It’s all about the first 20 minutes
Are children engaged in the celebration of worship or are they just waiting to leave?
We would love to see children standing with us in our gatherings in 5, 10 and 15 years time. The first part of this is having a vision. Then we look around at children and wonder if they are engaged by anything that’s happening. We can do more to help children be present with us.
ARTICLE: Series: The first 20 minutes #00
Key to all this is the question, “Do we think that gathering together to celebrate our worship is at all helpful to us growing individually and together as a followers of Jesus?” After all, why bother if it isn’t helpful? Keeping up attendance at some religious observance may just be maintaining the appearance of being good.
Or do our gatherings have to do with experiencing something of God? Celebrating, encouraging and growing a sense of what it means to honour and show our worth of God in this hour as in every other hour of the week by our words, thoughts and deeds? Doing this together in ways that better enable us to be Jesus to one another, in our community and to the world?
If it is the latter, or something like it, then surely we would love for our children to catch this idea and learn and grow in something like it for themselves.
Often a child’s experience of our large gatherings (let’s call these gatherings ‘big church’) is nothing like a celebration of the honour and worth of God. He does not hear the stories of faith. He does not sing of the wonders of God. No one takes the time to talk to him let alone connect with him. It’s just a time of waiting until they are released to their kids program. Let’s call this ‘kids church’. This is where they are expected have fun and to learn at least one interesting fact about God, Jesus, love or the Bible. And they probably do.
Around 11 or 12 years of age and nearing the end of his interest in a kids church with all its kids stuff, each child will be faced with a choice.
As I am no longer a kid, do I:
[ul style=”2″] [li]Graduate into big church (which is for adults … not fun like kids church … I just don’t get it.)[/li] [li]Offer to be a kids church leader because I am kids church leader[/li] [li]Offer to be a kids church leader because I am a refugee from big church[/li] [li]Go the the teenagers program (possible only in larger churches) where my decision can be delayed for a couple of years.[/li] [li]Offer to help out on the sound desk because I am genuinely interested[/li] [li]Offer to help out in the creche because at least there I can text my friends[/li] [li]Sit with mum and dad until I’m old enough to figure out a way to stay at home by myself[/li] [li]Graduate to night church (if my church has one … this is often the solution of larger churches)[/li] [li]Take a Sunday activity like sport because I have more friends and better connections there. [/li] [li]Get part time work on a Sunday because everyone thinks that will be good for me t earn some money[/li] [li]Talk mum and dad into letting me play games in the back seat with my other friends who are made to go.[/li] [/ul][spacer height=”10″ mobile_hide=”true”]
You get the idea. Add any number of reasons that a child will try in order to excuse himself from one of the central activities of the church. They may not be able to verbelise what it is they are experiencing. They may resort to words like, “Church is boring! I don’t know anyone, my friends aren’t there and there’s nothing to do!”
What a child is experiencing at this point is the sense of being not connected into or engaged by this activity of worship. There is very little to help him to participate in it, belong or respond to God in a range of appropriate ways that will benefit everyone.
The truth is, the experience of a gathering of church people in order to celebrate worship is often hard work to interpret and engage even for some adults. It’s culture. There is jargon. The activities and rituals are hard to explain. The ideas are meant to be listened to, understood and lived out during the week. Often I’m just asked to sit still and listen and I am not engaged in a variety of ways to do the work of transacting with God and one another.
Sorry, did I just write, “I’m just asked to sit still and listen?” Hmmm. That’s me as an adult male, a visual and kinesthetic learner talking. I can only imagine what it’s like for a child. I don’t need to imagine. I see and hear what they are saying all the time.
Look around at children during the first 20 minutes. Are they engaged? I once observed an 11 year old playing on his hand held game in the back seat while the singing was on. Engaged or not engaged I wondered? I could probably guess, but it was probably worth exploring as to how engaged he was by anything that happened. He might have been engaged even thought he wasn’t looking. These are a good questions to ask parents: How engaged in different aspects of this 20 minutes are your children? How do you know? What engages children? Are they engaged or just waiting to leave?
These questions are also explored as part of a larger discussion on the 5 keys of effective ministry (see midst.com.au/5keys/engage/). The ways children may be more engaged is described in relation to a in a variety of contexts. Here the topic covers something that is typical in a number of churches where children are present for around 20 minutes before they attend their own program. With this in mind, the following ten or so articles will help to explore this topic.[ol style=”13″] [li]Growing a vision helps … Vision, hopes and dreams are important but it’s not enough if it’s all you have. … One can aspire to be the tall, straight-kicking, muscled forward of a championship team but without passion and skill you can dream all you want but it won’t get you there. But it does begin with vision![/li] [li]What works? … Develop a coffee-shop-footy-family-christmas-party mentality. … Raise a child at the feet of the culture you would love to see them adopt is part of the answer to helping a child last the distance. Children are usually more attentive to things around them than we give them credit for so focus on the things that count.[/li] [li]Culture: It is what it is! … Sometimes there is no changing it and besides, it isn’t all that bad! Is it? … There is a fine line between helpful and unhelpful culture. The art of prayerful discernment together with reflecting on our heritage as well as on future needs is an important process. It is too easy to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ sometimes.[/li] [li]Are we feeling uneasy enough? … Any change is born out of a certain amount of holy dissatisfaction with the status quo. … Having determined that some change at the level at least of an individual approaches to an issue is important, taking those first, small, experimental steps towards a vision are the critical ones. Help is at hand to walk you through an approaches right for your context.[/li] [li]The Big Four huggable moments … Celebrating worship with children in the first 20mins is about choosing your priorities. … Pay attention to the four huggable moments of singing, Bible reading, prayer and communion. These are the areas we can focus on together during the week in our households as well as when we gather as a faith community.[/li] [li]Keep your cake and eat it too! … See your kids church, in part, as a training ground for children to be in big church. … When kids church is happening, does it support what is going on back in big church? There are ways to help children engage in the bigger picture by practicing some of the activities, learning some of the language or making some of the connections needed to celebrate worship.[/li] [li]Teaching Snoopy to whistle ‘Dixie’ … We are all different and all learn in different ways. So then, are kids learning? … The difference between faith education and faith formation is the difference between reading about something and then being able to do it for real. Discipleship is about learning to practice and apply a principle to real life situations. So then, what curriculum do we use?[/li] [li]Performance versus worship leading … The challenge for anyone facing those gathered is to be facing the cross at the same time. If we see those gathered as an audience, we will perform to them. If we see those gathered as the faith community, we will lead them and join them to face the cross, offering our continued worship and honour to God. If this is true, then why is it we see children as performers?[/li] [li]Just throw a dvd on in the family room … What about home groups, church meals, church meetings, missionary speakers & church camps? … Once we have applied all this to children as part of big church, we can also apply it to other contexts. When we play, learn or plan with children, the child in our midst will make a huge difference to our approach, ultimately assisting a child to be around for the long haul.[/li] [li]The language we use is important … Do we use the language of belonging or the language of leaving? So, children are in for the first 20 minutes. They have either been engaged by what has happened in that time and space or perhaps they haven’t been. It’s time for them to leave that space. What do you say? I’ve heard and cringed at the following …[/li] [/ol][spacer height=”10″ mobile_hide=”true”]
These are the topics covered in the following articles of this series but will also relate to other sections of midst.com.au as well. All these are articles may be viewed here>
What have you seen or heard of or experienced that relates to this?
• If you were part of the church as a child, what got you through the upper primary and teenage angst years? What worked for you?
• Or didn’t it work for you? Did you have to go away like 80% of all children who start in church and then who did you make it back again? What brought you back? How many of your siblings and friends didn’t make it through those transition years?
• For your children, what is your vision for them in 5, 10, 20 years time? Where do you see them standing?[spacer height=”20″ mobile_hide=”true”]
• Author: phildup55 • Date: 22/10/2014
Copyright/freeshare[phildup55/Phillip Day © midst.com.au This article is FreeShare. Part or all of the text may be used provided it is not for profit and provided it carries this complete, square-bracketed tag.] [spacer height=”20″ mobile_hide=”true”]
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