Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How important is helping children feel at home in the sanctuary?

Most of Jerome Berryman’s book The Spiritual Guidance of Children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the Future is a history of the Godly Play approach to Christian Education.  But along the way Berryman drops some observations that are quite provocative on their own.  For example,

* “What if the energy invested in seeking new adult members were spent inviting children into the congregation with radical generosity and skills?  Much of the decline in church membership comes from children leaving and not coming back.  Perhaps if we provided something useful for the development of their spirituality and they were part of the community, they would remain.  Of course, they would critique what is going on from their generation’s point of view, but they would do so as insiders rather than outsiders which is what the church needs.”  (Berryman)

* A choir director pushing good church choir experiences for children once said it this way, “children grow up and often go off to school or service or some other young adult thing.  When they come back, they cannot go to youth fellowship.  They come to the sanctuary and if they know language and ways of the sanctuary, it feels like coming home and they stay.”

* A young friend who grew up in a church I served in another city goes during the week to the “cool” university fellowship group at another church in town.  But, he comes to the church where I now worship on Sunday because the service is very much like the one he grew up with.  “I feel at home in worship here.  Something in it speaks deeply to my soul.”

Hmm....  Many young families begin their slide away from church by dropping out of worship when their children object/ complain/ whine that there is nothing there for them.  And, we let them go.  What if as part of our evangelism mission we worked on making a place for children in worship so that those families would stay?  What if we made it a goal which we worked on with “radical generosity and skills” for children to feel so “at home” in the sanctuary that they would become rooted there? 

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