Have you ever had something you knew you had to do but really didn’t want to… for whatever reason? Maybe it was too personal. Maybe you knew you’d step on a few toes. Maybe it just hurt to do, was emotionally painful for you to do. That’s what this is for me. I guess I should preface this post by saying that I made a promise to God when I began writing my book and this blog: I would not write about the things He turned my heart away from and I would write about every single thing He wanted me to write about no matter how difficult.
So, here it goes…
What has happened to The Church’s approach to children, today?
Whoah. Let me take a step back. That could have read in an accusatorial manner. I don’t mean it that way. I’m genuinely asking this question, no matter how general it may be. What has happened over time? What has happened since churches were first formed? What has happened just within the last twenty years?
Photo courtesy Robert McLaughlin, www.robertmclaughlinart.com
After all I’ve seen and experienced in my 39 years, I have to wonder if Children’s Church actually came to fruition because of an initial desire, or calling to minister more specifically to the children of a church; or if it was a way to do so while also having the added benefit of lessening distraction in the main sanctuary. Keep in mind, that I say this having a father who was once a children’s pastor. That sounds almost cynical and I guess, if I were to be honest, it is a bit cynical… but also realistic.
In Christ’s time, a Jewish child was sent to school within the fifth or sixth year of his life. Until they were ten, the Bible was their one text book. From the ages of ten to fifteen, traditional law was their main subject. After the age of fifteen, they studied theology as it was taught in the Talmud. (Fred H. Wight, Manner And Customs of Bible Lands, 1953) The Talmud is the record of rabbinic teachings that spans a period of about six hundred years, beginning in the first century C.E. and continuing through the sixth and seventh centuries C.E. The rabbinic teachings of the Talmud explain in great detail how the commandments of the Torah are to be carried out.
I have to share this additionally because it’s … well, it’s beautifully written:
“There is a passage in the Mishnah (Aboth. v.21), which quaintly maps out and, as it were, labels the different periods of life according to their characteristics. It is worth reproducing, if only to serve as introduction to what we shall have to say on the upbringing of children. Rabbi Jehudah, the son of Tema, says: “At five years of age, reading of the Bible; at ten years, learning the Mishnah; at thirteen years, bound to the commandments; at fifteen years, the study of the Talmud; at eighteen years, marriage; at twenty, the pursuit of trade or business (active life); at thirty years, full vigour; at forty, maturity of reason; at fifty, of counsel; at sixty, commencement of agedness; at seventy, grey age; at eighty, advanced old age; at ninety, bowed down; at a hundred, as if he were dead and gone, and taken from the world.” (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life)
Photo courtesy Robert McLaughlin, www.robertmclaughlinart.com
So, history shows us that the Bible was of the utmost importance and held in much higher regard than maths, sciences, a trade, etc. As you saw above, Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish convert to Christianity and Bible scholar, said that within a passage in the Mishnah (a part of what comprises the Talmud) it says, “…at twenty, the pursuit of trade or business…” Prior to learning a trade, Jewish children are learning the Bible, the law, the Talmud, and even marrying. Yet, what are we doing with our children today?
Well, I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for myself and the parents in my life. Being a woman of God, of course I’ve done everything in my power to teach both of my children about God. I’ve done everything from talking of Him and the stories of His word daily in my home, to praising Him and worshipping Him in front of them. I have done everything from purchasing children’s bibles and VeggieTales VHS tapes to What’s in the Bible DVDs! We love, love, love JellyTelly in this house! It’s like Christian Netflix for kids! All of these things are great and I feel no conviction in this area if I were to be honest. I do reflect, though, on the balance – or possible imbalance – of the overall lessons I have taught them in their lifetimes and if it would be pleasing to God. Have I spent too much time on reading? ABC Mouse? Mathematics? When I should’ve left those subjects for the school and only focused on Bible? Only God knows at this point.
Before you go off on a tangent and think I’m some “crazy, hippie, Christian extremist” that’s telling you to throw out the school book and television and force feed your child Bible 24-7, settle down and read on.
You see, I’ve also taught my children music, art, sports, and language. I was teaching my daughter music and acting at a very young age. I was a voice major and a drama minor in college, after all; and, she has a beautiful voice and an abundance of talent. Of course I would! I loved seeing her have opportunities to minister within the church and at her school. As my son came along, I was excited for my husband to teach him all of the Korean language that he possibly had time to teach him for both of their own edification. I mean… how amazing would it be if God used my son to reach lost, confused, and hurting North Korean people? Can you imagine?! All of this is full of good intention. That’s what parenting boils down to, though, doesn’t it? Good intention.
I think that’s what Sunday School and Children’s Church boils down to as well – good intention. It’s like anything else in this world – there’s nothing wrong with it until it doesn’t line up with God. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what has brought me to this topic – when the church forgets its intentions for my child; or…when I do.
Check back tomorrow for the next part of this six part series: When Children’s Church Goes Wrong.
Be sure to follow my blog and you’ll never miss a posting! Read part 2 HERE!