When talking with parents of young children about the idea of being in a Missional Community, of joining a small group of believers who work together to declare and demonstrate the gospel, I usually get one of two responses.
Parents either say,
“Sounds great! Where should I drop my kids off? Or will you send a babysitter to my house?”
or, they say,
“That sounds great for other people, but right now I have children, and my primary calling is to disciple them. Maybe once they’re grown up, then I can join a Missional Community.”
For some reason, many parents have an underlying assumption that they can’t do both of these things at the same time. They feel they must choose between being in a Missional Community or spending time with their children.
I don’t think parents who say these things are bad people. Quite the opposite, in fact. I think they are trying to be faithful to what God is calling them to both as parents and as Christians on mission. And they’re frustrated by the fact that they don’t think they can do both well.
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I’ve been wondering where this underlying assumption comes from, and I think it largely stems from two lies that we, the American church, have told them: the lie of Christian age segregation, and the lie of event-based Christian ministry.
The Lie of Christian Age Segregation
In the American church today, it’s far more common for families to learn about God separately than to attend church events together. Unless it’s a purely social event, like a potluck or a picnic, church members expect there to be some place to put their children, and we have by and large accommodated them.
As a result, most activities or events of a church involving worship, Bible study, prayer, and the like are completely segregated by age. Children over here, students (or youth) over there, and parents in the other building. We’ve lied to parents, telling them that the most vital parts of church life must be separated by age.
CLICK TO TWEET: “We’ve lied to parents, telling them that the most vital parts of church life must be separated by age.” @johnmurk
Before you start thinking I only support a family-integrated church, let me be clear: I’m a big fan of age-specific teaching on Sundays. I believe that Sundays are best utilized for parents to connect with and worship God, getting “filled up” for another week of teaching, leading, and discipling their kids throughout the week.
I also think that children need to be taught the Word of God in a way that speaks directly to them. I like Sunday children’s ministries. In fact, a big part of my job is leading one.
That said, I think that if every spiritual church event is segregated by age, then we are missing out on all that the family of God is meant to be. It is good for children to hear adults discuss the Scriptures, pray, and sing. It’s good for adults to invest in the lives of children other than their own. It’s good to worship God together, from infants to adults. I believe that can be done well in a small group of believers, in a Missional Community.
Are there times in a Missional Community where children should not be included, due to the nature of the discussion or event? Of course. But I believe that those times are few and far between. For most of the gatherings of your Missional Community, having children involved is perfectly acceptable, if not beneficial.
We’ve got to get rid of the lie that children should be neither seen nor heard at church, and especially in our Missional Communities.
In my next post I’ll write on the second lie that keeps parents from thinking that they can be involved in Missional Communities, the lie of event-based ministry.
CLICK TO TWEET: “We’ve got to get rid of the lie that children should be neither seen nor heard in our Missional Communities.” @johnmurk