Children as Disciples of Jesus

This video is very clever, witty and well made. Kudos to those who created it. But hey, the message is really much more crucial and vital. This topic has been on my mind of late due to the observations I have made about my own children in their new setting. My eldest in particular.

Ben on becoming a ‘Junior Soldier’ in The Salvation Army

Ben is 9, fairly bright and is interested in the things of God – thats how we’ve brought him up. In our days at Pill, he would often pray in a meeting, answer my rhetorical questions in sermons and ask questions in public worship.

We then moved up to Wick and he would continue to do that, for a little while. But by this time, when he came to the Army he would sit under the table at the back. The context didn’t engage him. Occassionally you’d hear a prayer from under that table cloth at prayer time but he was disengaging with the Body of the church and to be honest, the congregation were deaf to him.  I remember once when he started to pray, someone began to pray and drowned him out.  Not intentionally perhaps, and maybe they didn’t hear him.  But I remember feeling sorry for him that evening, that he wasn’t being heard and was being disengaged. 

That all changed fantastically at Torry, where our gatherings we much less formal, more conversational and indeed where our main mode of meeting was face to face in peoples homes. Our meetings were multi-voiced and open participatory, which meant that everyone was expected to contribute something God had given them as the norm.  Ben participated fully and openly.  He was looking forward to the opportunity to lead us through our meeting as a whole in time, but never had the opportunity before we left.  Yet, he’d often read the bible, offer his understanding of what was happening in the text and ask questions if he had them.  He matured in his understanding significantly, and as soon as he was old enough and grasped the implications of the gospel, we enrolled him as a Junior Soldier, basically a ‘junior member’ of the corps we were leading.

In our current context, public worship has little opportunity for him to engage.  Occassionally there is the opportunity to go up on the stage for the kids talk and no doubt makes witty contribution, but I do notice that not only are the opportunities rare, they are also at that unusual ‘kids talk’ level, at which the answer to any question is normally ‘Jesus.’  Our children are not performers to be ‘Awww-ed’ at.  They want to follow Jesus.  You know what I mean, don’t you?

We’re told that Ben actively contributes in his Sunday School class and thats great, but at home, he often asks when we can meet like we did before because he liked taking part.

What culture do we want in church for our children?  Surely one that instills in them from an early age that they can follow Jesus.   One that inspires them to do so, equips them to do so.  Maybe one that takes more seriously the potential of children to teach us things about God, the bible.  An appreciation that they, too, pray, engage the bible, think about the big questions and actively share their faith.

Contrast my daughter Ceitidh, who is just 5 and hasn’t got the memory of those contexts at all.  Are we creating a passive pew-filler?  Maybe in the church context, yes, but praise God she is a more avid bible reader than her father an mother put together!  No joke!  You see, I think do we have to ask the questions of church, the gathered faith community in all this.  However, as parents we must never underestimate the importance of faith at home, worship at home and the responsibility that is ours to pass faith on to our children.

Deuteronomy 6

 1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.  4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

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