Somehow I missed Alan Hartung talking about Children’s Ministry in the Emerging Church last month in response to his own question. Oddly enough, I’ve had a couple of recent about this lately as well… how the emerging church doesn’t talk about kids all that much, with just a few exceptions. Sometimes it seems to me that I talk about it more than most, and I would say I don’t talk about kids all that much. Alan’s post has a few comments with links to an item or two worth looking at, but Ivy Beckwith and Margie Hillenbrand should probably be added to the list.

Within the last week, Justin Baeder is asking questions, his about what he calls “The Disappearance of Sustaining Structures”, which includes for him things like VBS and Sunday School, plus a list of others. Of them all, he says, “I don’t know if a single one of these institutions will be around for my kids.” I wouldn’t attack his post for calling Sunday School a “sustaining structure,” as he’s asking good questions. He says,

Without any of the supporting structures we have known, though, what will happen? Two possibilities come to mind.

  • First, we could screw the whole thing up and raise kids who, despite our best intentions, don’t give a rip about God. Lulled into complacency by in loco parentis religion, we could fumble badly and not pass on the faith at all.
  • Second, and more optimistically, parents could take more responsibility than was necessary in the past for their children’s faith formation, eliminating the need for many of these structures, while pursuing and creating whatever structures appear necessary.

He goes on to close with that ever-persistent question, “Where do we go?”

A sample of my own past considerations of kids in the emerging church, oldest-to-latest:

There are others (some of which are linked from these), but these may be some of the best of them.

The question does still tend to hang in the air… so far nobody is out there saying what works exceptionally well, either in the home church crowd, the simple church set, or the emerging church movement. There is conversation about this for the institutional (established, inherited, pick your term) church, but I’m less interested in that since it’s less applicable… I’m not talking about re-vamping a program for 100 kids. In the smaller contexts, people tend to talk about family, about including the kids as part of the life of the church, and about many related concepts. They’ll tell you the kids are in the meetings, the kids are in a separate room, or there’s a separate meeting. My observation is that no matter which of these is taking place, there’s a kind of realization that it’s not all it could be, that it’s mixed with strengths and weaknesses. So far nobody’s come up with a good, “If I was doing this over…” kind of reflection or even a “We haven’t perfected this, but so far we’ve learned that…” I include myself in the list of people who don’t have a good answer, but perhaps it’s a separate conversation that needs to come to the fore among those to whom it matters most. What works, what doesn’t, what ages are best suited to what, that kind of thing. Any takers, I wonder?

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