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What about kids?

I have just finished reading 'Leading Missional Communities' by Mike Breen.  One of the frequently asked questions they address is how do you involve kids in missional communities.  The comments are pertinent for all of church life and not just missional communities.  Here is an excerpt:

The overarching principle to keep in mind here is that ...... MC's cultivate a sense of being extended family on mission!  In  other words, we're not trying to plan a slick production - we're trying to build a family.  And families have kids in them.

In a family, sometimes the kids and adults are together doing a "grown-up thing," such as dinner or evening devotions.  Sometimes the kids and adults are together doing a "kid thing," such as a birthday party or decorating Christmas cookies.  And sometimes the kids and adults are doing separate but related things, such as the kids playing games in the basement while the adults talk upstairs after dinner.

Before we offer a few examples, we'd like to highlight the larger issue.  Because we are trying to build extended families with Kingdom mission, not just run a program or figure out what to do with the kids, the question really shouldn't be, "How are we going to deal with the kids?"  It should be, "How are we going to disciple our kids well?"

Ultimately, this is the responsibility and challenge of the parents in the MC, alongside the MC leader (with equipping and resourcing from church staff).  The question for parents in the MC needs to shift from "Who will disciple my kids?" to "How will I disicple my kids?"  The kids who are part of the community are just as much in need of equipping and discipling as the adults are.  There are various ways to accomplish this, but we must remember that we are not figuring out what to do with kids in an MC.  We are intentionally raising them as disciples of Jesus. 

One lens that may be helpful in thinking about discipling kids in MC's is thinking through the three basic environments in which people learn: Classroom, Apprenticeship, and Immersion.
  1. Classroom.  You leaern by hearing a teacher/lecturer pass on facts, data, and information.  This is very familiar to us because the Western educational system is built on this method of learning.  Whether in elementary school or college, we are expected to absorb what is presented to us in a lecture.  Similarly much of the Bible and the basics of faith are taught to kids this way.
  2. Apprenticeship.  You learn to do something by coming alongside someone who does it well, observing him or her, and eventually doing what he or she is doing.  If you want to be a surgeon, you apprentic yourself to a surgeon after medical school and enter a residency.  You learn by having the instructor show you how to do something, and then by eventually practicing it yourself, with feedback from the instructor.  For example, rather than only telling children how to pray, we show them how to pray by doing it with them, and having them try it alongside us.
  3. Immersion.  You learn to do things by being immersed in the culture.  All children learn to speak their native language fluently without any formal lessons at all.  They laern simply by being immersed in a culture where people speak the language.  They pick it up almost by osmosis.  When our kids are immersed in a vibrant culture of Christlike love and community, they pick up the behavior, language, nuances, and depts of that community simply by being immersed in the life of the community.
Each form of learning has strengths and limitations, but what sociologists have discovered is that the best learning happens when there is a dynamic interplay among all three at one time.

Next week a second excerpt will explore what this can look like in practice.


David Wanstall, 30/10/2013