Thursday, June 30, 2011

What about Children's Church?

I love this Spurgeon quote Mrs. Fuentes shared on her blog A Wise Woman Builds Her Home:

Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion
that Sunday School is intended
to ease them of their personal duties.
The first and most natural condition of things
is for Christian parents
to train up their own children
in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

My husband and I are not a big fan of Sunday School.  First of all, I don't really care for the way that churches mimic the humanistic institutional method of separating children by age groups.  Secondly, I've seen too many Sunday School classes that look more like playtime with a story of Jesus thrown in somewhere.  I've seen churches put on a big Children's Church production every week (with characters singing and dancing across the stage) that rivals Disney Musicals. The focus is on entertaining the children and keeping them busy- not Jesus.

I've been to churches where children are not allowed in the service.  There have been times when Sunday School teachers have argued with us, making quite a scene as the pastor got up to speak, and have even grabbed our children's arms and attempted to drag them away from us into their Sunday School classes even after we have made our stance known.

I don't want you to think I'm completely against children's bible classes.  Certainly many children, especially those without godly parents, benefit from them.  However, many parents have surrendered this command to disciple and train up their children to the church- some in part, some completely.

I think many homeschool families may use Sunday School as a means of socialization, and certainly it is good for our children to fellowship with other families within the body of Christ, but children also should learn to worship, praise, and learn alongside their parents.  Obviously there may be times when certain subjects will not be appropriate for children's ears.  However, I believe pastors, teachers, and anyone bringing a message from the Lord should keep children in mind and try to present their message in a clear manner.

Somehow people have picked up this idea that children are incapable of understanding such "lofty" things from the bible without significantly "dumbing them down", but I have found that most children are able to understand more than we give them credit for.  Yes, there will be certain things they don't understand which parents can expand on later, but they will soak up quite a bit.  It helps for parents to explain what is discussed within the meetings over the days following. This not only helps the child grow in their understanding, but it keeps the message from evaporating from the mind as soon as the church service or gathering is over (at least, I have found this to be true for me).

I believe sitting within the church meeting, listening along with my parents, and reading the bible at home when I was a kid helped in other ways as well. My vocabulary grew, and I  learned how to define words by the context they were used in.  I grew up reading the King  James Version, which, even at six or seven years old, was not too far above my comprehension.  (We tend to read the NASB or Holman Christian Standard with our children, though.) I also learned how to sit still and be quiet for an hour or two.  I have heard many say this is impossible for young children, especially toddlers, but I can tell you, it is not impossible. Yes, there will be some days when things don't go so well, but children can learn to be still and quiet.  This is easier done when you start from birth.  Children have a harder time doing this when they have become accustomed to playing and being entertained during church meetings and services.

Another issue I have with children's church is that we don't always know what is being taught to our children.  When our children sit in the meeting or service with us, we hear what they hear, but when they are separated from us, we cannot be totally sure what they are being taught, even when we are given an outline or a sheet that explains it. At one church we attended, the only "test" a Sunday school teacher had to pass was a background check.  As long as their record was free of felonies and such, they were allowed to teach children. No one questioned their doctrinal beliefs.

Don't misunderstand me here. I'm not saying you cannot send your children to Children's Church.  This is something you need to pray about and consider yourself.  (I'm not going to judge you either way as it is not my place!)

Some have asked what we do.  When we visit the Church in Moss Bluff, Louisiana, our children attend the Children's Church classes.  When we have a Church meeting or a fellowship gathering in our home, our children often play in the backyard.  When we have a meeting or a teaching at someone else's home, our children usually sit on the floor and color or draw when we are not singing or praying. I believe they are capable of listening and taking in while they color or draw, so this is fine with us.

Most of all, we understand that we should not depend on children's classes, church meetings, services, or teachings to disciple and train our children. That is our task as parents which is to be done daily in the home as we walk together, talk together, and live together.  There are many moments and opportunities in every day life to train and teach them "the way of the Lord".

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