Often when we say that children are our future, we are looking to the survival of our congregations and discounting children as being integral parts of the church right now.
The Ideal Child (Part 3 of 3)
This post marks the last of my summer blog posts on general faith formation topics. Next Sunday is the beginning of the Narrative Lectionary year and a return to our faith-formation-focused commentary on the upcoming Narrative Lectionary post.
This is also the final part of my series on “The Ideal Child.” In the last two weeks, I have been reflecting on the potentially risky myth of an idealized child in our congregations with a particular focus on “a childlike faith” and the consequences of an idealized view of Jesus’ humanity. I would like to emphasize that most people in our churches do not believe this myth on a conscious level. What I am proposing is that this harmful idealization can influence us subconsciously and result in unhelpful attitudes.
Children Are the Future?
In our general society, and most definitely in our congregations, we can hear the sentiment of “children are the (our) future.” But what do we mean by this? On the most superficial level, this is a truism: children will continue existing in the future longer than anyone older than them. Today’s children will become the youths, adults, and seniors in the future. They will someday be the decision-makers as well as the recipients of the consequences of many of our actions. This means we should consider all of this in how we educate our younger generations and how we view the implications of our actions.
However, this is not the whole story of what we often mean, especially if we say that “children are the future of our church.” At most cynical, this means that children will keep the church alive after we’re gone.
Investing in Our Future
This is then about numbers and the survival of an organization. In some ways, it is analogous to contributing to a retirement fund. Investing in an IRA now secures our future later. Having lots of kids in church (and investing in children’s ministry) now means the church will have more members in the future.
There are multiple problems with this train of thought. It commodifies children by turning them into numbers. It supports the view that the survival of the organization is among the highest priorities. And it discounts the place of children in the present.
Also, in a practical sense, many of the children in a congregation won’t stay in the congregation, even if they love it. Many will eventually move for college or jobs or family. And many won’t feel personally connected to the congregation and just leave when they can. But that’s another story.
Children (Youth, Adults, Seniors) Are the Present
As I mentioned above, one problem with the “children are the future of our church” mindset is that it discounts the fact that any children that are currently in your congregation (or will come later) are the church right now.
People of every generation are indeed part of the Body of Christ, and they also each have something to offer in the present. This is one of the essential truths underlying intergenerational ministry.
Faith Formation Connection
With all three of my posts reflecting on “the ideal child,” one of the biggest takeaways is to recognize where these and other subconscious thoughts are influencing our own or others’ thinking and decision-making and counter them (assuming you agree with me that they can be problematic).
A second faith formation connection for this post is to consider introducing intergenerational ministry opportunities in your congregation. Perhaps these are just quarterly or monthly events. Perhaps it is an occasional or weekly “turn and talk” moment in the worship service (or more). Perhaps it is full-on intergenerational classes (which we have tools to help you do for the Revised Common Lectionary, Narrative Lectionary, and various topics).
May God grant you peace and joy at this beginning of a new period in our year.
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
2022-2023 Faith Formation Resources
The program year is almost upon us. Have you made all your decisions for your congregation’s faith formation needs? At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:
- Resource for the Revised Common Lectionary (intergenerational classroom)
- Resources for the Narrative Lectionary (products for all ages)
- Learning Together: Five-lesson topical units for VBS, Sunday school, children, and intergenerational classes.
- Cross+Generational Confirmation
- Worship and Liturgy Education