Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kids in the Worship Service

Recently I was involved in a discussion about kids in the worship service; should we have Sunday school classes, can small kids gain understanding more fully in the service with their parents than they could from having their own class of, let's say, 3-5 year olds?

Though I am not the expert, per se, I do feel like I missed a pretty good opportunity to make some observations that might have been helpful at the time.

So here they are-
Can kids hold still that long? While in Ethiopia, Teresa and I had the privilege of moving an entire small orphanage from Addis Abba out into a rural village area. We loaded all the beds and things on a flatbed and all the kids onto the bus. We had no idea that the trip would take us 10 hours. Yes, 10 hours on a bus with kids that barely spoken English.

There was much debate within the leadership as to what we should do for food and water. We Americans, there were 3 of us, thought that we should feed them breakfast, after all their last meal was last night, and then take some food and lots of water with us. the Ethiopian leaders were so "mean". They didn't want to give them breakfast and only thought that we should take a few bottles of water and a couple of sleeves of crackers. We
followed their lead.

10 hours on a old, beat up bus is a long time. Add to that kids who are throwing up and that makes it all the longer. No diapers, barely any water or food and 1 single "bathroom" break in a 10 hour trip.

Even the kids who were throwing up barely cried because that was not acceptable. I couldn't understand what they were saying but basically, "Buck up, sit down and don't fuss". Did I mention it was 10 hours? T held an 11 month old almost the entire time and I had an 18 month old. I actually was harder on me to sit still than it was for them.

Yes- when trained, kids can sit still for 1 hour.

Should kids even be in the service? Are they getting anything out of it? Would they be better off somewhere with a group of kids? Well, let's think about how Jesus did it- He's a good example of ways to do things.

When He was young the entire community went up to Jerusalem to worship. Jesus got left behind and it wasn't like He was trying to sneak around behind His parent's back. They were busy with other kids and family members and forgot Him- that must mean that the Jews thought that the entire family should worship together.

In the OT there was a sacrificial system that must have required people to stand in some sort of line to offer their sacrifices. When mom sinned did she leave her kids home or were they in line with her half the day? Were they getting anything out of standing in line, watching the graphic
killing of animals? God must have thought it was ok for them to be there as it doesn't seem like there was an Sunday school area for them there.

Oh, and Jesus, as a teacher, gathered 4000-5000 men together with their families and taught them for the better part of a day out on the hillside. Maybe it looked something like this. Notice- there are no restrooms, water fountains or jungle gyms.
Were the kids listening too? Did they send the kids to another area? It certainly doesn't seem like it since Jesus used the lunch of a "YOUNG BOY" to feed the entire group. How would that have been possible if the kids were separated off in another area that was more age appropriate? Kids were still kids back then, but maybe we have just let them have their way too much

Lastly, worship is supposed to draw us nearer to God. When Jesus was teaching and the disciples saw that the little children were "bothering" Jesus they were trying to push them away. Was that towards their area where they wouldn't distract the adults in their worship? Was that so they could be better taught by their moms or someone else?

How did Jesus respond to that pushing away? He said , "Bring the little children to me". Don't push them away but rather bring them closer.

If Jesus thought it was ok for the kids to get up and go to the bathroom in His long talk on the hillside, if He thought it was ok to have them closer to Him when He was teaching rather than farther away, then maybe there is something good about having them around. Maybe they can hold still and maybe they can really learn something valuable from that time.

Jesus did things with a purpose and perfectly and so it was no mistake that this is the way the system was set up. Maybe we are just trying to hard to make it comfortable for us to sit still and not be distracted and maybe the kids actually can sit still and learn if we get past our issues and teach them that going to the worship service is different than going to playland at McDonalds.

All this was just keeping up all night and I wish I would have said it in the moment, but maybe this is better. Love to hear your response.

1 comment:

Pur et Simple said...

Couldn't have said it any better!

{Carol Blanchet}