I've been wondering what the prevailing attitude towards children is in the church you attend? I'm talking about below the surface; in most churches, people would be able to reel off the important Bible verses where Jesus talked about the importance of little children, of having respect from them, and learning from their innocent faith. But really, in practice, what is the place of children in your congregation? In corporate worship? In house-groups or mid week meetings? In the general life and service of the church?
For me, children and church are an uncomfortable mix. There is a feeling of tension, sideways glances, anxious smiles, hushing and bribery with sweets or books until the moment of release when 'the children may now leave for their classes'. Until that point, there isn't much of an expectation of anything from the children, yet you can see that many families are unable to relax until that point has passed. And if you choose to keep your children in the main church service (removing them when necessary to quieten them down or administer discipline), you risk verbal abuse after the service for being selfish and allowing a distraction to occur. (You may think I am jesting!) Rather than being a time of joyful worship together as a family, church can increasingly seem a painful chore to be endured.
I wasn't aware that there was anything different to what I had experienced until I read some of the work of Voddie Baucham, such as his most well known book, 'Family Driven Faith'; as well as writing on the issues of faith and family, he is also a well known speaker. What he describes is a place where children are valued as an essential part of church and family life, and are included in activities without them being 'dumbed down' to their level. Explained simply and compellingly, I found myself longing for a similar, like-minded congregation near my home!
Of course, there are frustrations with proponents of this style of congregation. These are well summarised by a couple of cautionary articles. A summary from the Grace Reformed Baptist Church highlights these concerns, which basically surround elevating a relatively minor outworking of Christian life into a fundamental doctrine, failure to adhere to which is considered heretical. I have known Christians who have done this, who have failed to see that whilst they may sincerely believe a certain model of family life best encompasses the privileges and responsibilities of Christian parenthood, that one cannot consider that some of these views be normative. Whilst there are choices I would prefer not to make for my own family, I would not want to condemn as a sinner, another believer who equally sincerely makes other choices.
I accept the need for caution, and I get frustrated by the few utterly narrow minded individuals who give family-centred worship a bad name. I do not think we are close to running into difficulties here in this country at the present time! One thing that makes me particularly sad is the feeling that I have more empathy and relationship with friends who have utterly different ideologies and worldview (often verging on new-age or pagan in spirituality) than those within the church, for the simple reason that we value children highly and are asking questions about how best to live out all elements of life in an intentional, rather than default, manner.
Have any readers got experiences of church life with their family? Both positive and negative experiences are welcome!
- I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)