Okay, I admit it, I thought I was done with this subject a couple weeks ago, like most blog posts that make the rounds with my friends the various "Let/Don't Let Your Kids Choose To Not Go To Church" posts came in a bunch and then we'd move on to whatever else someone thought was killing the church. But NO, another round of "Get your kids into Sunday worship" posts are showing up.
So, I've made my points on choice previously, but my issue with these are that they tie into everything I'm struggling with regarding this whole "church survival" culture. There are lots of points where this culture goes astray, but this recent series of articles hits two main ones. 1) Church = Sunday Morning Worship (or at least that large corporate worship is central to the idea of Church). 2) The objective of Church is to survive, and that means indoctrinating kids into the culture so that (maybe, hopefully) they'll find it essential to their adult lives.
So let's talk about this: The church built around a large corporate worship as the only, best, or even "right" way to do church is dying. Not for every congregation or context, but as a whole it is. This is NOT what church is or what church needs to be in the new paradigm. Worship will happen, but it's quite probable that it will happen in smaller groups, or at special times of the year, or both, or connected to mission and other parts of "Church," or who knows exactly, it should based on the new paradigm be contextual, organic, and relational. And to be quite honest, for most churches, large corporate worship is not, and quite probably can not be that sustainably.
So why then is this the drum that so many beat when it comes to the ideal of "helping our children be Godly?" Probably in large part because it's what they know. For many, Sundays at church was the norm, but it also was rarely (and most of the posts I've seen state this) the only way faith, religion, and/or spirituality interacted with their life. The problem is that having spent most of our life in the Postmodern Transition, we create a false duality and over emphasize the roles of institutions which support our "truth." This is not where we are today, and certainly for kids who have spent most of their life in the new paradigm is actually completely illogical. Not saying that all kids who go to a Sunday large service of worship will turn against it, but coming to that will NOT keep anyone involved in the church or with their faith by itself.
If anything, for those who have spent most their lives in this relational paradigm of convergence, the separation of the world at the "worship hour" is going to present large issues with finding purpose unless it is supported by a connection to the rest of the world around us. At some time in the near future there will be a tipping point where this struggle to maintain and survive will be the very thing that brings about an inevitable ending.
It is though the fear of this ending that I think causes us to write so many of the posts, to spend so much time reflecting on how to survive. Yet, it seems too often rather than being willing to risk letting things that we've always known and make us feel safe and connected to our ideas of "God," we think that we just need to focus on making others think the same way we do. This is especially risky (in my opinion, as if everything we right isn't based on our opinions) when it comes to our children. I struggle a lot with parenting, the ideas we ask our children to accept just because we hold them close to ourselves aren't always ones we should impose on our kids. I started struggling with this with sports. So often I see babies dressed in school or team colours, told to cheer on "our team" just because it's "mom's team" or "dad's team."
The thing is we don't stop with sports (and even if we did, I'd have lots to say, but that's a different post), we basically tell our children for years who God is, what God thinks, and sometimes go as far as to turn God into the global boogie man without meaning to. We want our kids to think like we do, and we do it to the point of indoctrination. That's a problem, I see it time and again at confirmation age. There are kids who have never asked questions, they come to church because they're told to, they answer questions with certainty because they've been told what the right answer is, but when faced with realities that conflict with these answers, they don't know how to doubt, they don't know HOW to make a CHOICE!
We've created a world filled with anxiety because these children have never existed within a world where there was a "right" path to a "single" truth. Their world is relational and every thing that happens adds to the book they are doodling in (see previous blog posts for more on this) creating new understandings. But we want faith not to be in THAT book, we want faith to be already written. We want them to memorize the text book and never deviate from or question it.
Have you looked at a GOOD children's educational book recently? Many have more questions than answers. Most new one's I've seen aim to put kids into the world their studying and then leave them room to go find more about the questions that matter to them. We just finished our first youth literary circle here, they read the BFG by Dahl and they had so many different thoughts on the BIG stuff (Fear, Hope, Pain, Life, Ethics) that came from the reading it was hard to keep track of who asked what and who answered what and what all that lead to.
We cannot indoctrinate our kids and expect them to survive in a world where the constant stream of information means that their reality is ALWAYS changing. They need room to figure it out. The things church provides are useful and important in that formation, but the idea that the other things of life are somehow less important, or even unequivocally less Godly than that Sunday morning thing is very misplaced.
So let's sum this up before the few people who have made it this far move on:
Going to church as a kid WILL NOT mean that they'll come to church as an adult. This NEVER should have been our intent. I've seen in a number of posts the idea that when we have kids, people come back to church. There were once statistics to support this, but that was mostly part of a modern way of thinking that became paramount in the postmodern transition to the idea that our truth was a truth based on a singular path. The fact though is: if we're not going to be the kind of place that an individual thinks is important to THEIR OWN LIFE at any certain time, there was never anywhere to go but down, because as we are more able to see the complexities of the world, we look for places to engage our passions, and those places and people become most important. The church CAN be that place, but we have to make it that place. We have to let go of the idea that getting people in the door is our purpose, we have to let go of the things that make us comfortable, we have to stop trying to survive and become whatever it is our context needs most. If we allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit that envelops all things, WE will find our passions, our children can find their passions, and God's reign will move ever closer.