Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Happy New Year!

By the time Christmas had rolled around this year our family had been to about 10 different Christmas parties/services/ kids events at different churches... (My husband and I oversee the youth and children's ministries for The Salvation Army across South Australia.)
Christmas is a time that seems to be very conducive to events for children and families, of course it makes sense, themes of Christmas include a baby, some animals, a star, angels and gifts... All very appealing and engaging messages for children.
It is also a time when many families come together, therefore it seems only natural to capitalize on that and get the whole family in the building or to a special event or whatever it might be...
Some faith communities choose to focus more on the community element of Christmas, others focused more on the faith element. Some communities used it as an evangelical tool, others used it to encourage their existing children to 'be a part' of it all...

From my humble point of view, they're all right. The fact that this 'season' made our communities of faith consider 'others' a little more carefully than they would otherwise is a good thing, it's a very good thing.
In addition to that, observing how each community embraced, welcomed and reached our energetic two and a half year old has been an interesting exercise...
And I'm reminded of Jesus' words when He said;
'Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not only Me, but the One who sent Me.' (Mark 9:36)

We know that almost 80% of Christians make their faith decision before the age of 21 with almost half being before the age of 13 ( The way that a child is truly welcomed into a faith community really matters!
However, also, keep in mind that research conducted on Youth and Religion (USA) by the Association of Religion Data Archives, shows that parents faith by far outweighed any other influence on a child's faith. In fact 82% of children raised by parents who talked about their faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults.
No pressure.

So... When we intentionally welcome a child into our community we are following the example of Jesus.
However sometimes doing that is different to saying that we want to do that. Genuinely wanting a loud, active two and a half year old who hasn't (or won't) learnt the rules to be in your church is actually pretty hard, I'll admit it...
I struggle with wanting my own child to be in church with me, let alone everyone else's at times.
Actually I'm going to be really real here, it's harder when it's your own kid. I find I have so much more grace for other people's children ;)
Poor Jonny...

But I want to let you in on another little secret that I'm learning; Church is not about You...

Particularly if you are a mature christian, have potentially been going to church your whole life and have now reached adulthood; church is not about your environment of worship, your stillness, your style of music, the way you like things to look, the seats you sit in, the tokens on the walls...
Church is about 'others', and not just at Christmas...

Now that I have a toddler in tow every Sunday I have had to learn this at a whole other deeper level. My toddler is mine and my husband's priority for church. All of my grown up expectations of worship and fellowship and spiritual connection now take a back seat to his needs.
My priority now is for church to be a place for him to cultivate a faith and a relationship with his creator.
I have to get beyond the concept that church is my only place for spiritual fulfillment.
And how lucky are we that our current technology assists us in so many ways to be able to do that. In the palm of my hand we have the bible (in whatever translation we wish), we can watch a sermon (from the other side of the world) and we can read bible studies and have community through social media.
What a glorious world we live in where Jesus is shining through every corner of cyberspace!
Church is no longer the place we can go for spiritual nourishment. In fact, there will be seasons where we just won't be spiritually fulfilled at all by the church and these are the times we need to pay attention and be active 'outside the box' while we place the spiritual needs of others before our own in service.
And this includes to our own children...

So this year, I encourage you to keep in the fore-front of your mind:
Church is not about me
& When I welcome a child into my community I am following the example of Jesus.

Learn kids names, have real conversations with them about what they are interested in (hint: if they're doing most of the talking you're on the right track), allow kids to have real opportunities in worship and provide them with a safe place to fail. You're on the right track, keep going, it's never easy to put the needs of someone else above your own...
P.S Guess what Jonny's favourite t-shirt was over the festive period? :)

No comments:

Post a Comment