What about kids? (part two)
We have often been surprised by how deeply the experience of being consistently
included in a family on mission imprints itself on a child's soul.
Last week, I posted an excerpt from 'Leading Missional Communities' by Mike Breen, that looked at invovling kids in missional communities. The comments are pertinent for all of church life. Here is part two that picks up on the three basic environments where learning happens - Classroom, Apprenticeship, and Immersion:
Each form of learning has strengths and limitations, but what sociologist have discovered is that the best learning happens when there is a dynamic interplay among all three at one time: What is being taught in the classroom environment is being modeled in the apprenticeship environment, with all of it being reinforced and given depth and meaning and nuance through immersion in a culture that is congruent with what is being taught and modelled. The most powerful formative environment for kids (and adults, of course) is one where faith is both taught and caught.
As you think and pray about how to form the kids in your MC as disciples of Jesus, think about what you could do in these different environments.
Classroom: Teaching Bible stories, basic Christian doctrine, the story of Scripture etc. Often children's ministry programs are great for this
Apprenticeship: Watching how the adults in the MC live out the story of Scripture, learning from parents and other adults in the MC how to pray, express thanksgiving, forgive those who hurt you, pray for the sick, lead in worship, clean up afterward, servie others in MC, etc.
Immersion: It is crucial that the MC foster and sustains a discipling culture in which the community actively believes (and therefore practices) the things they talk about. Kids pick up a lot by simply being part of a vibrant Christian community.
Some very interesting research shows that this kid of environment actually provides kids with the very best chance of maintaining a lifelong vibrant faith into adulthood. In a decades-long study, researchers examined the factors that went into kids growing up with and maintaining a vibrant faith. The highest two correlations had to do with observing parents living out their faith, which we might expect. But the third highest correlation (far higher than youth group or Sunday school) was simply whether kids had an opportunity to observe their parents living out their faith with other adults. Kids who observe faith in their parents and other adults in the community tend to grow up with the same faith.
Now that we've emphasized the overarching principle of discpling our children well (instead of just dealing with them) we've found that the best MC's have a mixture of all three types of gatherings we mentioned:
The Coffee Shop: Together doing "adult stuff" with kids participating. This might be a gathering where everyone eats together, everyone shares something he or she is thankful for, someone leads some worship songs, everyone reads the Scripture, and everyone takes communion. The kids are involved in the whole thing.
The kids Party: Together doing "kid stuff", with adults participating. This might be a gathering where you celebrate all the kids' birthdays for the month in the MC. The games and activities are all geared to children, but all the adults participate and help facilitate the party and get to speak blessing over the kids.
The School: Separately doing parallel things. This might be a gathering wehre after eating together, someone teaches a lesson in the basement with kids while the adults gather in small groups upstairs to share with each other and pray together. Or perhaps the kids go outside for supervised play while the adults discuss plans for the next outreach event the MC is planning.
The bottom line is that there is no one right way to work with kids in your MC. We encourage you to experiement with involving the kids in different aspects of community life, letting them participate and contribute in their own way, taking their immaturity in stride. The goal is never to have a smooth meeting with no interruptions; it is simply to cultivate an extended family on mission. Families are messy (especially when they involve kids), so don't worry if a particular gathering doesn't seem to go smoothly. Think about the bigger picture of whether the kids are learning to follow Jesus with the rest of the community. We have often been surprised by how deeply the experience of being consistently included in a family on mission imprints itself on a child's soul.
David Wanstall, 08/11/2013