to you, hopefully without rambling as badly as I did before - look at worship in your church and look for opportunities to include your preschoolers in activities that capitalize on the things they're good at. Did I mention that these moments in an infant, toddler, or preschool child's life fly by? These life stages only last a year or two. These parents won't have wide-eyed babies in arms, active inquisitive toddlers or observant imaginative preschoolers for very long. The challenge is, as individuals and as a community, how we capture these moments to share the God we believe with the children we love and let them approach the Savior as He interacts with us.
"[they] have new developmental capabilities for interpreting the relationship between faith stories and their personal stories."
We use it in Sunday school. Can we use it in worship or in a church newsletter? How can a preschooler share with a larger community ways that a story from scripture intersects with his/her own faith story?
They "anticipate routines. . .[and] . . .negotiate competently among the variety of rules and expectations represented by these familiar systems."
Rules, routines, expectations. This shouldn't be hard! We want this, right?
"They use what they have observed about the world as material for pretend play . . . they are magical thinkers...not bound by what they observe...they have active imaginations that allow them to reconstruct their observations in creative ways. . . "
This is also used in Sunday school. Dr. Yust has some good ideas for this beyond the walls of the classroom. Can we use it other places? Can we use it in worship? Can we better equip families and parents to enjoy this time and understand it's significance as a faith-forming tool?
"They need opportunities to witness their faith community in action . . . worship. . . the congregation's activities."
Our keen, articulate, honest observers actively involved in the activities of our faith communities! Real life and stories they associate with are fuel for imaginary play. Helping grown ups also gives them a taste of service. How can they be more than observers? Are there ways they can participate? Do you have a list for parents of ways their child can help them do the jobs they sign up for - different tasks for different ages?
"They need to hear the vocabulary and see the symbols of their faith tradition used frequently so they can identify the particular structures and practices that characterize this social system and distinguish it from other social settings in their lives."
Those of you in less-liturgical situations may need to take a few minutes to recognize/ identify/define the words and symbols that your kids see and experience in your worship and faith community that distinguish this social setting from others.
"They need opportunities to explore their environment where they worship, learn, and serve, and chances to ask questions . . ."
Chances to explore this life of faith - more concretely, the building. Chances to ask questions! Hopefully, they have LOTS of opportunities as they journey with the adults in their lives.
The world of TV metaphor that Dr. Yust uses is excellent though I'm not a big fan of marketing. Immersing them in the faith story they way they immerse themselves in the other stories they hear is the big challenge. We believe in and serve an unseen God. The joy and glory of childhood is that given their imaginative abilities sometimes they are closer than we are to "knowing" - not intellectual knowing or mature adult knowing but childlike non-verbal "knowing. The immersion factor is the tough one. She has wonderful suggestions!
Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers are probably least welcome in adult gatherings unless they are among people who just enjoy children. I've grown to appreciate all the different developmental stages of life as my children mature but I still think preschool is my favorite age. I'm not sure we give them enough credit. They are verbal, inquisitive, thoughtful, feeling and each of them is seeing this new-to-them- world with new eyes!
I'm not going to keep going with the other ages. I think I'm past overkill as it is. It was a great article! Lots of ideas for churches. Lots of ways to welcome children - to extend hospitality. Lots of age appropriate ways to pursue God in the context of the larger community. As I say. I think we've come full circle, here. Happy holidays!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
You could try to communicate the vision: give everyone a map, and give everyone the tools to take the journey successfully.
You can also give everyone the tools they need and say, "Follow me!"
You just encourage people as they explore their world of faith and worship with their baby. Notice the ways people help their babies and toddler interact with their world and just keep encouraging them.
The possibilities are many
-this is a community. Everybody has a role to play. Better that no one feel alone with the challenges this will bring
-if every parent with an infant or toddler is approaching worship this way parents with infants and toddlers are less apt to feel self-conscious.
-if you let the non-parents know what's happening they may be more apt to extend grace
-every infant is different, every toddler is different, every parent is different. Non-parents, too.
-parents mentoring parents and encouraging one another will help too
-an infant/toddler friendly community will also help this work but people may need to understand what you're trying to do (in the simplest terms -unlike this blog)
It is important to communicate to parents (and non-parents) that this is not a passive activity. It takes deliberate thought, planning, and work - emphasis on WORK. It takes persistence and patience. We were looking for ways to grow those 2 Peter 1:5-7 qualities, weren't we? Approaching worship this way is ALOT OF WORK for parents. And we're not even talking about families with more than one child. Two is not the same as three, which is not the same as four, which is not the same as...but you knew that...
It requires excessive patience on the part of everyone involved - even the rest of the congregation so you may not want to tackle this every week. But we are thinking long term, here. We're not looking at this as special occassions only but rather a lifestyle - a community lifestyle.
If you are a children's minister understand this as well. Once upon a time mothers spent all day, every day with their children - not just teaching, training, but learning from them. Maybe they were in more need of a break but they were used to having their kids around them 24-7. They had opportunity to learn what works and what doesn't. They had some freedom to learn by trial and error. Parents who feel like they're on display may not feel like they have that luxury. Even if you tell young parents [smiling] "You will have good days and not," it may not help the parent of the only baby who always screams every time the music stops.
It's ok. We're trying something new. No one knows how to do this. We're learning together. This approach might not generate confidence but at least it's honest. It's important to communicate with one another. It's important to identify the tools that parents need to succeed and give them the tools they need. It's important to keep the rest of the community informed as important particpants in the process. It's important for a community of people to extend grace to one another.
It's important for parents to know when to take a child out for the sake of the people around them. That's called being considerate of one another.
It's also important for parents to have a break when they need a break.
We have no real way to assess or measure our success until these kids are grown. The peace of the children in service and the rest of the congregation? Perhaps. But sometimes God makes us uncomfortable. The peace of the children affects the peace of the parents and other congregants which affects the peace of the child and God is there somewhere (we hope) Yes, it's a circle or some other multi-dimensional model.
Don't lose sight of the long term- Sharing your love of God, your love of worship, your love of the people of God with children. Learning to love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, loving your neighbor as yourself, and then giving it away. That's what it's all about. We're God's children. God puts up with us, doesn't He? Somehow He's taught us to worship and associate good things with worship? How did He do that?
Most people are convinced that Sunday school is better. These things are better accomplished in another room with children the same age - some place besides Sunday worship. Different, yes. Better or not remains to be seen.
Just a bit carried away here. Ok, alot carried away.
We'll look at the other age groups, too . . .
"Permanence of objects" When it's here, it's here. When it's gone, it's gone. Quiet hide and seek with a toy or book. Under the blanket. Where is it? "If you look for Me with all your heart, I'll let you find me." People, pews, floor, carpet. Quiet toys to mouth and touch and explore. Simple objects that help draw attention to a theme or Bible story - dolls, plastic loaf of bread, board books, puzzles, toys that only come out during worship.
Sensations. A wax candle. A cup ( metal, wooden, plastic, paper cups each feel and taste different) A metal bell without the ringer. A glove. A scarf. A little Gideon Bible from a thrift store that feels like a Bible with leathery cover and thin pages?
Multi-tasking required of parent? Absolutely!
"Trustworthiness of relationships" People who make me feel safe and secure - not just parents.Parents/guardians who come back. People who hug and comfort me when I'm crying. People who respect my fears but don't reinforce them. People who smile at me and talk to me and interact with me. People who give me back to mom or dad when I need that.
How do we extend hospitality to infants and toddlers? Letting them scream for an hour? This is the place where mom and dad leave me or this is the place where mom and dad come back?
There's a time and place for swings and cribs and baby seats but Dr. Yust's point about the association of warmth, touch, cuddling, swaddling with worship and faith is worth pondering. Front packs*, back packs (If you don't sit on a chair with a back) vs plastic carriers is worth considering especially if children spend more time in daily child care situations sitting in a baby carrier or play pen than they do being held when they need to be held. Parents who aren't used to carrying children around all the time will have to build up their muscles but regularly holding and carrying a child who is growing everyday is the perfect muscle builder. Opportunities for safe exploration - not impossible. Cry rooms, playpens, gated washable cotton sheet covered carpet in the back of the sanctuary or on the floor where you're sitting.
"Reliability of perceptions" (I'm not exactly sure what this means.)
Is it what I think it is? Have I seen this before? Routine? Predictability? Not sending mixed signals?
Blessing children Blessing is very much an attitude and it can be expressed in lots of ways
- speaking blessing, touching blessing - that controversial topic of touch again. Why? Jesus' touch (in full view of others - the market place, the family) was a healing touch.
Bringing children with us to do what we do (as appropriate), whatever our spiritual service of worship. Maybe it means bringing a babysitter or single family member or both parents and you take turns working and holding tending your child. Let your toddler help you put hymn books on chairs or sit on the bench when you practice piano or organ or sit next to you during choir practice before church or help you get something ready in your Sunday School room. Letting them give something to someone you know. Handing out bulletins with you to other children or adults (one at a time!). Bring them with you to visit a shut-in friend.
Growing memories in infants and toddlers. Routine. Words, actions, people, experiences specific to church. Where are we going? We're going to church! Pastor. Candle. Bible. Hymnbook. Angel. Cross. Window. Door. Kneel. Pew. Carpet. Alter. Stairs. Holding a hymnbook. Gently turning pages. The music notes in a hymnbook when we sing don't look like the words we read in the Psalter or the Bible. Recognizing objects, animals, Bible characters in stained glass windows. The water in the baptismal font. You get the idea. Fold your hands with me. Close your eyes. Pastor is praying. Hopefully not the pastoral prayer. Ok. The pastoral prayer and you have a plan! Cheerios, one at a time. A quiet story book with pictures about prayer? One you read at home? A book borrowed from a Sunday school room.
Storytelling "The goal of story telling with this age is not rational understanding, but providing plenty of material with which children can populate their inner life and through which they can begin to interpret their environment." (Yust p. 3-4) Can you bring a story-telling tool or two to worship? A stuffed animal, a puppet, a Bible story book, a puzzle? Paper and crayon. You draw.
Rudimentary contemplation Think about the objects present during worship. Let a toddler or infant strum a guitar or hit the keys of a piano or talk into a microphone or pat a drum before or after service. Supervised, of course! Shake a rattle or plastic keys when people are singing. You just need something even better to replace it when you have to take it away and everyone gets quiet. Let them finger that tiny Bible, or play with the doll or puppet. Give them something safe to play with and study that only comes out on Sunday. How about a small mirror? Something your child is enthralled with at home. Something that holds their attention and requires a lot of concentration. Squirrel it away and save it. Bring it out again during service. Putting on a mitten. Taking it off. Stuffing a toy into the empty mitten, pulling it out.
Yust mentions celebrating the changes in the liturgical year - remembering Christ Jesus and the milestones in His-life-with-us. Remembering them in ways that are meaningful to children. A creche, red banners, the cross, palm branches. Simple is better.
Be brave! Take your time and really explore this. It doesn't matter what kind of worship model you use. Explore whatever model you use from the literal sensory kinethetic point of view of the infant/toddler.
Oh. This is a job for parents, you say? Yes, it is. But how can we inform, encourage, equip, help, encourage, encourage, encourage? What parent would do any of these things in a sanctuary unless someone said "it's ok"? Only the rebellious . . . just kidding. . . This is major multi-tasking for any parent and parents who love to worship (without their children distracting them) are some of the hardest people to convince that an approach like this is good for everyone.
* [Wrap demonstration, more wraps and slings. Notice the child with a doll sling like mommy! There are many many sites like these.]
Try it from the time you enter the building to the time you leave, good and bad. Enlist your nursery workers. A good assignment for other ages too but you can't have more than a couple of people in your congregation doing this kind of spy work at the same time or you'll lose something in translation . . .
What do each of these sensations and experiences tell you about God? Turn off your brain, your assumptions, what you've learned, what you know. If you're a toddler, how does it make you feel? What will you remember? No words, ideas or otherwise intellectual understanding here. Only kinethetic, sensory, emotional.
Some children grow up believing that the church building is God's house. What do they experience about God in His house? What are they learning? Some children grow up believing that God is present during worship. What are we teaching them about the presence of God? What happens to me in God's house? What happens to me when God is near? How do I feel?
"I'm bored out of my mind!" No, wait. That comes later...
Friday, November 14, 2008
Pull out your memories. Turn on your imagination.
[This may be overkill. I wasn't expecting infants and toddlers to take 4 posts. But maybe flooding like this will help you see the little things, the little ways that you can include even the youngest children in your worship life and your church life.]
Infants & Toddlers in worship. Stop cringing!
Infants & toddlers awake- at least some of the time! (They could be asleep, yes.) Awake is better -taking in sensations and information. They are processing information. They are learning. Repeat after me: "We WANT them to process information and learn about faith. Awake is good!"
"Sensations" - Think 5 senses, (even 6 senses - that of spirit). We are thinking about ways that the five senses can work together to nurture the spirit even in the very youngest, non-verbal sensory thinking feeling members of your community.
Taste What do children taste during worship?
- A special treat that's just for worship during the sermon, pastoral prayer - the longest most boring part of the service for children.
- A special flavor on a pacifier saved just for worship. You could change it with the church season. You're laughing. Don't laugh. I'm not talking about a marketing gimmick.
-Crackers/Juice that you save for communion (as your children get older.) NOT purple grape juice.
-your turn! What tastes do you associate with faith and worship? Are there tastes you remember as a child? Goldfish? Cheerios?
Smell What do children smell in the sanctuary?
- A baby would smell the person holding him/her
- Seasonal smells - Evergreens during Advent, Lillies during Lent/Easter, flowers, candle smells, incense,
- Cleaning supplies
- After service coffee
- Food cooking for the after service dinner (at Artisan)
- your turn! What smells do you associate with faith and worship?
Sight What do children see in the sanctuary?
- your turn! Make yourself small, high, low, sideways and upside down - Think infant. Think toddler!
- Did you notice the feather on the rug? The penny? The piece of paper? The paper clip?'
- What do you see at eye level (24 inches off the ground) ?
- Stained glass windows - Curtains, stairs, alter
- Candles, Flowers, Cross
- Smiles? Frowns?
- Seriously what do you see? Ask a pre-schooler (they aren't that far removed from toddlerhood but they can talk!)
Touch What do children touch in the sanctuary
- People Relaxed hold? Tense hold? Joy? Frustration? - Not just people touch (This I've learned from my dogs)
- Objects: carpet on sock feet, smooth slippery wooden pews, fabric covered chairs, cloth bound hymnbooks
- A fan, a heater - Keep going . . . make your own list
- Infants and toddlers want to touch and put things in their mouths. They learn about their world by touching. What can they safely touch in your sanctuary? Maybe we should intentionally leave things that teach about worship where young children can touch them . Put a special sticker or tag on the objects if you must so children and parents know this is something they can touch.
Sounds What do children hear in the sanctuary?
- including silence!
- Music, bells, voices, instruments, loud, soft, fast, slow
- Happy "what a sweet baby" voices, cooing, attention
- Pastor's voice, the voices of others, the voices of children
- birds, the cricket who insists on coming that no one can ever find . . .
Imagine - this is your first year at church - your first year on the planet! Most of our sensory memories (especially the memories we have as children) were never intentional. Some are good, some are bad. These memories elicit feelings.
Is it possible to pay more attention to sensory opportunities as a way to express hospitality - to welcome- infants and toddlers?
Anytime we enter a discussion about such things we enter with assumptions. Everyone participating is entering with assumptions. Sometimes it facilitates communication to identify them ahead of time.
People approaching this article from a liturgical point of view will come with different perceptions than those who don't. People who believe that it isn't enough to grow up in the church, you have to be born again, will come with a different point of view. But let's assume that all of the different worship models in whatever ways they capture the scriptures and represent Christ in their models are just snapshots of Jesus from different angles but He's the same God. If you want to argue that you probably don't want to keep reading...
I'm going to challenge you to revisit your worship service, whatever it looks like today, and apply the observations that Dr. Yust is making in her article for different age groups.
If you are actively working with children and families I suggest you keep specific faces in mind.
Are you ready?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"Mary [Mary Hawes - National Children's Officer (Advisor) for the Church of England UK] and her husband enjoy, passionately, watching Watford Football Club - and are convinced the football ground offers one or two tips for the Church.
'What I've discovered is there you have a microcosm of what the best all-age worship could possibly be,' Mary says, referring to how adults explain to children what's going on in the hope a love of football will develop.
'That speaks of what we should do in church,' she adds. 'As adults we should be sharing what we have, what we love about worshipping God, with youngsters.'"No matter UK football and American football are not the same, the picture can apply to any sport* or activity you love as a family. Keen observation! Imagine our faith growing like that!
She sent this wonderful article by Dr. Karen Marie Yust our way. If you came to this blog 3 years ago because we were talking ALOT about including children in worship, please read it. Lots to think about. [If you note the source at the bottom of each page you'll find it at Lifelong Faith.com] (Thank you, Mary!)
Guess we've come full circle, folks, and now it looks like there are lots more people (leaders!) carrying the ball. Exciting times we live in! Exciting times for children.
* The only difference for me, I hate thinking of worship as a spectator sport.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Heb. 4:12 NIV So God sees and God judges as we let His Word in.
Here's another question. Is that the only reason God watches and sees? So He can judge us? Is that the only reason He's watching - to know if we've been good or bad?
I went looking for "God sees" in Bible Gateway. Here's a story.
Once upon a time God promised a man and his wife that He would give them a baby. They tried for years, maybe decades, and no baby. An immigrant lady worked for the man and his wife. She probably didn't share their faith. She traveled with them serving the lady of the house.
One day the lady of the house thought that perhaps her housemaid was God's answer to their having children. The maid's child would be her husband's child. Her husband would have an heir, she would have a family. She would help God keep His promise.
When the maid got pregnant, she began to feel pretty good about her place in the family. (She must not have had morning sickness.) She was carrying the heir of a very wealthy man. She held it over the wife's head. The wife complained to her husband and the man told her to do whatever she wanted with the maid. So she did.
The lady of the house treated the maid so badly that the maid ran away, still pregnant with the man's child.
An angel found the maid and asked her what she was doing. The maid told the "angel" about all that was going on but instead of feeling sorry for her, the angel told her to go back and he would give her descendants of her own.
Apparently, the angel (who turned out to be God Himself?) said something or gave the woman something that she needed. Even though He told her to go back into a bad situation she worshipped Him. Hagar said to the Lord, "You are the God who sees me . . . I have now seen the One who sees me." (Gen 16:13 NIV) Apparently God gave her enough affirmation to cause her to go back into a potentially abusive situation. She went back.
Interesting? Another time, another culture, lots of language/cultural info we don't have. True. There are things about this story that make no sense to me. I have alot more questions than I have answers but the way I read this, God was watching Hagar and all that happened to her and it wasn't just to judge her. He was compassionate but He asked her to do something very very difficult. And Hagar came away from her encounter with God saying, "You are the God who sees."
If we imagine ourselves playing any role in this story there are far more details to ponder than most of us have ever been taught to consider, even if it is another time, place, and culture. This is Abraham the father of our faith and his wife that we're talking about. This is Hagar, an Egyptian slave. Who is God paying attention to?
Who is this God who sees? What else do the scriptures* tell us about God seeing?
*No matter how old you are, don't take the stories of scripture for granted. Go back and read them and read them again. They're alive - "the living word of God". All that God says about His Word is true. I promise you that, if you're looking, each time you look God will show you something you didn't see before.
Monday, November 10, 2008
For those of you who read the previous post and, like myself, say "what good things?" Here they are:
-she went on the walk with me
-she went where I wanted to go even if she didn't.
-we changed direction (often)
-we walked by lots of things that used to scare her with much less fear
-the lady pushing the garbage bin
-at least 2 people on bikes
-the fire station
-more than two sirens
-one flashing lighted vehicle
-one leaf blower
-bumper to bumper traffic
-one dog with owners
-she didn't balk about going home or going into the yard a different way
-we made it home safe and sound
-no one I know was in the accident
Two days later: Every Veteran’s Day at around 6:30 am, the local university Army ROTC* platoon marches/jogs down my street singing loudly with flags furling and military display that we’re not used to en route to the Vietnam war memorial in the park. Nyah was good with the small first quiet group of cadets – no flags, singing etc. Thought they were done. Brought her in, brought, Ellie out and the whole singing, jogging/marching, flags furling, parade-like LARGE group of cadets comes down the other side of the street. Guess what! Ellie is fine. Sit, stay, no problem with loud male singing/chanting, jogging crowd of young men, neon vests, unusual flag furling, slow moving black vans . . .
“Hey Mom, this is interesting,” she said. Wrong. Despite her exceptional sit-stay, she didn't look at me. She was too intent watching everything.
You can call it "learning to see". The good fruit of hard work (working on the things that don't work.) You can call it "in everything give thanks." You can call it anything you want. We still have things to work on. We will always have things to work on. In the meantime, "in everything give thanks" will helps us see all the good things we need to see. Being the wise God He is, giving thanks keeps us from driving ourselves and all the people (and creatures) in our lives crazy.
Unless they hate hearing our stories . . .then that will drive them crazy.
Ellie and Nyah are my dogs. They are 3 1/2 years old, now. Nyah's usually up for an adventure and rarely refuses a walk. Ellie's been more reluctant to walk for the past few months. Why? She's not talking. If the girls take her down the sidewalk or in the park, she's fine. If she's burned out on walking in the cemetery, we even stopped walking in the cemetery for now. Ellie's always been more fearful. She used to skirt blowing plastic bags, garbage cans that randomly appeared on a walk, a paper blowing in the wind. We keep conquoring one fear after another but it seems there's always one more. Other times she's braver than Nyah. Go figure.
I took Nyah to the woods. We like the woods. I thought Ellie would be excited to go when she smelled Nyah had gone before her, but no. Thinking it’s still down time at the park at 4:00 (not many dogs) I say, we’re walking. We go out the side door instead of the front door so she comes. Does Ellie have me well trained, or not? We walk through the park.
Besides the fact that she's pulling & not paying attention she's not too afraid. So because she's really not paying good attention to me (on most days she's been doing really well) we detour around kids, people sitting where I wanted to walk, crazies at the Garden Center, teens smoking I don’t want to know, a boy flinging his rope around on one side of the street, a dog watching his kids on the other side. Because of all the detours we need to pass by the fire station - lesser of all evils. Right.
A lady rolls her trash can down the driveway. Ellie's good. We let a bike go by. Ellie’s being good. Ellie and I both think the fire station is evil, by the way. And the firemen are very nice people. She’s even being real good walking by the fire station - go figure. The fire alarm hasn't gone off more than once in 3+ year when we've walked by. But if anything big and scary is going to roll down the street it always seems to happen in front of the fire station. Snow plow, bus, rowdy firemen, bus, street cleaner, ambulance, noisy car, all of the above . . .
From far away I hear a siren. It comes to the corner but turns. Ellie's ok. While I’m being happy about that an ambulance comes up behind us, sirens blaring and some other random fire truck from out of no where comes by the other way. I stand close and cover her and she stays put. She doesn’t bolt for the street. When it's over she looks quite pleased with herself.
We keep walking down the sidewalk and turn the corner towards my house. All the traffic is bumper to bumper for some reason. We walk past the leaf blower. She does good. A bike is coming down the sidewalk. The bike girl rides on the street. I think she’s gone but there she is coming towards us on the sidewalk again. The bike goes past, Ellie's still good. By now I'm a wreck but I'm excited. The girl apologizes. Just as I take a deep breath I see the dog across the street - not just a dog but a big Malamute/Husky type dog walking with two people. The people see us, too. A good dog, but no matter, my dogs aren't predictable around other dogs, so rookie that I am, I avoid them. We walk in the cemetery to avoid dogs. I pretend not to see them and start jogging and Ellie stays with me. She doesn't bark or freeze or lunge after the dog. Pretty amazing...
Two police cars go by with lights, no sirens. Nice of them.
I breathe. I sit her. All the cars on the street have been at a standstill through most of this. Odd. I give her a treat. Some guy yells out of his car, "Good dog!" I hope it wasn't our trainer.
So THEN I get near my house and there’s a police car flashing at the corner. We climb the hill into the yard (a way we never go) to avoid the police car and Ellie's good with that. There was some accident just past the end of my driveway- about 3 police cars, a fire truck…. No one I know. Praise God.
Someone needs to desensitize ME to all these things and pops treats in my mouth. No treats. That won’t work. Don't like treats. I know! Let us off leash. Get us out of here!!! The best reward ever!
Why did I put this on Emerging Kids? You're parents and teachers and you run into this next question all the time. I want to know - for all the really good things that happened on this walk, why is it that I will only remember the bad stuff? If you go to My Smart Puppy it says "your dog can change but you have to change first." I think it applies to lots of things - us big people and our kids, too.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
word studies for children
simple benedictions for children
thanksgiving activity with leaves
exercises to teach children about God
This doesn't tell you all the things people are looking for that they can't find. It only tells you they were looking for something and happened to find it on your site. If you're blogging about children's ministry you might get some ideas...
Here's a controversial one:
|inspiration about faith in the goodness of self|
A church was doing a special memorial for soldiers who died in action. A little boy asks the pastor who all the names are and why they're there.
The pastor says, "Those are the names of all our young men and women who have died in service."
The little boy gets a horrified look on his face, "Which service?" he asks the pastor. "The early service or the late service?"
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Then stay tuned for their Advent Conspiracy. Another very clever approach!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
My understanding is that teaching is telling, showing. Training requires the behavior. Training requires doing it over and over until you don't even have to think about it. You just do it. This means creating opportunities and looking for places to practice.
Reinforcing and correcting. How do we correct when a child blows us off? Do we say, "That's ok. It doesn't matter." Can we say that and still expect those qualities to grow? All those qualities matter if our faith is to be effective. It's not enough to just know.
You pay attention. You start small. You reward and reinforce appropriately. You correct appropriately. An interesting book is Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog." It's not a long book, it's not a hard read. It's not just about dogs. It is about reinforcing and shaping behavior but people who are good with children, people, animals often do these things without even thinking about it.
How do we grow self-control and the other fruits of the Spirit in a culture that's constantly and deliberately sabatoging our efforts? Limiting exposure is one way but giving kids opportunity to make choices, rewarding and correcting them (or showing them where the reward and the correction is) will grow stronger choosing muscles, confidence, self-esteem, and wisdom than constant restraint and isolation. Finding ways to reward choices that differ from the rewards and choices that consumerism condones also helps grow those muscles. Being part of a family or community making those same choices also helps.
Life rewards aren't consistent and they're temporary so ultimately those choices have to come from the inside out. That's where training comes in. Living and choosing with a sense of what pleases God is the long-term goal. People-pleasing won't make it- Mom and Dad won't always be there. Your favorite teacher won't always be there. A peer group that shares your values won't always be there. God will.
Is it progressive? Faith + goodness + knowledge + self-control + perserverence + godliness + perserverence + brotherly kindness + love. Or do we do it all, all the time. Can we do this no matter how old we are? Christian education is full of knowledge exercises. How about the others? What's godliness? What do these qualities look like? What do they sound like? What do they feel like?
We have sports, games, service. We probably correct bad behavior because we have to in order to manage a classroom.
Do we reward children (or adults for that matter) for choosing to believe God? choosing to be good? choosing to know what the Word says? choosing self-control? choosing to be kind? choosing to love? Even if no one's watching? Even if no one else is doing it? Even if it's not convenient? Even if it doesn't feel good? Even if "I don't want to?"
Do we pay attention and reward the small day-to-day choices that grow these character muscles?
"I noticed that you let your sister have the biggest cookie."
"I noticed that you got really angry but you walked away."
"I noticed that you helped Sarah with her project when you wanted to play."
"I noticed that you gave Lee a hug when he was sad and it made him happy."
"I noticed that you finished your homework instead of nagging me to watch TV."
*15-20 years ago, I used a character curricula, Jan Black's "Growing UP God's Way K-6" This is a revised curriculum. I really liked the songs and remember thinking it would have been even better with a group of kids. I used it homeschooling. I don't know much about the new version.
Here's an interesting article on self-control from this blog
I wanted to take it a step farther.
How do we grow self-control? In it's simplist form you reward the wait. You apply it to lots of situations. The reward should be better than the reward for not waiting - lots better! It may feel "controling" but the goal isn't parental control or adult control. The goal is self-control even when only God is watching. More than teaching - training.
Understand that a reward worth waiting for will be different for different children. If I don't care about candy, it's not a reward worth waiting for for me. If I don't like to be touched, don't hug me. If I don't care what anyone things, your approval means nothing.
Some will argue that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It grows from the inside out. Scripture. It's true. But 2 Peter 1:3-8 is also scripture. Also true and it talks about growing it from the outside in. How do we do that?
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Worth reading and useful but very scientific. "Very scientific" surprised me because I thought I was hearing more whole health, whole person, yearning for more intuitive living from the next generations. Maybe as Americans we can't help it - the need to support everything we do with reasons and science and research.
Or maybe we just want the best of both.
It's just interesting. People used to babysit to get to get experience with kids - college aged, single adults, young marrieds used to babysit for friends, family, neighbors. Gave the friends time out. Gave the babysitters experience with kids and grew some multi-generational relationships. People trusted each other and were trustworthy. Just an alternative approach. Of course, people were around kids more. There were more babies and kids to be around. Most people expected to be parents someday.
Different time. Different place. Different people.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I miss worship most. Fellowship, sometimes. But we don't have young kids anymore. Ours our 19-27 and they'd be finding their way anyway, even if we were still actively involved with a non-virtual faith community. I think I would still want non-virtual faith community for my kids - despite it's imperfections. But we did that and I find my kids feeling the same way about church right now as we do, even though we thought we were pretty careful about our conversations. Our personal wrestlings have less to do with people (nothing to do with specific people) and more to do with ideas and institutions. We gave our kids opportunities immersed in their faith community and opportunities out in the world in equal parts. Some of my kids still have a couple of those relationships. Although I see some of them growing in their personal faith and one recently discovering pastors she enjoys listening to, most of them aren't interested in church right now.
Why do kids need a faith community? To see a diverse group of adults individually and as a community modeling faith. Peers with similar values and experiences. A history together. Opportunity to learn about the history of faith they won't get anywhere else. Traditional history and experiential history. There is no perfect place. There are no perfect people. There are wonderful people and people who drive your crazy no matter where you go. And God is God. God is the same. He doesn't change. Although giving is important I don't even think you can decide based on what you have to give and leave because you think you don't have anything to give but I don't know.
Why do our kids also need to be engaged in the world beyond the faith community? Because the longer you isolate yourself, the harder it is to step outside the door. If you didn't learn to love the world like Jesus does as a child - do you think it gets easier? Somehow, I think not.
Virtual is nice but the hard knocks of real life is what socialization, building confidence and self-esteem is all about. And that's where the scriptures come from and what scripture is for - real life. Hebrew identity wasn't me and mine. Hebrew identity included spouse, family, extended family, community. Even God is three and we are His children. Even God was the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob...and different tribes had different places. You're welcome to explore any of this in scripture and see what God will show you.
People used to keep the call to "not forsake the gathering together of the saints" by gathering with those within walking distance and sharing that life of faith and worshipping together and that was enough. And yes, a rift was eternal (not really but you understand.) You had your neighborhood in common - whoever lived there, whatever happened there during the week and maybe for generations. Today we drive and drive and drive into other towns and neighborhoods to fellowship with people hoping to find a place where we "fit." Some people move. Some people drive. Some people stop looking. That's all I can say because right now we're still among those who have stopped looking. It just surprised me to hear so many families with young children saying the same thing.
I understand the whys but hey....let's worry!
Friday, October 10, 2008
I need to preface this by saying that I truly truly truly understand (as a once un-safe child, a very watchful parent, and a careful teacher) the very real worries, concerns, and legitimate need for "appropriate touching" policies to protect children. I believe it's absolutely the responsibility of anyone caring for children to protect them. I also understand that, although I prefer to give parents the benefit of the doubt, that sometimes people outside the family need to protect a child from members of their own families. I also imagine that for anyone who truly loves children to be falsely accused of inappropriate behavior it must be devastating. People have spent more hours than I want to count defining rules and boundaries for policies like this (hopefully) because they love kids.
Having said that, it still deeply grieves me that children left in the care of others have to be deprived of appropriate tactile caring in order to protect them from the inappropriate. It bothers me. Different generations and cultures define "appropriate" differently. And I don't think "common sense" - is a universal anymore. I had a lengthy discussion about this with my daughter. She's a 3rd year student currently majoring in psych and criminal justice and (not to put her in a box) she's been leaning heavily towards counseling. She would be a WONDERFUL counselor.
So patient with my banter and wise beyond her years, her recurring comment was that one of the primary reasons for setting policy is to take away the subjectivity - no question about what's appropriate and what isn't. No question about whether or not someone crossed the line. We tend to set the boundaries well within the boundaries so there isn't even a chance of someone mis-reading what's happening - observer, grown-up, or child. Understood.
I would never want someone to get away with mistreating a child nor be falsely accused of something they had no intention of doing. But part of me worries about the long term. Maybe I would feel differently if young children were only in an environment that requires such policies for 1-2 hours/wk, but most children are cared for under guardian policies like these during the better part of their waking hours. What I recall as educator, parent, and child is that developmentally, children need touch (appropriate and in adequate amounts) from their primary care-giver for healthy social, emotional, and mental development. The short range affect of our policies is safety. But what will the long range affect be if these policies are in operation in a child's life most of their waking hours?
Relationships are so subjective but so necessary. Trust is important. Safety is important. Appropriate physical affection is important for children. Is the only way to grow trust and protect those we love to keep adding policies, rules, and regulations? Are institutions so much a part of our children's lives that we have to worry that appropriate touch at home might be falsely labeled as inappropriate? If my 1st or 2nd grader climbs into my lap for stories and tells his teacher - is that a problem? What of my pre-adolescent - a time when kids keep jumping back and forth between wanting to be a child and wanting to grow up - girls who need a timely appropriate hug or kiss from a responsible dad or uncle or grandfather? Will I have a social worker at my door? Will that be misconstrued by people who have never known lots of appropriate physical love?
We set policies carefully restricting our physical contact with children, at the same time media images equating love and care with sex constantly bombard pre-adolescents, teens, and adults - families. So we enforce a very strict touch policy with children only to launch them into a world that equates caring and loving with something sexual. What alternatives can we offer? Are we launching pre-adolescents hungry for appropriate physical attention into this environment? Can we legally model something different? Maybe we can now. How about 20 years from now?
My fear is that we keep trying to put bandaids on bigger deeper issues that we can never solve or resolve with band-aids but I don't know what the answer is. Something is breaking and we can't let it break.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Reading Kidology's Blog Watch. Check it out! Kidology is always finding new sources of information, inspiration, and thought-provoking material and it's rich with ideas.
Here's the short list of a great bunch of reads. Websites to add to "blogs" & "resources".
As individuals and as individual families, we haven't experienced a depression before. I don't know how much we can look back at the last one and compare. Not sure the average person spent as much money or as large a % of their income on entertainment, enrichment, and childcare as we do for our kids. Not sure families were as dependent on those things as we are today. It would be an interesting thing to find out. Think about the social side of all this, too.
As we tighten our belts, what will go? What will go in the lives of individual children and groups of children? Will they need something to fill that space? What will it be?
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Some people I know who aren't part of a church, as far as I know, decided to go in together to shop and give Thanksgiving dinners to needy families this year. As a group we have no real identity.
So that got me thinking about this passage - anonymous, secret. If we give to people and make sure they know which church we come from or even who we are for that matter . . . If we give or do anything under our church logo or even "in the name of the Lord". . . (though, I understand. That's the ultimate goal) Have we done what this passage in Matthew tells us to do? Have we given in secret?
The child in me always liked the idea of God seeing and knowing in secret and knowing that He would reward me for the good things He saw me doing, especially if nobody else knew. Knowing He always knew the bad, and it wouldn't stay a secret, made me pretty careful about my choices.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Consider creating rainy day boxes or sick-for-a-week boxes (get-well- soon- boxes?) as a pre-flu season teen, college, parent or grandparent group activity. Parents can plan ahead. It gives other life-stage groups opportunity to think about people in a different life stage than their own. Life stage groups tend to be more"us" centered than outwardly relational. Not everyone is a parent but most of us were sick kids once.
Here are some websites. There are lots of children's magazine websites and parent magazine websites with craft and game ideas. You may even find some with specific ideas for sick kids. You may also find local sites with ideas and activities (Rochester's Kids Out and About)
[You already know Kidology has oodles of games and activities for children's ministry!]
Highlights for Kids
Pockets (Upper Room) has print and play games. (paper pencil games),
Print-N-Play toys - (notice that there are restrictions.)
Pencil Paper Games for older kids
paper pencil games. This site has a game called Sprouts I haven't seen before.
print and play games. This one is fun!
There are also puzzle maker sites to create cross-word puzzles and word games. But you probably already know that.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
In my typical rambling, indecisive, empathetic, let's look at this from everybody's perspective complicated style ...
. . . There were lots of books, TV, and videos our kids didn't have access to. We took them to the library regularly. We didn't buy a TV until my oldest was 10. When we got the TV we started with lots of controls (not dials, controls) - but that's another post. Emphasis on "started." By the time my youngest was 10 the other four complained about all the things she got to do that they never got to do - yet another post.
I believe God gives commands he expects to be obeyed. But I also believe He gave us a free will and we live with the consequences of our actions. It doesn't appear that God protects us from everything. It doesn't appear that He severely disciplines us for everything. When God does intervene in a way some would consider parental discipline, His intervention probably saves us from a worse fate. But I don't see God as terribly consistent unless you look at the effectiveness of random reward (ie. slot machines) and punishment. I see Him as patient, faithful, constant but not necessarily consistent. So I asked my husband how he sees God's reward and punishment system He said, "That's why God created parents."
I value the freedom of speech and freedom to choose (so far) available to parents, individuals, and organizations in this country. I think that if we value our own freedom we will be very careful what freedoms we take from others. As much as I recoil from big government and government controls, and people I don't agree with telling me what to do I'm also grateful for law enforcement that allows me to live a relatively safe existence. I don't particularly want to live in an anarchy.
When the kids' high school (an upstate NY city high school, ethnically diverse) was celebrating 100 years I had the priviledge of reading 100 years worth of student written school newspapers? Alot of them were missing but there were enough in the cabinets to see how high school humor and perspective changed over 100 years. Let's just say that the first 80+ years of high school humor was a far cry from what we would consider politically correct today. Culturally different. Most of those papers came out with a minimum of faculty oversight (censorship). They valued freedom of speech but apparently it was tempered with a measure of respect. I don't appreciate humor at someone else's expense but it's fun to be around people who know and care about each other enough that they can laugh together.
Banned books. Just because something appears in a book doesn't mean the book is condoning the behavior. There are fantasies and sci fi stories that people disapprove of for what seem to be obvious reasons but in their disapproval miss the ideas that the author is exploring in ways that can't be explored in more literal genres. Our God is a supernatural God. He is unseen and acts in ways that aren't "natural". There are also evil forces. I understand that a certain story about two male penguins raising a baby penguin is actually based on a true (as in non-fiction, it happened among penguins) story. Is it about life-style? Is it about caring? Is it both? Are you willing to read a controversial book with your child and talk about it? That kind of parent-child interaction starts the moment you pick up a book and look at pictures with your baby.
What we read, see, and hear influences how we think but sometimes depicting stories from real life complete with consequences makes a stronger impression, a stronger deterrent, than telling someone "don't do it". You can say scripture's full of "don't do it"s but it's also full of stories with consequences - stories most of our children (and teens) never hear, by the way - stories that would be banned in Christian schools.
But not every real life situation with all its graphic detail (or Bible story) is age appropriate for every child and household.
There comes a time when we can't protect our kids and the "when" of that may vary depending on child, family, circumstances, and life beyond our control. That moment may not be the same for every family or even every child in a family. Until that time, if I'm a parent, I have a job to do. Both parents and teachers have the priviledge and responsibility to teach kids how to choose and make wise choices. Kids need their parents and their teachers to be on the same team, not pulling them in different directions.
Sometimes you follow your head and sometimes you follow your heart. Sometimes you listen to someone older and wiser. Sometimes you go digging for information and read it from different perspectives. We want to teach children to choose wisely and give them the support network to do that. As we give them more and more freedom to choose, we have to be willing to respect their choices . If we find ourselves disagreeing with those choices maybe we need to back up and ask ourselves why they made those choices.
We also have to remember that they won't be living in and raising their children in the same world we grew up in. Someday they may find themselves having to make choices we never dreamed of - God forbid. They need the tools to do that.
There's a time to look at the tree and a time to look at the forest. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and a parents' right to choose are (to me) valuable freedoms. My most basic thought and feeling - I better be darned careful before I take those freedoms away from someone else, if I expect someone else to extend the same courtesy to me.
What do you think?
Monday, September 29, 2008
I do think about relationships and social politics - group politics - not because I like them or understand them. In my late 40's, I served on what turned out to be a very political school committee (which everyone knew but me long before they ever got involved)
I told a friend "I really hate politics."
She said, "Well, you can't be part of a group and avoid them."
And that was the day I realized why I don't particularly like groups.
Maybe it had something to do with starting kindergarten when I was 4 and being the youngest in my classes at school for the better part of 13 years. Maybe it had something to do with the cliques in Jr. High where I found it so frustrating that you couldn't just like everybody and be friends with everybody. Doesn't matter now. I always had a couple of friends. Not sure how.
I recently learned some great info about canine body language - a different but not so different side of social/relational. I've been doing work I really love, volunteering with people I didn't know very well but who knew each other before I did. It's a bit of a social/relational adventure but I love the work and the people.
So I thought about kids in groups, pondering things that Jesus said about human/relational social politics, things we probably take for granted but I don't know if we actually do them. If we take the things Jesus says seriously and do them, would the group social politics of churches, Sunday schools, and Christian schools look the same as they do in the world?
Do our classrooms look like secular classrooms? If so, why? Should they? How do we reinforce what Jesus teaches in our classrooms? I'm not saying we go for different so we appear different but if we do what Jesus says will our social dynamics look different from those of the rest of the world?
When I was little and in Sunday school I remember hearing the passage, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." and, being a child, I took it literally and being me I decided that I was going to live that way. I remember being very decisive about that. This was a traditional Presbyterian church my parents and grandparents attended - not evangelical or charismatic or Baptist. My sisters will tell you that I was still pretty bossy but I remember a distinct conflict between people telling me I needed to look out for myself and my doing what I understood that passage to mean. Then there was the other side of that passage: if I wanted people to leave me alone, I left them alone. I wouldn't ask someone else to do something I didn't want to do. The theory being in any relationship, if two people are looking out for each other the way he/she would look out for him/herself - one would loan the book and one would give it back or the loaner wouldn't care because every loan - every act of giving- is a gift freely given.
We visited a church one time. Apparently after children's church my youngest daughter (about 6 years old) had been given some new guest gift like candy or something. On the way to class one of the kids befriended her and said, looking at the candy, "Jesus wants us to share," and my daughter, being the conscientious child she was, shared her candy but she was pretty indignant. What do you do in a situation like that? Would you intervene?
Another story: a relative of mine (born-again believer) visited some family members (also born-again believers) in another church and the kids argued over who would bring her to Sunday school and get points for bringing a guest. My relative had a really hard time with that. She felt more like a treasured commodity than she felt like a treasured loved one.
Our own kids would get very very frustrated with us because for us it wasn't about who was right, who was wrong, or even what was just. It was about how you love people and how you respond when someone mistreats you. As the supervising adults, it usually meant adjusting things at both ends.
We have Paul's "one anothers" in the epistles but what does Jesus teach us about groups and social relationships? It appears that Jesus was interacting with groups of people all the time - some on a regular basis. What did it look like? What does it look like for children interacting with one another?
How do we reinforce and model His teaching in our classrooms and churches? How did Jesus model? teach? correct and adjust?
We can regurgitate what we've been taught and what we think we know, but it's never wrong to keep going back to the scriptures to read, listen, and observe. If the spirit of Christ Jesus is living in us He'll continually open up His Word to show us things we didn't or couldn't see before. We'll never stop growing and changing - because we want to know Him and He's promised that if we seek Him with all of our hearts He'll let us find Him.