- Sunday: 10:00 Worship
- Monday: 5:30 p.m.: Girl Scouts
- Tuesday: Bible Study @ Jeremiah’s, 2 p.m.; Elders, 3 p.m.
- Wednesday: Outreach, 1 p.m.
- AA Meetings: in the Parish Hall:
- Tuesdays, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Discussion
- Wednesdays, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Big Book
- Fridays 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Discussio
Graduating From Church
(…continued from last week…)
A More Profound Alleluia
Kids are growing up and leaving the church in droves today because we’ve stopped expecting enough out of them. We have trained them to be kids, not adults. And they have learned what we have taught them.
So, if participating in traditional corporate worship by singing hymns and engaging liturgy isn’t appropriate for children, then what is the alternative. Everyone singing those “kid friendly” easy songs in an entertainment setting in the adult services? Many churches are doing this! But the appeal to youth is an appeal to immaturity.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with “kid friendly” easy songs, an important component of education is exposing kids—and adults—to things they don’t yet understand in order to build important connections that make increasingly good sense as people grow and mature in the faith.
So, while a traditional adult Sunday service might be boring at times to small children, if we gracefully and patiently teach them the discipline of the routine, the time will come when that will no longer be the case. Learning to be quiet and sit still when you don’t know what is going on is an important life lesson, even for adults.
In a high school English class, students read The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye or The Scarlet Letter, not because they will instantly connect to them and enjoy them (though hopefully this is sometimes the case), but because it’s good for them. Because they need to learn to interact with adult ideas, concepts, and worldviews. Even if those things seem foreign to them. Even if they are boring at the time. They may not immediately “get it,” but one day they will appreciate it. They will be more equipped to meet the world as adults. Adults need to know how to deal with boredom. A life of hyperactivity is headed for trouble.
The church needs a doxological education, to learn how to praise God in everything, even in our failures. We need to start expecting kids to participate in adult church, to sit still for a little while—and love them graciously when they can’t. We adults need to help each other (kids included) stumble through odd words, and to sing the right notes and practice harmonies as best as we are able. Even the old hymns! Even communal prayers that have tough words, like slavery, resurrection, and covenant. Even when people, small and large, are years away from fully understanding what it’s all about.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that kids will understand more than we think. Talk to your kids about the hymns, prayers, and the sermon, They are listening, even when you think they aren’t. We need to expect them to do things that are difficult because in the end, good things, worthwhile things, are difficult and often expensive. Real success is hard won, not easy.
The truth is that a few of those kids who have never darkened a sanctuary door will one day make the transition into the adult’s Sunday silo. A few more will send their kids to church when they have their own kids, because they think good parents get their kids to church. However, many, and if the numbers are accurate, most will not. In the future—and maybe even today—most people will have no connection to the church, no “touch points,” no precious church memories, and no understanding of why we Christians do what we do.
It’s absolutely imperative that we reintegrate children back in to our gathered worship. Yes, it will take time. Yes, it will be messy, noisy, and awkward, but it must be done for the church to be the church in the future. And now is the time to begin! We are already behind the need.
The future of the church does not belong to the children, it belongs to mature, faithful, patient adults. Christ gave the church to the elders, not the children. So, we adults need to help the church grow, not just in numbers, but primarily in faithfulness. We need to teach them (unchurched kids and adults); and we can’t teach what we don’t ourselves know. We need to make room for them in our pews, to let them follow our fingers as we trace the melody in the hymnal. To be patient with them when they squirm and sigh. Above all, we need to show them by example the importance of actually being the church on Sunday, so that we can actually be the church everyday. Not just someday, but everyday!
As it turns out, there is a glimmer of hope. Research shows that many young people who have left the church because they didn’t “get it” in their youth are finding a vital and persistent faith later. Many people who left the church in their youth are now desperately searching for deeper connection to Christ in this fragmented world. Many are turning to stable, liturgical churches because they are beginning to see the liturgical connections.
In the past the established churches had the opportunity to reengage a generation that was taught to question everything, and they failed—we failed. The Jesus Movement captured a few young people in the 1960s and 70s, but that was a movement outside the churches, like most revivals. A similar opportunity is upon us again. We need to make room in our traditions, our music, and our liturgies for sojourners and their questions. While we don’t have all the answers, we know where to look and Who to ask. We don’t know everything, in fact most of us don’t know much. So let us confess our ignorance and join with the unchurched and look together for meaning and connection, and worship together.
It is well past time for us to be honest with ourselves. What we’ve been doing isn’t working! Christian education is valuable, but the regular discipline of the worship event is the beating heart of our Christian journey, our nourishment, our Sunday asylum. It’s time we all worshiped together. Once again. At long last.