Friday, May 18, 2012

Mild push-back: Mikey on 'children in Church'

Mikey, as part of a great "no easy answers" series, asks about keeping children in the church service. It's an emotive topic, and these are all thoughts in progress. I tend towards keeping children in the service but recognise that in a well-resourced church (read money to spend and people passionate about kids learning separately) should run "age-appropriate" programs for kids.  However churches that are under-resourced shouldn't feel the burden to run  "age-appropriate" programs. Now I'm aware I'm part of a small Christian subcultural trend towards age-integration but I'm glad Mikey's raised the question, popular Australian culture assumes that the institutionalisation of kids is a good thing. I don't think this wider trend is healthy although this isn't to say individual schools or even individual day-care centres can be really well run and beneficial places. Furthermore within the church, occasional age or gender segregated events can be powerful experiences. However in the end there seems to be a biblical model of the whole community learning and worshipping together. While I believe this is the right theological direction for me to lead my congregation in, there are practical advantages and disadvantages.

Practical Advantages:

  • You learn from how other parents discipline, positively and negatively
  • You get help if you're struggling with raising your kids
  • Kids learn the patterns and rhythms of church together

Practical Disadvantages:

  • The Stigma (similar to the "we never eat McDonalds" or "let our children watch TV") if you actually want to send your kids out to day-care* for the service
  • Is this all a setup for teenage Amish naughty stage [nomenclature?] - in other words its all rosy till your back's turned
  • The Teething problems of setting this all up might not be worth it

(*Day-care: if it's 'day-care' let's be honest about that and do it well and not pretend it has a high educational value but on the other hand if it really is 'age-appropriate learning' let's recognise that!)