Over the years, I have witnessed many many churches doing things and performing activities both at the church and outside the church that have left me questioning “where did that come from – biblically”?
From “worship experiences” to children’s church, seeker-sensitivity to ministry breakdowns for every conceivable age group | demographic – the modern church (and, I suppose, the not-so-modern church) has failed to keep the Bible – God’s own Holy Word – at the forefront.
What concerns me today is the unbiblicality of the vast majority of so-called “children’s programs”. I have heard statistics quoted to me that “80% of all believers are converted as children”, and Jesus’ own words, “suffer the little children to come” used in defense of the dizzying array of children’s programs made available many churches. Awana is not – inherently – a Bad Thing™, but the focus that it gets among far too many parents, teachers, and the children themselves is frightening much of the time.
As an introduction, I have been working with the Awana program (in a 2d grade class) this school year at the church my wife and I attend (she is with kindergarteners this year). Prior to me joining as a “full-time”* Awana teacher, I had volunteered with my wife’s 1st grade class last year. I think the basic goals of Awana are good – reach children with the Gospel of Christ Jesus!
However, the program – as implemented at our church – separates children from their parents for the entirety of the Wednesday evening service of the church. This is Not Good™. Children were not designed to be constantly split apart from their parents – even with good intentions (education, church programs, etc).
Families should be worshiping God together as much as feasible – and separating them for “children’s church” on Sundays and programs like Awana other days is not at all healthy.
Another statistic tossed-about is the percentage of “churched” individuals who leave when they are old enough to do so. Some say it’s as low as 20% – others will claim as high as 90%. What’s wrong with this picture?!
What’s wrong is that we have split children away from their parents starting in nursery … and have NEVER reunited them in the church! Parents have willingly sent their children to nursery, Sunday School, children’s church, Awana – and the like – and as a “church culture”, we are seeing the effects of this segregation.
If a parent is unable (or unwilling .. but that’s the topic for a different day) to educate their children primarily themselves (be it homeschooling, tutoring, or private/public school with intentional involvement), it is only natural they would feel incompetent to educate them spiritually as well.
God would much prefer a non-scholar with a heart that burns for Him than a Nobel-winning scientist who claims He does not exist. That’s where our focus should be, raising kids for Christ, no matter where they go to school. —Dan Edelen
parents did have family times of studying the Bible, but never claimed to be expert theologians. They’re continuing to learn even now, but they understood that the ‘heavy lifting’ in Biblical study was being done by my Sunday school teachers and our pastors. They reinforced what I was hearing at church —Warren Myers
I am fully convinced that parents are not half as involved as they should be in their children’s spiritual lives – as a general rule. As a child, I was fortunate to have parents who showed interest in what I was being taught in Sunday School by my teachers – and who would correct those teaching if they went awry.
Outsourcing spiritual education to others is not exclusively bad – but when no (or little) insourcing is done in conjunction, there is a HUGE disconnect between the children and the church.
To keep children engaged in church for the rest of their lives, of course, requires the working of the Holy Spirit. However, if we instill in our children the mindset that they have “kiddie church” while their parents go to “big church” – we have failed.
Add on top of this mix the fact that the “church” is expressly the collection and communion of believers – and you have to wonder where a church gets off having a “children’s church” service: children are NOT a “church” on their own; the CHURCH is the group of believers who meets together on a routine basis to worship, and, let’s face it, most children are not believers. Most Children are rank sinners who urgently need the gospel! Confining them to their own group(s) on a Sunday encourages them to think they’re – at best – ‘special’, and – at worst – unwanted. Children need to learn with their parents. They need to hear what their parents hear, and parents need to reinforce that teaching at home.
*We’ll [temporarily] ignore my work-related travel and how that has affected the “full-time” aspects of my volunteering this year