Thursday, March 31, 2005

Do I really want to go to the stake for these???

One of those ghastly editorial lapses has just occurred, around an article I wrote for the parish mag. I wanted to provoke discussion about the prevalent attitude to children of some in our congregation (who would love to think they had alot of children about the place, as long as "the place" is comfortably distant from where "real" worship is carried out...Junior Church over the road in the parish centre is pretty ideal ;-)).
I tend to be a fairly tactful soul, and I'm all too aware that there are rather alot of major battles ahead if this church is to survive, let alone move and grow, so I had prefaced the commandments below with a few lines making it very clear that these were not necessarily my own essential views, and inviting discussion. The only trouble is that the magazine editors had seen fit to omit this softening-up intro. I guess I would be happy to defend most of the commandments, which is just as well as it happens, since what actually appeared is as follows......

Ten Commandments for Churchgoing Adults.

1) You shall love your children. Your children are part of the Church of
to-day : they are not to be kept in cold storage for the Church of tomorrow. They have not been sent by the devil to distract you, but by God to enrich you.

2) You shall always remember that the friendship of children is as important for your own spiritual development as it is for the children’s well-being.

3) You shall encourage your children to worship with your congregation and value their presence in these gatherings. You shall be open to the possibility that God can speak to you through their smiles, their questions, their wriggling, and their responses.

4) You shall extend to your children a warm, personal and appropriate welcome when they come to worship.

5) You shall allow children to participate in the leadership of worship as frequently as practicable. However, you shall not make an undue fuss over their participation, nor exalt their contribution over that of other age-groups.

6) You shall not allow your children regularly to run riot in worship. However you shall not leave the responsibility of quietening the children to their parent(s) alone. All members of the congregation will, by word deed and spirit, encourage in the children a calm and reverent frame of mind and quiet and appropriate movements.

7) You will make much of the festivals of the Christian year and other special occasions, and will enable your children to contribute to them.

8) You shall not expect your children to be more enthusiastic about the worship in your church than you are yourself. Nor shall you deceive your children by pretending that you listen to every word! Rather, you shall encourage the children to tune in as much as they can and refrain from making them feel guilty when for a while they tune out. They are doing what we all do.

9) You shall not place undue emphasis on peer groupings and the nuclear family within the life of your congregation. Rather, you shall teach your children to think of their congregation as the extended family of Jesus. You shall encourage friendships between different age-groups.

10) You shall countenance neither organisation nor attitude which makes it difficult for children to worship regularly with their congregation.

Kathryn Fleming

Methinks it may be time to man the barricades. In the meantime, what do bloggers think about the commandments (aside from the fact that I would never ever ever presume to be so dictatorial as the magazine suggests!)? It's supposed to be a discussion, see?!


Anonymous said...

Hmm, that looks about right to me. That's about where we try to pitch our tent in my congregation. I can see actually writing them down might provoke a few people to comment, but not too harshly. It's also right in line with Ivy Beckwith's Postmodern Children's Ministry. Good book.

Mumcat said...

I especially like #5. At our church the teens do "Youth Sunday" once a month where they serve not just as acolytes but as lectors, intercessors, ushers, oblationers, greeters and coffee hosts. That is the only week out of the month where thanks are publicly extended to the ushers/oblationers, lectors, etc. In short, encourage the kids and the hell with the volunteers who man the stations the other weeks of the year.

I do not subscribe to the worship of the child that seems so common these days. I don't mind kids in church, but not if they are talking in normal or louder tones or playing with noisy toys and the parents do nothing to show them that this may not be the right time for that. Yet if someone outside the family tries to intervene or ask the child to please be a little quieter, it's like that person has committed fornication on the altar insofar as the reactions of the parents and/or some other parishoners are concerned.

Ok, rant over. Thanks for these, Kathryn. Good luck.

Ivy said...

I think No.5 is very apt. We`re trying to discourage our congregation from giving the children a round of applause every week when they come into the worship and show what they`ve been doing in their own sessions. After all, we don`t clap the minister`s/preachers sermons, nor the choir etc..etc. and what the children are doing is part of worship.

Solidus said...

Personally, I think number 8 is the best :)

We've got fun in our church, because we're the only young family attending (with one three-year-old and one 1-year-old). The only other children who come regularly are all over 9 (three girls). We get on OK, but do get some glares from the old ladies and middle-aged men!

pax et bonum

Theresa Coleman said...

I like #6. It's a problem we have been struggling with -- it's not just the parent's responsibility, but the entire congregation's. Just look at the Baptismal promise the congregation pledges when an infant is baptised.
I like it.

Anonymous said...

yes you should go to the stake if need be - just remember not in your curacy perhaps. I like these - don't have a favourite but Curates dregs had a slightly more cynical version which made me laugh at the time

Sarah Dylan Breuer said...

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