here’s some stuff that Ivy Beckwith wrote in introduction of her book that moved me and affirmed me especially after my “humble” attempt at facilitating the orientation with the BLC kids (and parents & helpers) today.
“The church’s ministry to children is broken. A cursory look doesn’t reveal its brokenness. From the outside children’s ministry looks healthier than ever. But it is broken. It’s broken when church leaders and senior pastors see children’s ministry primarily as a marketing tool. The church with the most outwardly attractive program wins the children and then the parents. It’s broken when we teach children the Bible as if it were just another book of moral fables or stories of great heroes. Something is broken when we trivialize God to our children. It’s broken when we exclude children from perhaps the most important of community activities: worship. It’s broken because we’ve become dependant on an 18th-century schooling model, forgetting that much of a children’s spiritual formation is affective, active, and intuitive. It’s broken when we depend on our programs and our curriculum to introduce our children to God — not our families and communities. It’s broken when we’ve come to believe that church has to be some other than church to be attractive to children. It’s broken when we spend lots of money making our churches into playlands and entice children to God through food fights and baptisms in the back of fire trucks. And perhaps most importantly, it’s broken when the church tells parents that its programs can spiritually nurture their children better than they can. By doing this, we’ve lied to parents and allowed them to abdicate their responsibility to spiritually form their children. A church program can’t spiritually form a child, but a familiy living in an intergenerational community of faith can. Our care for children is broken and badly in need of repair. Let’s imagine together a new way, a new future.”
I tried to imagine once again how BLC’s children’s ministry could be especially the past months. It lead further into what does it mean to be families and extended families in our young church context. Of course, once the flood gates are open my heart and mind is in the process of working through what and integrated intergenerational church could look like. What are th necessary steps we need to take?
I’ve seen enough in the Malaysian Children’s ministry scene to know what I don’t want and what I think is deeply wrong. If I start mentioning names, I might be shot simply for challenging the so called “most popular and most succesful” children’s ministry. Who am I to even raise questions huh? I’m a father of a young two year old son and soon another one will come. We are a young family. I’m a pastor of a young church with lots of toddlers and some primary school level kids. I was a former youth pastor (not too sure how successful I was) that “felt” the strong waves and trends of children’s ministry revival in a local church context. There’s a strong passion to move beyond children’s ministry that’s just overtly pragmatic, competative, reward driven and segregated that’s more B.F. Skinner influenced than Scipture and Savior influenced. Often, disatisfactions help to breed questions. I think I mentioned a while ago about a T-shirt quote “Deconstruction is the beginning of Construction” … somehting like that. Questions are more pressing as my Godchildren are growing, more kids are added and birthed into the BLC faith family, and of course having a second child creates a greater urgency.
I ask questions, I can’t help it .. the questions is part of my quest to be faithful to God’s heartbeat (that that process requires deeper theological reflection, a sincere gradual growth in authenti spirituality, and learning from minority (or softer less marketed) voices in ministry which more and more makes me see the cracks in not just popular children’s ministry supposedly success formulas, but church ministry as a whole)
So, I can relate to what Ivy is talking about in the quote in some way in our Malaysian context. But, more importantly .. there’s this warmth in my heart and fire burning within me to say YES! to a new way and a new future starting from where I am as a family and where we are as a local church. And with that kind of “heart beat” pumping, I move on towards the more “hands on” baby step questions …
The about 45minutes spent today with the 8 children (and parents and helpers) was a rewarding one. I was especially touched when during our mini-feast time, when I asked who would like to share biscuit with me (after I had given away all of mine), one of the children immediately offered one for me. Then, there were many little suprises in their response to my “modeling” whether it’s walking slowly, talking softly and the use of the “special space” rug that really touched me. I’m not children worker veteran (in fact I never saw myself in that category) but today’s “less than perfect and even “fumbling” first “orientation” session was a small and significant win I’d liek tocelebrate and be thankful. All of us wanted to see this work and even with some glitches here and there, overall I came home today feeling wonderful. Because, I sense God’s approval and affirmation on what we are trying to do here. And now it’s to stick on the track … there’s still so much more to learn and thank God … there are people cheering us on. At least that’s how I felt after having dinner with a veteran children’s ministy worker and a intergenerational worship, Christian education and church guru (Many thanks to the host who provided dinner and a listening ear). All in all it’s been a pretty good Sunday.