Thrown a Curveball

In all our years of going to church, our children have never really been part of the Children’s Sunday School program.  I do not say this as if I were wearing a badge.  It is merely a statement of fact.

For many years, we were part of a small house-church type of fellowship where the members sat around in a circle and we just shared/talked about things.  Adults and children sat together and there was no separate Sunday School for the children. They were proud of this fact.

After we left that church, we looked around for another place to fellowship. We had been in a church where children sat in with adults for over ten years. A typical church model (with Sunday School classes) felt weird to us (me).

Among the local churches we visited:

One of them actually had a separate venue for the children for the entire service. The children were shepherded off to Children’s Church right even before we got to the “main auditorium,” where they got their own service. The people shared a meal together afterwards and we were invited to join them.  I met a friend of a friend from university days.  After lunch, there were Bible Study Classes.  So, one could be ‘at church’ pretty much the whole day there.

Another one we visited had different rooms for different age groups. There was a cry room for infants and I was told that my then-21mo was too old for that room and had to go to the Toddlers’ Room. I had to sign her in, and get a number. I could choose to go back to the main auditorium and if there was any ‘problem’, they would flash her number up on the screen. I decided to stay in the Toddlers’ Room with her.  There was no program for the youngsters there, it was just a giant playroom.  More disconcerting (to me) was the fact that there was no audio of the sermon in that room.  There was in the Cry Room, but not in the Toddlers’ Room. So, I did not get to hear the sermon.

At yet another church, my 12yo got a prize from Sunday School. I asked him what it was for. He said it was for being “Most Well-Behaved”. What does ‘well-behaved’ mean? Sitting quietly and listening to the teacher. (I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at this.) This church also had a ‘Cry Room’ but it was more like a Time-Out Room for noisy, active children to play. There was audio reception, but one could not hear anything due to the children running around in there.

Another one we visited was small and had no children, and thus no children’s church. They were very apologetic about this and were very surprised when I said that it’s okay, our children are used to sitting with us, and can follow the sermon.  One of the parishioners (she later said that she was a school teacher) took it upon herself to quiz my children after the sermon to see how much they got out of it.  We were part of this church for about a year.

Then we joined another church closer to home.  Again, small and because it was new, they did not have a Sunday School program.  Which suited us  fine.  We stayed with this church for about a year.  They did try to bring in a Sunday School program, but it wasn’t regular. My younger two did go when SS was on.  I think I can count on one hand the number of SS classes they attended while we were there – and we did go every week for about a year.

Now we are part of a small-to-medium sized church.  There is a Kids’ Church program for younger children and another program for older children.  My older two go off for their thing, and my third child tried out the kids’ program once or twice but decided he preferred to sit in with us for the sermon.  My youngest also said that she preferred to sit in with us.

I mention all this because there is a growing trend among certain Christian circles to eschew any form of age-segregated activities in churches.  That means no Sunday School, no Men’s Groups, no Women’s Groups, no Youth Groups.  To put a spiritual spin on it, those are all deemed to be  ‘secular, humanistic and evolutionary’ in origin.  Families should do everything together.  And, yup, this group also strongly advocates home schooling.

Although we practise some of what they espouse, we are not dogmatic about it. I believe that there is a place for age-segregated and gender-segregated activities.  Sometimes such programs are well run and sometimes not (as my story above shows).  Poorly-run programs are no reason to throw the lot out.

I mention all this because I understand where this group is coming from. They are concerned at the decline in church attendance especially in the young adult demographic, and they are trying hard to keep the young people from running away.

This past Saturday, there was a conference geared towards Christian home-schooling families here in Melbourne on How to Build a God-Centred Family.  This conference was given by several speakers from the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, an organisation founded by Doug Phillips, the president of Vision Forum (the one that produces the Jonathan Park series).

I did not attend, but I prayed.  And this is what I prayed: God, if this is not of You let it be made abundantly clear.

On Sunday, when it came to the part of the service where the children and other young people head off to their respective classes, instead of sitting still as she had done for the past 18 months, Little Miss 6 said that she wanted to go to Kids’ Church.

And Mr Yewnique, who is the Head of the Family, let her go with his blessings.

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Posted on Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, in Christian Living, Church, Family, Home Schooling, Jonathan Park, Life, Parenting, Vision Forum and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. “I mention all this because I understand where this group is coming from. They are concerned at the decline in church attendance especially in the young adult demographic, and they are trying hard to keep the young people from running away.”

    Yes, making children sit with their parents through service will fix that. That’s the whole problem with declining church attendance right there.

    [snicker]

    No, no, that’s the problem. Stay focused on that.

    [giggle]

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  2. Yes, because sending children off to SS is letting someone else teach your kids when the Bible very specifically exhorts parents to do that.

    Sunday School, Youth Group etc are ‘not biblical’.

    No snickering/giggling allowed.

    This is serious.

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  3. *sigh* fine, I’ll bite. I’ve never heard of this bizarre Biblical prohibition (but, really, which ones aren’t). What verses are we talking about?

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  4. btw just reading the words you use above there seems to me to be a pretty clear line between phrases that encourage parents to teach there children, and phrases that prohibit others from teaching your children. Only a literalist would take the former to mean the latter. And there are plenty of fairly clear prohibiting phrases in the Bible (as clear as it gets, I suppose)–like women from speaking in church, for example. I’ve never heard of a phrase that prohibits others from assisting in the spiritual upbringing of a child.

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  5. there = their

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  6. The go-to verses are usually Deuteronomy 6:6-7 which says

    6 These words, which I command you today, shall be on your heart; 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.

    To be honest, I like these verses very much myself. I came across a poster many, many years ago when I first started homeschooling that has these verses and the title of the poster is ‘The Best School of Learning is at Home’. Now I don’t think the designer of that poster was promoting home schooling, or house churching or anything like that, but simply the idea that parents are the best teachers for their children when it comes to faith and morals.

    I bought that poster and I still have it. Still haven’t put it up on the wall. LOL! One day…

    Anyway, there isn’t really a Bible verse that prohibits children’s church programs. It’s the lack of mention of such programs that makes them ‘unbiblical’, ie, not mentioned in the Bible. On the other hand, parents are commanded to teach their children, so that is the ‘biblical’ model we should follow.

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  7. “It’s the lack of mention of such programs that makes them ‘unbiblical’, ie, not mentioned in the Bible.”

    Bible doesn’t mention a lot of things.

    “On the other hand, parents are commanded to teach their children, so that is the ‘biblical’ model we should follow.”

    You’re not with them every second of the day though. You might give them a book (or they might pick one out themselves you haven’t read in advance) that includes some theological component, and what you do as a parent might be to follow their progress, engage with them on what they’re consuming. I would think of Sunday School as similar. As long as you stay engaged as a parent, you’re not giving over instruction to someone else, but rather augmenting. Heck, even if your kids sit with you in church technically they’re getting a message from a third party. You’re there, but you personally aren’t doing the teaching, you’re not controlling the message, you’re only engaging with them separately from the message they’re hearing. Like I said, I see a clear line between what’s encouraged and what’s prohibited, because you can’t educate someone effectively in a complete bubble.

    And I don’t mind encouraging it. Atheists are fond of saying the best way to become an atheist is to read the BIble 🙂

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