Children's Pastors Conference - Anaheim
And I want to send out all my best wishes for a joyous and blessed Christmas!
Children's Pastors Conference - Anaheim
I know I haven't written anything for a while. I hesitate to write unless I feel like I really have something to say. But I've been thinking for a while that I wanted to tell whoever it is that reads this that I will be at Children's Pastors Conference in Anaheim the first week in January. So if any of you are going to be there or are in the SoCal area and would like to meet up with me to hang out or chat -- let me know. I get in mid-day or so on Wednesday, Jan.4 and then leave late Friday night(the redeye back to Minneapolis). I'd love to meet some of you if that is at all possible. I will be at the Anaheim Hilton where the conference is.
And I want to send out all my best wishes for a joyous and blessed Christmas!
The Lost Soul
I waos catching up on my television watching on Saturday afternoon watching the previous Sunday's Gray's Anatomy. One of the story lines was about a 20 something Hmong girl who needed immediate spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Her father would not allow it until she had regained her soul which involved brining in a Shaman for a Homong religious ritual. While she waited for the Shaman to arrive one of the young doctors reminded her that she was about to go off of the morphine drip. The Hmong woman responded that that was OK because "it was impossible to find one's soul when one is medicated." That line really hit me and I have been musing on it ever since.
My first response when I heard this was to immediately think about the ways we self-medicate: mostly alcohol and drugs. But as I thought more about it I recalled that there are hundreds of other ways that human beings self-medicate -- shopping, overeating, seeking that adrenalin rush, watching television, sex,work, etc. And I thought about what all that self-medicating does to our souls and what does it mean to walk through the pain to recapture and find our souls. And then for purposes of this blog I thought about ways in the church we might be teaching children to self-medicate through the ways we do children's ministry. Are we caring for children's souls or driving a wedge between children and their souls. Just something to ponder as I will continue to do.
Loving Your Neighbor Reimbursements
This morning's paper contained an article that said that FEMA is mulling over the possibility of re-imbursing churches for their care of the victims from Hurricane Katrina. The article said that some churches are already tallying up the bills for electricity and worn carpet.
What bothers me about this is not the separation of church and state issues but that any church would consider being reimbursed by the government for simply doing what it is that people who follow Jesus are supposed to do -- love one's neighbor. It would seem to me that the mission of the church is to do exactly this -- take in those who have lost their homes and loved ones, the stranger, the widow, the slave, and the child without regard for the cost of the electrical bill or the strain on the carpeting. This is a place for the community of faith the rise up and demonstrate the lavish and costly generosity of the kingdom of God. And if a church in one community is put in severe financial straits because of these actions -- then that's where other churches, communities of faith, in their town should come to their aid -- sharing resources with them.
If we want to raise children of extravagant generosity and hesed (that loving kindness of God that always does what is right) then our communities of faith need to be corporate examples of faith to them. Not places that worry about a damaged carpet.
Capturing The Imagination
I just finished reading Colossians Remixed, a post modern reading of the epistle to the Colossians by Brian Walsh and his wife (who is a person in her own right but I don't have the book in front of me so I don't recall her name). And it absolutely blew me away.
One theme that captured me was how the Roman Empire had captured the imagination of its citizens and how God's story was meant to over throw that by capturing people's imagination with the much greater story of God's desire to redeem all of the creation. Paul's epistle was all about freeing the human imagination to imagine God's way and God's future.
As I've thought more about this concept I keep going back to the idea that churches and families have not done a very good job of capturing our children's imaginations with God's story -- what does it mean to do this? and how do we go about doing this?
Any thoughts or ideas??
Moral Therapeutic Deism
The 9/6 issue of The Christian Century has 2 interesting articles on what teens believe. The first is a review of a study entitled Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Smith and Denton). The good news from this study is that American teens are not overwhelming secular. They do believe, they do have faith in God. The bad news is the shape that faith takes. Smith and Denton describe it as Moral Therapeutic Deism whose creed is as follows:
1)God exists and watches over the world & human life
2)God wants people to be good and nice to and fair to each other. This is taught in the Bible
3)The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself
4)God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to solve a problem.
5)Good people go to heaven when they die.
In a related article a youth pastor attributes part of the cause of this to the pressure churches put on youth people to make church "fun."
He writes: "We often fail to help teens think carefully about their faith and about the details of scripture, worship and Christian practices. Getting kids to like church is itself an accomplishment, and parents want ministers to succeed at that. Not surprisingly, Smith and Denton describe youth ministers as under great pressure to keep kids entertained. One common strategy inovolves front loading youth programs with fun activities, hoping to sneak a little Bible teaching in at the end. The point not to do anything too weighty that would turn kids off. Keep it light; keep it fun."
He could, also, be describing the state of Children's Ministry in today's church where we are raising fervent and articulate moral therapeutic deists.
Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath
I'm finding myself overwhelmed by the human devestation brought by Hurricane Katrina and am experiencing feelings akin to those experienced after 9/11/01. And I want to help but know that the most I can do is pray (which I have and which I hope God is hearing) and contribute to some disaster relief (which I haven't yet but intend to). I just can't imagine the horrors those people in Louisiana and Mississippi are going through.
But in saying all that there is something about all this that disturbs me. This is something that disturbs me when ever tragedy strikes Americans anywhere. We seem to live in a culture where it is not "OK" to have bad things happen (sometimes for no explicit reason) or where it is not "OK" to endure any kind of suffering. There always has to be someone to blame - someone who's fault it is for the suffering and the pain. A quick perusal of the cable TV channels last night and a brief period of watching C-Span this morning showed me this perspective is alive and well in the midst of this tragedy. It's the mayor's fault; It's FEMA's fault; It's the weather forcasters fault; It's the Republicans (or insert Democrat's fault) - somebody has to be blamed because we should be able to prevent horror and suffering in this country -- afterall, this is America. But the truth is that horror and suffering are a part of living on this planet, a part of living in the bent world we live in. But because those of us who live in the affluent western world are fortunate to escape much of the suffering and horror of the rest of the world we think something is wrong, someone is to blame when we do find ourselves experiencing it.
Now you may be asking - "What does this rant have to do with Children's Ministry." Well, I think this idea that experiencing suffering, sadness, difficutly is bad gets taught to our children in churches when we equate following Jesus and living in the kingdom of God with life in a giant Disneyland -- when all we tell children is that following Jesus is fun and that's why you should do it. "Your life will better if you follow Jesus (often interpreted as we'll have the American Dream life if we follow Jesus)" is what we tell children. But, you know what, sometimes life isn't better when we follow Jesus - sometimes following Jesus is (as a woman told me once from her hospital bed) "damn hard." I don't think God became human and then died a humilating, painful death simply so we could have fun and never have anything bad happen to us. But I think sometimes our actions and how we teach our children reflect that very bad theology.
The Six Trends In Children's Ministry: What I Said
Yesterday I received my digital version of Children's Ministry Magazine and looked eargerly at the article on trends because they had solicited my opinions on some of the trends they outlined. I was interested to see what they used of my opinions and to my dismay (as far as I could tell in my quick appraisal of the article) they had used none of what I said. So I thought some one might find my opinions helpful - so here in its entirety are the comments I forwarded on to the magazine.
Trend #4: Conformity before Conviction
This generation’s affinity for authentic community offers churches a great opportunity for the spiritual formation of their children. Studies have shown that for children the context of formation is often more important than the content of formation in the development of conscience and values. This finding can surely be extrapolated to faith formation as well. If our churches can become authoritative faith communities offering children real and valuable relationships with adults who model Christian faith for them and communities which offer children opportunities to be full, functioning members not just receivers of the community’s generosity, then they will be providing this generation and coming generations with a context for faith development well suited to the their needs, world view, and proclivities. And, churches need to be faith communities where children are allowed to belong before they believe. True belongingness within a group who understands its identity and celebrates its shared values and story is instrumental in bringing about transformation. Those of us responsible for the spiritual formation of children need to help our churches understand this and take steps to become truly authentic and transformational communities.
Trend #5: Malaise vs. Making A Difference
Children’s Ministries should be about forming people who love God and follow Jesus. One way to keep this and coming generations outwardly focused is to provide a missional context in the church and, more specifically, in those programs and opportunities directed toward children. Faith communities desiring to form children who participate in God’s kingdom work will be faith communities who care more about works of peace and justice, who care more about “doing what people who follow Jesus do,” than about attracting large numbers through glitzy programs and providing a “holy huddle” for those who are on the inside. When children see an ethos of mission modeled for them by parents, church leaders, and other significant adults they can be transformed to live in the way of Jesus as they begin to understand their responsibilities to the world and other people God created in the holy image.
Hope you find these thoughts helpful as you think about trends in today's application of ministry to children.
© 2004 Ivy Beckwith. Design by Rachel Lam