Thursday, July 31, 2008

. . . and children

[You might want to read the post before this.]

Children. When does community become communitas for children? That place of camaraderie, connection, closeness, common feelings and experiences, the place where their relationships cause them to consider the welfare of the group that they're part of as more important than their individual . . . but that's where I get nervous. It's the place where parents of teens get nervous because the c word (cult) creeps into our thinking . . . We don't get nervous when kids find that closeness growing up together or working together on a project. We don't get nervous when kids come back from camp having found close camaraderie that keeps them writing and calling - maybe visiting. We don't get nervous when our kids find camaraderie at school, on a mission trip, on a team, in a youth group, or at a teen center. We don't get nervous when the group is looking out for the individual as passionately as the individual is looking out for the group or do we?

We get nervous when we feel like a group (or another adult or child) is pulling our loved one away from the people who love him/her. We get nervous when a group or individual is only looking out for itself and not our loved one. We get nervous when teens want to follow their peer group and that peer group doesn't share our value system or the activities they enjoy will get them into trouble. Exploring another culture? We might not have a problem with that. We get nervous when kids (or adults) only care about their group and stop caring about us or about all the other things that we thought were important to that person we love. We get nervous when it keeps our loved one from operating as a responsible, caring adult in the world as we know it or if we believe they're being physically, emotionally, or spiritually abused.

As free-spirited, individualistic American believers we're left asking (for ourselves, and our children), when is it Biblical to lay down our lives for someone else, for spouse, family, the church, work, for the sake of the larger community (giving up homestead farmland for a community road). Is it always Biblical to make sacrifices and living selflessly or is there a time to stand as individuals who need to be who we are because we have a role to play or a job to do as an individual (not unlike the prophets). When do I (child or adult) sacrifice my own sense of individual accomplishment for the sake of a group endeavor? Or is it always the right thing to do? Does it include everything we do in our lives or just some of what we do in our lives? Biblically. I'm not talking culturally. I'm talking Biblically.

This is off the top of my head. There are a lot of separate questions mixed in here. But when we become part of a group of people and there's tension between our individual identity and our group identity, is there a time and a place (or is it always the time and the place) to lay down our lives? If we find it fulfilling to lay down our lives, are we in fact laying down our lives? Or am I just being over-analytical and 2nd guessing God here?

Some cultures are historically more communal than others in and out of the US. Those of you in your 20's, 30's, early 40's seem to sincerely long for more community or a different kind of community that those who are older maybe it's because of the way the presence and role of family has changed in the last two decades. Maybe it would have happened anyway. Community, communitas - pro or con - there are all kinds of ramifications both good and bad for children. What do you think?

Communitas, community...

I was reading something on a church blog and found the term "communitus." I wanted to find out what it meant so, of course, I googled it. Didn't find too much. Why? Because you have to spell it "communitas" to find any useful information. (And I think it's Latin, not Greek) Turns out there's some info out there.

Emergent Kiwi has some interesting thoughts.


Britannica describes a medieval community in the Lowlands (Netherlands?) explores the difference between communitas and community.

Here's a faith perspective.

Brother Maynard at Subversive Influence as of Sept. 2007. And you can probably find more on his site.

I found "community on purpose" as a definition on this blog. This post is worth reading because his observations remind us that in so many ways our culture is creating and encouraging the opposite of community and communitas in our children. There are ways that our obsession with technology makes us narcissistic. There are other ways that I think kids (and adults) feel like they actually have a close community and camaraderie through their online connections. The question is whether or not it's real, true, flesh & blood or virtual. How do you know?

My list isn't exhaustive.

What Jesus and His disciples had could probably be described as communitas - when community becomes more than just a community, a gathering, a social group. Many people experience that "more" at some point in their lives. Have you? How old were you? When? Where? How? Are you still close?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Big and Bigger

I realize that the last post was about feeling small and this is a link to an interesting brochure thinking big. Really, truly. I didn't plan this. Two serendipitous discoveries. I don't know anything about this church but if you feel inclined to read more, here is the church website.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Feeling small

This post is about as random as it gets, even for me!

My daughter of 27 years sent me this site - Little people art on the streets of London, UK. If you keep looking, you'll find some interesting images of cathedrals and a street corner Jesus sign. It made my daughter think of the Borrowers in the big city. Head here if you need to remember how small and insignificant we are, still remembering that God is very aware of each and every "me" and each and every "us,"

This is the other one she sent me. They're related. Head here if you're tired of the rat race and you want to think slow! Just realize that if your children ever bring home a snail from the loading dock behind the church building on a Sunday after church, and they leave it loose on the kitchen table you will quickly realize that snails are not as slow as people have been led to believe, so keep your eye on the little critters.

thoughts about leadership

Hi! Check out Jill's blog at Morningstarkids. She has some thoughtful posts about leadership.

Tags: "blog" for obvious reasons.
"serving" because we serve through our leadership and we lead through our service
"generations" because Jill's mom was a children's minister, too.

Monday, July 14, 2008


If you don't read CLPC Kids You might find this interesting and you might be able to help.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pondering Missional #4: The age-old wheel

People may think we're reinventing the wheel. Sometimes you have to do that to be able to see it differently or to make the little adjustments that really matter to help the wheel work better.

Some people think it already works. Some people think it doesn't. Works for what you want it to do, but not what I want it to do. Maybe it doesn't work for what God wants it to do. Maybe it used to work, but not anymore.

And what do you want? Just something that looks different? Something that works different? Something that works more efficiently? Something that will give you a different result? Something that's easier to use or takes less time? A beautiful wheel? A wheel that can work with other wheels? A wheel made out of a different material - because it breaks so easily or because it needs to hold up in a different environment? or maybe we're running out of wood get the idea.

Wheels are nice. They get you where you want to go. Sometimes you have to fix them. Sometimes you need a new design or new materials not because the wheel is God, but because you have a job to do and you need a well-designed wheel to do it. Can you tell I live with an engineer?

...And life goes on...

Pondering missional #3: Missional Kids

Missional could that look like? I think there are past posts about this - maybe under "justice":

Children participating in the same activities their parents do, as appropriate.

giving, serving, loving friends, family, neighbors as opportunities present themselves

participating in well-supervised activities they're interested in (sports, clubs, band...) that aren't church related with or without friends from church

inviting families and friends over

raising money for causes, giving (and delivering) material donations

giving away things they don't want or need

creating websites, artwork, essays about issues that matter to them (there are magazines that publish the work of children

field trips or speakers to learn more about history and the world around them to become more aware of social issues

writing letters

visiting people they know who can't get out and friends who are sick or in the hospital (as appropriate)

volunteering with parents

for teenagers, at one point our city had a separate teen court where kids were judged by their peers. Not sure if it's still happening. peer mediation

hanging out at your local rec center

community service

befriending new refugees in your community

Add more to this list if you like.

Many will look and say but this isn't new. And they're probably right. All these things were happening all along but there were activities associated with church and activities not associated with church as opposed to the thinking that all that we do we do to the glory of God. We work and play in His presence, with His blessing. He walks and talks with us along the way. He teaches us along the way as we walk through our day to day activities. There are "new" terms for this but I can't recall what they are at this moment . . . I'm getting old.

An alternative to planning church group service activities might be creating a bulletin board or booklets or photo albums of the things we do away from church affirming that these activities are a legitimate expression of our faith- activities for home or church. These are people we love - not because we're targetting them for salvation. What? God only loves us so He can get us saved? Is that all there is?For some of us that means being born into a whole new kingdom, a whole new life. Transformation. But is that the only reason God loves us?

He made us. He made each of us unique. He loves us with all our quirks. I want to believe He loves the world that way too, each of us a special person to love. To my way of thinking, this is the world that God loves. Eternal life is to know God. To be saved/safe is to walk with God.

And I'm a firm believer that the things that are supposed to be left-hand activities, activities that the right hand doesn't know about, should remain so - the things done in secret that God rewards, not people. But use the word "secret" and parents and kids may conjure up the bad implications of the word "secret." A whole different discussion. Language again. Have fun with that.

But when it comes to children in emerging churches, how is "missional" different from what the church has always known?

Pondering missional #2: Language


Somewhere not far from the heart of it all, the "missional" discussion I sent you to is a search for language. We create new vocabulary when the old definitions and descriptions don't work anymore to say what we're trying to say. That's been true for generations. We need new words to represent new ideas or new discoveries and to replace the things that we want to leave behind. The quest for common language is, at some level, an attempt to unify.

So we have a new word for what we consider a new idea but we realize that it means different things to different people. We want a common definition so when we use this word we know we all mean the same thing. We want to tie it down the meaning to facilitate communication, to prevent misunderstanding, so when we use a word we're all on the same page. If you only have an hour, you want to be able to spend an hour talking about the idea and how to implement it. You don't want to spend all your time trying to define it. Well, there are some people who love spending hours crafting definitions, lol. Different members of the Body with different gifts. Members who need each other.

We need to know that the words we use with children in our care mean the same thing to the each children as they mean to us is also important.

How do you know? Ask! Ask them what it means, what they think of when you say a word, pick the right picture out of a group of pictures. Tell them what you think of when you hear those words.

Sometimes, our different understandings of language come out in discussions after the fact. "Our Father" is in heaven, not "Our Father" aren't in heaven. Which makes the recap important. When I was little and someone said "cramp" I always thought it meant a crab inside you. I wasn't too far off.

And it doesn't work to say, "Is there anyone who doesn't know what ____ means?" Who's going to raise their hand? Assume you're a child. What if you think you know what it means, and you find out you're wrong after it's all over and you miss the point? Or you think everyone understands but you and you don't want to stand out and embarrass yourself.

Language is something we take for granted. Maybe we shouldn't. We don't all share the same understandings, even as adults. Think about language/meaning/context, not just with kids from other cultures but from different regions and subcultures here in the US or North America: kids who watch TV and kids who don't, kids who participate in activities with the vocabulary you're using (sports, characters from books, animals, nature, . . .) and kids who don't. One of the challenges of living in such a diverse culture is finding common language. The more interaction we have with people who aren't like us the more we realize that we can't assume we speak the same language. We may need to assume that we don't.

Instead of assuming we disagree, a phrase like "I'm not sure I know what you mean when you say. . ." goes a long way towards building bridges.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pondering "Missional" #1: Scripture

The 1st of 4 posts:

Finished reading through Brother Maynard's 9 missional posts, though I have to admit, I started scanning when I got to V and VI because my brain wasn't able to process it all. Bravo to all of you who can! And well done Brother Maynard! I have great respect for brilliant God-fearing minds, especially those trying to process incarnated, relational, listening, loving, living-in-the-world- community in holistic Biblical ways.

My husband is one of those. He's also always been very "missional" in the way he lives and expresses his faith but we never called it that.

The first passage I think of when I think of "missional" is Matt 25:31-46.

Another passage I associate with mission(al) is Mt. 28:16-20. Alot of evangelicals use it to sum up their evangelical call. #3 at first glance would probably appear less missional. As missional as I see my husband he gets frustrated when he feels like #3 gets lost in the shuffle.

1) Go and make disciples. Jesus did it. How did He it? How do we do it? Friendship evangelism, relational evangelism, probably came as an answer to that question. There may be other responses. This, however, was a clear charge to his disciples. And, we assume, to us.

2) Baptizing them in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. John did that. Jesus' disciples did it. John baptized Jesus. Father baptized Jesus in the Holy Spirit. But did Jesus baptize? Someone surely baptized His disciples in the Holy Spirit. This too, appears a clear charge to his disciples. And, we assume, to us.

3) "...teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. . . "Did Jesus do that? Or more appropriately, how did He do that? Did His disciples do that? How? Contrast the Hebrew law-based faith with what Jesus came teaching. Talk about paradigm shifts! Yet, I get the impression Jesus was operating the way other rabbis of his time operated but I'm not well informed about such things. How do we translate what He did into the here and now? I assume that's what our attempts to define "missional" are all about.

4) "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. . ."That part doesn't change. Thank God!

People have been asking and answering most of these questions any number of different ways since long before I was born, but in my mind # 3 may be the hardest to see missionally unless we see teaching as more than Sunday sermon, Bible Studies, seminars and workshops. Unless we see teaching as more shaping (supporting the things we agree with) and modeling (being good examples), and sharing the substance of the life we love with the people we love. I see Jesus teaching when he sat down and rose up and walked along the way. That approach might seem didactic now but I think it was relational and amazingly people seemed to want to hear what He had to say. Teaching can also be listening - ready with honest responses. The word "response" being different from the word "answer".

Then you have Eph 3:7-12 telling us (vs 10-12 NIV) ". . .His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." I always read this as demonstrating the wisdom of God to the world but it doesn't really say that. Is it all done? Is it something we have yet to realize? Or is it something we participate in every day unaware? Is there something we need to do that we're not doing? If God's intent for His church "is making known the wisdom of God to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms," how do we get there? . . . "[H]eavenly realms" - can it only be accomplished through prayer and fasting and faithful living? What will happen? What will it look like? How will we know it's happening?

Conversations with people who think the same way we do or with people who can shed more light on the things we already believe are affirming, to say the least. A long-range question: what role does our generation play in this multi-generational epic that we know as God's story? We live it. Someone in the future looks back and puts it into words. Sometimes we walk on with a strong sense of purpose and sometimes we just walk on.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

interesting article

Sitting in the dentist's office today I saw an interesting article about kindness and ideas for babies through pre-teen in Parenting magazine (May 2008). You might find it in the library. Didn't find the article online. It goes along with one of my upcoming pondering "missional" posts.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Another Subversive Influence post that goes with the missional discussion mentioned in the last post.

If this doesn't work, I'm playing with technical, too.

missional discussion

Brother Maynard at Subversive Influence has a serious series of posts exploring the idea of "missional". I came across it this morning looking for something else of course. He calls this his appendix. Coming in at the tail end maybe I'm living backwards.

I haven't really read through all the links, yet, but it made me ask myself how I define "missional". In it's simplist form I define it as living with a sense of purpose - to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, strength and to love my neighbor as myself whatever I'm doing, wherever I find them. Not talking about it, just doing it. "Living" suggesting a flesh and blood expression as someone else mentions - Sonja, I think.

So then I asked myself, how does "missional" translate for children?

Children learn through the actions, ideas, and attitudes they see and experience. They learn to think, respond, act in ways that we encourage and reinforce. This includes not only the things we encourage and do with them but also behaviors and attitudes that we allow without correction. Not correcting bad behaviors and attitudes says "that's ok." Making excuses for bad behavior sends the same message.

The alternative? How do you want them to behave? "You can have fun [or] you can be confident [or] you can be flat-out-honest, but what you're doing - that's not how we treat people."

Step 2 , you have to teach them a different way to react and respond in that same situation. What is appropriate? Give them an alternative. "You're being sarcastic. Find another way to say that."

Step 3 Catch them doing it "right." And tell them. "I know ____ upset you but I saw how you handled that. Great job!" "I know you don't like ____ but that was a really kind thing to say."

This is the passage that sums up "missional" for me. It's not that the big social justice projects (giving to the poor, sending $, building houses, etc) aren't important but if I'm not learning to treat every person who crosses the paths of my life with love, dignity, and respect, I don't really understand what Jesus did.

These are just extras:

I Cor 8:1-3(NIV)

I Cor 13:3 (NIV)

Gal. 5:22-26

2 Pet 1:3-11

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Two Black Pup...I mean dogs...

If you want a great way to photograph black dogs so you can see their wonderful expressive faces, my kids did this for me and put it on my desktop when I was gone. I was quite impressed. I even printed it on wide graph paper to think about quilting possibilities. The blue lets you see the light and dark.

There's probably some interesting far-reaching profound spiritual truth to learn...using blue to see light and dark, lol! But that's not why I'm writing this.

Nyah and Ellie turned 3 yrs old the end of May 2008. This week they had their first 4 hr road trip - first two nights away from home, cows, new sights, sounds, people. They didn't stress out. Mom didn't stress out. We done good.

They stayed with my son and parents while I picked up pizza. They stayed for a 1/2 hr alone while we got ice cream. They were good for an hour in my sister's garage. Walked in another city 2x and down two dirt roads without dislocating my finger joints. They didn't mug my parents, bark at cows, eat any cats, lunge through the patio screen door after the dog next door when he wandered around off leash. They didn't electrocute themselves sniffing the fence, run across the street in front of any infrequent but 50 mph cars. They didn't freak at the sprayer vehicle, tractors, pick up trucks or fork lift. They didn't run away or eat the insurance man ... really! They didn't like him but they didn't eat him!

Call it Empty Nest Syndrome if you must . . . The robin's nest in my mulberry tree is indeed empty. I watched them build it this spring. The babies were here and gone. Fast - really fast.

And what does this have to do with anything? Nothing - except that when I'm discouraged, I can come back and read this and say, I may not believe it today but we are indeed making progress.

Write down your successes so when you get discouraged you can remind yourself that good things are happening. You're not in the same place you were last year or 5 years ago. God is good. If good things aren't happening, God is still good. You may change, everything else may change, but He won't.

Kids can do that, too. They can draw pictures, write journal entries, take photos, make collages or save tiny treasures to help them remember that no matter what's happening today, God doesn't change. God is faithful. God is good!

Friday, July 04, 2008

more blogs

If these aren't already on your list...

Elemental Children's Ministry Thunder Bay, Ontario

The Orchard Blog (Orchard Kids)

Children's Ministry Online Kenny Conley

Childrens Minister Blog
Practical Activity ideas, among other things

recent discoveries

1) "Shall We Dance?" at Calacirian.

3) The Porpoise Diving Life.

4) Friend of Questians.