How It Begins

Children’s Church.

It begins by disbelieving the effects of Baptism, and buying into the line that children can not possibly understand the sacrament of the altar until they have adult reasoning skills (Age 13-14).  If children are too simple to understand one sacrament, then they are too simple to understand what happens in the service.  Sunday School isn’t really the place to teach about the Divine Service, because the children are too young.  Therefore, instead of singing the canticles of the church, or teaching great hymnody, children sing about arky arkies, and tell the world of their joy, joy, joy, joy, which resides deep in the depths of their heart.

“Church” becomes something entirely foreign and remote to them.  They have no interest in the songs, because they do not know them.  They have no interest in the liturgy because it changes every week.  They have nothing to look at because most churches have all the architectural style of a cardboard box.  Parents, worried about the noise and motion of little children, sit in the back, so now, even when something happens, the children can’t see it.  Children get bored.  Bored children get restless.  Restless children get noisy.  People hear the noise and think, “Gee, this church thing is just too much for them to endure.”

Some people, who aren’t all that fond of children, think, “Gee this noise in church is just too much for me to endure.”  They don’t want to say anything – after all, who wants to admit that they don’t like children in church?  But soon the child-haters will find an unlikely ally: the child lovers.

Children’s sermons are tried, but they don’t work because : 1) Pastor’s hate doing them. 2) Children don’t have the complex reasoning to understand object lessons.  3) Now children are even more puzzled – after all there is a part of church just for them.  It must mean the rest isn’t for them at all.  More restlessness ensues.  Parents start bringing food to appease them.  Now, full of sugared cereal, bored out of their minds, and with the message firmly entrenched in their brains that this isn’t for them, they become downright unmanageable.  The adults raise their voice to try and fix the problem they themselves have created.  Children don’t like church.  We must provide an alternative, therefore let’s start “children’s church”.  The child haters are thrilled.  After all, the children go away, and they get to look as if they really love the children.  The child lovers are so thrilled that the child haters are finally “on their side” that they never stop and think about who really has won the day.  Hint : Not the children.

Sad really.  If the churches were more interesting to look at – that is, if there were artwork and windows and something worth seeing, then maybe the children wouldn’t get bored so easily.  If there were something that the children could learn easily – like a standard liturgy – maybe the children would be able to participate in the service.  If Sunday school taught them something useful, like hymns, maybe they would be able to sing along.  If parents stop giving them sugar the moment they sit down, and sat in the front instead of the back, maybe the children would be able to sit still better and pay attention.

Maybe if we truly believed our Lord’s when he said, “Let the little children come unto me” we would try to keep them where our Lord has promised to be – his holy word and blessed sacraments.  Maybe if we believed our confessions, which say “a seven year old child knows what the church is”, we would consider that if they are smart enough to figure out the church – which our synod has been arguing over for 150 years – they are smart enough to believe our Lord’s word, “This is my body”.

But then, that’s all work and effort.  Maybe it’s just easier to ship them to a classroom in the back and have them cut and paste.  When they are older, then we will tell them about this church thing, and they can make their decision.

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