Every night before bed my son and I read together. He dives under the covers and we read stories that take us to far away places like Little Critter Land and the Island of Sodor. We also read the classics from my youth like Robert Munsch and The Berenstain Bears. When we were at Costco a few weeks ago we found the Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible and have already read through it completely and are now turning to our favorite stories each night. My son loves the story of Jesus and finds David to be quite compelling. It’s been a really fun read together and the pictures are quite delightful. Each story also comes with commentary from Mom of course and I think he finds it funny.
I love to talk to my son about life and faith and all kinds of things as it happens around us but it’s not something that I do in an age specific way. It’s something we live in this house and as a result I don’t really think about programming it into our day at a specific time, it’s just what we do. I think this may be unusual in the Christian circuit, or at least it feels that way to me today. My son went to a Jump into JK program at our local Christian School to try it out and see if it was a good fit for him. As he is a shy fellow he wouldn’t let me leave so I got to see what they were doing and I was amazed. As all the kids sat around the mat they knew word for word ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and X sat there giving me the side eye as I had obviously failed him in not teaching it to him. It’s not that we don’t listen to Christian music ever. I have it playing on my iPhone in my mix and he knows some of the songs pretty well. As we were driving out of the school parking lot he was belting out the chorus from Josh Turner’s Long Black Train. Hearing a three year old sing “But there’s victory in the Lord I say” is pretty funny especially after he couldn’t sing Jesus Loves Me.
I think part of this stems from the fact that I tend to bounce around. We’ve been lucky lately in that I’ve only been supplying in one congregation but we move from church to church as a family and as X. is fairly shy he doesn’t jump in and out of Sunday School programs easily. I teach him at home. We pray and read and talk about Jesus but he doesn’t get those kid songs that I remember from my youth. I wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I wonder how it will impact him as he grows. He is very comfortable in church and is generally well behaved for my husband. He enjoys listening to hymns and singing along where he can. Also he shouts out ‘Amen’ at inappropriate times and I find this hilarious. He’s a kid who’s not church-schooled but is very churched. I wonder how this will work in the future and I suspect he has an advantage, his mom is someone who has resources and tools to teach him at home. Maybe it’s not conventional but it works for us and he’ll learn it’s okay to probe and question in faith from us. I’m glad I can do this for him but I wonder about the other kids. What happens to the families in the church when programming ceases to exist for them. Where do they turn or do they turn anywhere?
The first thing on the chopping block for any church seems to be Sunday School or child related programming. This is especially true when the numbers are small. This is so backward to me. We should be investing in our children. Sharing with them and showing them that they are important, that they in fact are the future. We should let them know that they matter and we should be learning from them, after all Jesus did say unless we become like children there is no getting into the kingdom of heaven. This is a real problem for us. How can we learn from the children when we don’t see them or place any value on them besides the ten minutes they entertain us during the children’s time in worship?
Do we value our children? Are we giving them what they need? Do we look to them as our future?
These are questions we really need to be asking. Like it or not our children are the future. It’s not about us, it’s about them. It’s about helping them grow in faith and helping them discover the world around them. It’s about finding ways to engage and encourage them as they make their way. It’s about sharing the gospel in an exciting way because it’s an exciting message. While my son may not know Jesus Loves Me, he will hopefully grow up knowing that God loves him and it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you get back on that horse to try again. He’ll learn about grace and forgiveness, redemption and living life to the fullest. I want him to fully engage, to question and ponder. We will teach these things to him and when we settle once more in a charge I am hopeful that a congregation will assist in this. It takes a village to raise a child. We need to be that village for our children. To love them and lift them up in faith. To pray for them and give them everything they need to make their way into the world. Are we doing that? Are we giving them everything we have? If not, maybe we should think about what we are doing and ask ourselves if it’s enough.