Recently, I wrote about the place of children and young people in our worship.
I naturally react strongly against the suggestions akin to: “children are the church of the future”. I am strongly of the position that children in our worship are as much the church of the present as anyone else.
But, I have been slow to react to suggestions akin to: “children are future of the church”. And it is time for me to critique my lack of critiquing this.
There was a lot of online discussion about my post. And in one of my comments I wrote:
If we had a model of evangelisation (not just biological reproduction) we might not so quickly think that children are the future of the church.
Let me unpack and also clarify this a bit.
So that there is no misunderstanding, let me underscore, before proceeding, that I delight and encourage children to be present and fully participate in worship. I think this is a Gospel imperative.
But. With statements like, “If in worship there is no crying, then the church is dying”, the undergirding assumption is that only biological growth will keep the church alive. It would be perfectly possible – I am not advocating it – that there was a primary (sole?) focus on and mission to those in the second half of life, then it would be perfectly possible to have a full, growing, thriving church – but no children, no “crying” and yet not the case that “the church is dying”.
So 1) A lot of the positive responses to children in church assumes an abandonment of evangelism; and/or the acceptance of the ineffectiveness of evangelism.
And 2) There is also an undergirding acceptance that the church is like a club that we would be/are sad to see diminish and perish. Who will look after our lovely club house (church building)?! In this perspective, we need children, biological inheritors, who will in the future wheel us to the communion rails, take over leadership when we are too old to continue,… Children and young people, in this view, are there for us – for the continuation of our pious club.
The Gospel, I think, presents quite a different perspective: the Gospel benefits children, young people, adults, and the elderly – we all need and are enriched by the Gospel. We are there for children more than they are there for us. And if it is actually the other way around – a hidden agenda where we really want children and young people for us, and to maintain our pious club and clubhouse – young people, certainly, have excellent detectors about this and will run a mile. Maybe, in some places, that’s already happened?