Thinking Out Loud

August 11, 2014

The Divorce Effect — Part II

Jeff Snow As good as today’s article is, I want to strongly encourage you to click to read part one if you have not already done so. This is the second of three parts; part one dealt with the effects of divorce. Today we will focus on the theology of the topic, and part three will look at practical suggestions for the church to minister to teens of divorce.

divorce effect2Jeff Snow has spent the last two decades working in youth and young adult ministry in southern Ontario, Canada, both in a local church and parachurch context. For his Masters thesis, he wrote on the impact of divorce on middle-school, high-school and college youth.


by Jeff Snow

In our last article, we looked at the effects of divorce on teens as spelled out by researchers who have studied the subject. An overarching theme is the sense of loss that teenagers feel in various ways as the result of parental divorce. There are a few ways that those wanting to help teens affected by divorce can help them deal with these losses. We can work to replace the social capital they have lost, giving them the physical resources and support they need to heal and thrive. We can give them psychological support by way of helping them think properly about the divorce and their place in the situation.

Both of these are good and necessary. But divorce brings about more than an economic, intellectual, or psychological loss. Divorce brings with it a sense of loss that strikes much deeper into the soul of a teenager and impacts his life in different ways for years to come. These spiritual and existential losses are important to understand, for they lie at the root of the painful effects of divorce experienced by teens. As those involved in Christian ministry to youth, we are uniquely positioned to speak to these issues and minister to this less tangible sense of loss.

Divorce brings to a teen a loss of their sense of community. The most basic form of community is the family. Divorce pulls children out of that most basic form of community and by doing so, it strikes at the very nature of how God created us to live.

Marriage ripped apartGod Himself, by His very nature, lives in community, a community of mutual love among the three persons of the Trinity. Humans, created in the image of God, are created to live in community. Living in relationship is essential to our humanity.

Genesis 1:27 and 2:23 tell us that both man and woman and their one flesh union reflect the image of God. The early church father John Chrysostom expanded this idea to include children. In his view, “The child is a bridge connecting mother to father, so the three become one flesh.”

Divorce destroys this “one flesh” community of parents and children. Divorce does damage to the image of God as reflected in marriage. Though a teenager may yet find community within which to live, and still within his own being reflect the image of God, he is nonetheless impacted greatly by this loss of community, the loss of love, and the loss of the active model of the image of God in his life represented by his parents.

This loss of community strikes at the very core of the teen’s sense of self, his sense of being. Andrew Root, in his deep yet excellent book The Children of Divorce: The Loss of family as the Loss of Being, writes, “When that community (of mother and father) is destroyed, it is a threat to the child’s being. Divorce, therefore, should be seen as not just the split of a social unit, but the break of the community in which the child’s identity rests.” Root maintains that the effects of divorce cannot be limited to social and psychological factors. The root of the loss inherent in divorce is the loss of being and the subsequent anxiety resulting from that loss.

Sad TeenRoot asks the question, “Can a person be at all, now that those who are responsible in their union for creating that person are no longer together?” He goes on to say that “there is no community more primary than that of mother and father, than those responsible for my being. When their community is not, my being is shaken.”

Divorce brings into question in the mind of the teen his very identity. If existence is found in relationship, then the removal of the key relational community in the life of a teen will impact their identity. The refuge and protection that family is meant to provide is pulled out from under the teen, and the safe harbour in which they can discover who they are no longer exists. They are left to figure out their identity on their own, caught between the two worlds which their parents are creating for themselves rather than for their children.

Ministry to teens of divorce will focus not only on social and psychological needs, but will zero in on issues surrounding identity, who they are in Christ, and their relationship with God as a Father.

A healthy view of God as Father is another area of loss among many teens of divorce. The idea of God being a father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5) is not a comforting thought if God is going to be like their father. The idea of God as “Abba” and of the teen seeing herself as Abba’s child (Romans 8:14-16) is somewhat of a foreign concept. Yet coming to grips with these concepts and this understanding of God is important in order for the teen to be able to rediscover their identity and realize who they are as children of God. Our job as ministers to youth is to come alongside teens on this journey of rediscovering who they are in Christ and as beloved children of God. For as we noted last time, divorce leaves teens embarking on these journeys of self-discovery primarily alone.

One of the key roles of the parents within the family is the transmission of values and beliefs to the next generation. This was clearly spelled out in Hebrew law:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

In an intact family, a community exists where the image of God, where the admonition to love God, where the instruction to follow His commandments, can be taught and modeled through the everyday routine of life. In divorce, that community is fractured. That place of refuge where children can have inculcated upon them the values and beliefs that will point them to a relational experience with God has disappeared. Their view of the image of God, their impression of God as Father, becomes deeply marred.

Instead of embarking on this journey under the watchful tutelage of their parents, children of divorce must create their value systems on their own, while living within the dichotomy of the often conflicting value systems being created by divorcing parents, putting teens in a position they were never meant to fulfill.

In divorce, the line of ancestral obligation is broken, and the teen is left to be what Elizabeth Marquardt calls a “moral forger” who has “to grow up quickly … trying to make sense of adult concepts and choices with the tools of a child.” The teen is left to figure out his belief system and to figure out exactly who God is, what He desires of him, and why that matters, entirely on his own.

search for identityIt is the cumulative effect of these losses which often fly under the radar that creates the anxiety in teens of divorce that breeds many of the issues and behaviours we discussed in our last article. All young people wrestle with the existential questions of “Who am I?” “Where do I belong?” “Is there a God and can He be trusted as a Father?” But in the lives of teens of divorce, this search for identity and security is heightened as they pursue these questions alone, without the community of support that God created for them to have.

These losses breed anxiety in the lives of teens. Anxiety is different from fear. Perhaps that’s why we buy into the “kids are resilient” idea and assume teens will survive divorce relatively unscathed. Most teens of divorce are relatively free from fear. They are, for the most part, physically and economically safe. But that doesn’t mean they are free from an anxiety rooted in a loss of a sense of being and security that permeates their lives and exhibits itself in a myriad of issues.

It is this sense of anxiety that God the Father desires to alleviate as the teen of divorce grows in relationship with and understanding of Abba Father, and with the community He provides for the teen, namely the church. As the reflection of divine community, the church can come alongside the teen of divorce, providing him with a community in which to belong, with people who can remind him who he is in Christ and how the image of God is still evident in him. The church can provide a sanctuary where he can safely formulate a value system that corresponds to what God has created him to be. The church can provide a place where the anxiety caused by dealing with the many losses inherent in divorce can be borne by others in the community, and can be alleviated by bringing the teen in to a clear and healthy relationship with God the Father.

In our third and final installment, we will look at practical ways the church can be a divine community for teens affected by divorce.

to be continued…

August 7, 2014

The Divorce Effect

Jeff SnowJeff Snow has spent the last two decades working in youth and young adult ministry in southern Ontario, Canada, and he has become a friend of our family for much of that time. For his Masters thesis, he wrote on the impact of divorce on middle-school, high-school and college youth. Ever since I heard about this, I have been asking if he could summarize some of his findings for us here.

This is longer than we usually roll here, but it’s important to read every paragraph. This is actually the first of three parts, on the effects of divorce. The second will focus on the theology of the topic, and the third on practical suggestions for the church to minister to teens of divorce. We’ll interlink the parts as they appear here.

divorce effectBe sure to forward the link for today’s post to anyone involved in children’s or student ministry at your church or in your community. Feel free to leave questions in the comments section.


by Jeff Snow

A defining moment in my 16 years of youth ministry came a few years into my stint running a drop-in for unchurched teens. I was driving a number of youth home after drop-in one evening when two of them began a discussion in the back seat. They were listing off a number of their friends, maybe 15 in all, most of whom teachers at the high school would identify as “at-risk” youth. At one point, one of them exclaimed to the other, “Hey! We’re the only two who still live with both our parents!”

From that point onward I began to take more careful notice of the connection between youth who find themselves in trouble in various forms and the fact that a great majority of them do not live with both their biological parents. Those observations eventually led me to a Seminary paper on the effects of divorce on teens and an examination of what we as the Body of Christ can do to minister to these young people.

As in any other area of study, the research sometimes presents contradictory results. While almost all researchers agree that divorce is a traumatic event that has negative effects on children, particularly in the first year after the divorce, there are some researchers that maintain while some youth face ongoing lifelong effects, most youth will emerge relatively well-adjusted after going through a 2-3 year adjustment period.

Divorce LawyerThe problem I see with this assessment is two-fold. For an adult, three years is just a blip on the radar. But for a teenager, three years is half their adolescent life. A teen experiencing a divorce in junior high school will spend half of their formative teen years trying to adjust to having their world turned upside down. It is hard to believe that this will not have a long-lasting impact, at the very least in terms of missing out on the formative development they would have experienced in an intact family.

Secondly, many of these studies focus on a single factor, such as school grades or adult earning potential, as a means of measuring overall health. They also depend widely on statistical analysis and questionnaires. But surveys that rely on interviews with teens of divorce, that rely on actually listening to their stories, paint a much different, somewhat bleaker picture.

Divorce is not a benign event. Many people like to view its impact like that of a cold, which may knock you down for a short time but which you eventually get over. But the effects of divorce on teens is more like a chronic illness. It may lie dormant for a while, but it flares up at the most unexpected times. It never totally goes away. It can only be managed in order to live life to the full.

The effects of divorce on teens can often be very visible in their behaviors, yet often it is unseen. Elizabeth Marquardt wrote an eye-opening book entitled Between Two World: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. In another article she writes, “I’ve interviewed dozens of young adults from divorced families … If you gave them a questionnaire and asked, for instance, if they had ever been arrested, dropped out of school or been diagnosed with a mental illness, practically every one of them could respond ‘no’. But that does not mean they were unaffected by their parents’ divorce.”

Divorce is a time of loss for a child...like a death

Divorce is a time of loss for a child…like a death

So, how does divorce impact teens? Most researchers describe divorce as a time of loss for young people. This goes beyond the loss of a parent. They have lost the security of their home. They have lost connection with grandparents and other extended family members. The divorce is often only the first in a long string of losses, as numerous new boyfriends and girlfriends come in and out of their parents’, and their, lives.

Teens lose something as basic as their own room. They end up having to divide their lives in two, splitting their possessions between their parents’ two houses. In the case of step families, teens will end up having to share personal space with step siblings. I still remember a grade eight girl telling me of the difficulty she was experiencing as her mom’s new boyfriend’s family moved in, and she was forced to share her room with someone who was supposed to be a sibling, but who was to her a complete stranger.

Teens experience the effects of what is called “diminished parenting.” As parents deal with their own trauma and grief resulting from the divorce, they have less time and emotional energy to help their children through their grief. As time passes, parents become engrossed in moving on with their lives, and the needs of teens are unconsciously put aside as the parent looks for a new partner. This neglect is almost always unintentional, but the results are the same. The teen does not receive what she needs from the parent, and in fact, at times care-giving goes in the opposite direction as the teen, particularly the teen girl, takes on the role of a support to the parent whose life is falling apart.

Caught in the Middle - DivorceAs the two parents’ worlds begin to move apart, the teen is stuck in the middle, trying to navigate the chasm on their own. They are often faced with divided loyalties, as pressure is put on them by parents to take sides or to report back after custodial visits. They are faced with inconsistent parenting, as each household develops different rules for living. This even impacts teens as they work to develop their own morals and values. In an intact family, the two parents work together to present a united front of morals and values that they present to their children as the way their family is to live. But in families of divorce, the parent’s value systems will invariably start to differ with each passing year, and the adolescent is left to forge their own morals and value systems on their own, at an age where they are not yet able to successfully accomplish this task.

Diminished parenting shows itself in the lack of protection afforded, particularly to teen girls by the non-custodial father. Without a father figure, with less accountability and with decreased monitoring of activities, studies show that girls from families of divorce engage in sexual activity earlier, more often, and often with men older than they are.

Though teens of divorce will achieve grades in school that are close to those from intact families, the issue is in getting them to school and getting them to stay there. Teens of divorce are late for school more often, will skip class more, and get suspended or expelled more than teens from intact families. Teen of divorce are 30% less likely to complete college, as non-custodial parents generally feel that their financial responsibility is over once the child reaches 18, and will rarely provide the funds for college.

Family ConflictSome statistics from the website Rainbows, which is a curriculum for divorce support groups, state that 50-80% of patients treated in Canadian mental health clinics are from separated families, and that teenagers of divorce are three times more likely to be in psychological counseling than those in intact families.

For those of us in the church, it is interesting to see how divorce affects a teen’s spiritual life. Generally, interest in the church and religion will diminish, but interest in spiritual things, even in prayer, will not. One author posits the theory that the increase in divorce may be behind the contention of many under the age of 35 that they are “spiritual but not religious.”

Teens who are heavily involved in church activities will experience a retreat from spiritual things. They will wonder why their prayers were not answered, and why parents who said they loved God and believed in Him would then give up on a marriage which was supposed to be sacred. Teens who are nominally involved in church, however, will go the other way and will turn more towards the church as a coping mechanism.

Broken HomeTeens from families of divorce are more likely to be kicked out of the house, more likely to report not feeling emotionally or physically safe at home, more likely to be abused. Anywhere from one third to one half of girls from families of divorce report being sexually abused as children or teens, most often by stepfathers or stepbrothers. Two leading researchers conclude that living with a stepparent remains the most powerful predictor of severe child abuse.

Though there are many effects of divorce, the one most people will refer to first is economic, and while this must not overshadow the devastating effects that are more hidden, economic factors still cannot be ignored. Families of divorce will experience a decline in income of as much as 50% as compared to their pre-divorce lives.

Though as we said, some researchers see divorce as a temporary setback for young people, Judith Wallerstein, from her 25 years of study, has put forth the idea of “the sleeper effect” of divorce. She maintains that many teens of divorce will emerge from adolescence relatively unscathed, only to have the trauma of the divorce hit them when they reach young adulthood when they begin to seek out their own romantic attachments and consider marriage. Without role models, many teens of divorce find it harder to maintain long-term relationships, and are 2-3 times more likely to get divorced themselves.

Elizabeth Marquardt uses the phrase “happy talk” to describe how most of society talks about divorce and its effects on children and teens. We convince ourselves that teens are resilient and that we don’t really have to worry about them. Marquardt suggests that we do that in order to defend our own adult decisions. In view of the pain that I have seen both in youth ministry practice and in my research, this has to stop. There was a time when adults sacrificed for the sake of the children, not the other way around.

We as adults in the church need to have the courage to dismiss the temptation toward “happy talk.” We in fact need to stop talking and start really listening to the pain and hurt that teens of divorce would be willing to share with us if we only gave them the chance, and to find ways to support them as they attempt to navigate their way through life “between two worlds.”

to be continued…

July 14, 2014

You Hear Stories Like This…

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 am

The stories like the one that follows are always anecdotal things that have been passed on from unknown sources. You find them in the back pages of Readers Digest or on email forwards or on Facebook. Never from someone you know with zero degrees of separation. Never knowing if the stories are true or just creative writing…

We got to know Jim Forde through a small group we attended a few years ago in Peterborough, a city about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto.  Since everybody was from ‘somewhere else,’ we tended to meet only every six weeks. Recently, I discovered Jim on Twitter and last night he posted this, creatively bending the 140-character limit.

James FordeA year ago a family in our church lost their son in a tragic boating accident. He was just 18. I was asked to do the funeral with the local community youth pastor giving a message at the end. He was the perfect choice to speak. The youth had been trying to figure out how to be a play hard and love God. The speaker nailed the message. Just perfectly.

The Monday before the funeral my wife made a meal for the family and explained to my 4 year old that I had to go meet with this family. She explained that a mommy and daddy lost their son and they were very sad. With very little said he walked outside and started to pick flowers. He picked until he couldn’t hold any more in his little 4 year old hands. He asked Leah for a mason jar. I was to take the flowers with me.

I arrived at the house with the meal another local pastor and this jar of flowers. The food was set on the counter with all the other meals (my town feeds the grieving well!) but the jar was given a special place. Their son loved picking wild flowers and putting them in mason jars for his mom. His way of saying “thank you” and “I love you mom.”

Two days after her son left without a chance for a good bye or “I love you” she felt it one more time with the act of a little boy.

July 8, 2014

On My Bookshelf

bookcase - roseland greene blog

One of the blessings of this blog is that your faithful readership has led to increased generosity on the part of several Christian publishers.  Unfortunately, not every book gets reviewed, but I wanted to mention several to you.

Before we begin, you’ll notice many books for men in this list. Okay, there’s only four, but that’s significant. Men’s books don’t sell well in the Christian marketplace, so this emphasis is a bit of a surprise. Plus, all four are from HarperCollins Christian Publishing group. Hopefully the market can sustain all this activity happening at the same time.

The Hope Quotient – Ray Johnston (Thomas Nelson) — More than just a motivational or self-help book, this California pastor has packed this book with charts and graphics as well as supporting scripture references and comes at a time when many people feel hope is lacking. The HQ test allows readers to test their own Hope Quotient.

Rare Bird – Anna Whitson-Donaldson (Convergent) – The real life memoir of a mother whose 12-year old son was washed away in a nearby creek following a freak rainstorm. This book releases in September from Convergent. To get a taste of this, check out this post on her blog, The Bridge: One Terrible Night. Releases in September.

Small – Craig Gross (Nelson Books) – The founder of XXXChurch.com writes celebrating the ordinary and the insignificant. While the book is general in nature, Gross incorporates story from his rather unique ministry. This book is releasing in August, and unlike the others listed here, I’m already one-third of the way in, so we may end up doing a full review on this one. (Trivia: This is a must-gift book for anyone who serves their local church as a greeter!)

7 Ways to Be Her Hero – Doug Fields (W Publishing) – The author of the classic Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and teaching pastor for the last 22 years at Saddleback is back with seven steps men can take to improve their ability to be a husband. He’s already got my attention with Step #1: Don’t Say Everything You Think.  Oh, oh!

The Dude’s Guide to Manhood – Darrin Patrick (Nelson Books) – The chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals names twelve different characteristics that can be developed in any man of various stages in life.

Be The Dad She Needs You To Be – Kevin Leman (Thomas Nelson) – One of the foremost experts on family dynamics, prolific author and speaker Leman really needs no introduction as he delves into the relationships between fathers and daughters. There is much practical advice here; fathers of girls might want to keep this book handy.

The Good Dad – Jim Daly (Zondervan) – The President of Focus on the Family comes into many of your homes via radio each and every day, though often while the Dad in the family is at work. (I’m betting at least 70% of Focus listeners are female). The book is somewhat autobiographical as Daly didn’t have the benefit of great role modeling.

Love Well – Jamie George (David C. Cook) – The subtitle is Living Life Unrehearsed and Unstuck and encourages the reader to move beyond the paralyzing effects of fear shame and hopelessness.  This book releases in August.

Losing Your Faith, Finding Your Soul – David Robert Anderson (Convergent) – This book is releasing through the “edgy” imprint of Waterbrook/Multnomah, so it is no surprise that it deals with going through that period of life when lifelong faith assumptions start to unravel and beliefs about God, faith and church are in flux. The Connecticut Episcopal pastor deals with times we experience a “shift in our spiritual foundation.”

Nobody Knows: The Harry T. Burleigh Story – Craig von Buseck (Baker) – That this book is in hardcover adds to the mystery here. The book is subtitled, The Forgotten Story of One of the Most Influential Figures in American Music. In this case, we’re talking about the original American music form, Negro Spirituals.

Crash the Chatterbox – Steven Furtick (Waterbrook) — After getting downright giddy about Furtick’s first two books on this blog, you would think I would have done anything to get my hands on an advance reader copy of his third book. But alas, I’ve allowed myself to become jaded by all the online attention being given to Furtick’s $1.75 million (U.S.) home. I may get to this book yet, or read it privately without doing a review. I guess I’m just too disappointed in how this author’s journey is playing out, and it’s unfortunate because I had high hopes.

June 27, 2014

Your Sunday School Kids Shall Prophesy

The backyard of the house I grew up in had a small rock garden that had been built into a hill to prevent erosion and for aesthetic reasons. They called it “the rockery.”  As a just-turned 11-year old, I never paid it much attention except for the times I was conscripted to help with pulling weeds, a chore I found difficult due to the variety of things planted. “Is this a weed?” I would ask, followed seconds later by, “Is this a weed?”

Great plague of antsBeing too young to have a summer job, one July day I found myself wandering aimlessly in the yard and a section the rockery caught my eye. There were ants, many of them, coming and going and doing what ants do. It’s not that I’d never seen ants before, but this was quite an army.

Not content to merely observe, I focused on the small anthill that was their access point to the outside world, and using a stick opened it up the access point, just a little bit, all in the interests of science.

The colony was huge. I was mortified. I dug further. The earth gave up her ants. The visible ants were just a fraction of what lay beneath in their subterranean quarters.

I decided the authorities should be notified. Something must be done. I ran into the house where my mother was working in the kitchen and informed her that — wait for it — “The earth is being readied for a great plague.”

It’s interesting looking back that I chose apocalyptic language for my pronouncement. I guess that’s what it’s like growing up in church. I blame Moses. But it’s not nearly as interesting as something my sister-in-law once told us our nephew did one Sunday morning, as relayed by his S.S. teacher.

We’re not sure if a question had been asked or if was simply an interjection for that moment, but apparently Zach suddenly blurted out, “Casting brazen serpents into the fire.”

For years now, I’ve tried to figure out how to work “Casting brazen serpents into the fire” into song lyrics, but it never quite fits. I also thought it would be interesting to be speaking somewhere and warn people ahead of time that there is a secret word — a la Groucho Marx — and they should watch for the phrase and then add it randomly into the sermon and award a prize to the first person who jumps up.

It’s truly too good a line to waste.

But as a mature adult, looking back, and looking forward, I do believe the earth is being readied for a great plague.

June 10, 2014

When Dropping Your Kids at VBS at a Church Not Your Own

Filed under: children, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

vbs

It’s a dream come true. No kids for a whole week in either the mornings or the afternoons, or perhaps even all day. PLUS, it’s not your home church, so the likelihood of being asked to help is zero. For a haggard mom, does it get any better than this?

Well, before you get too excited, The Grinch That Stole Your Week Off would like to interject a little guilt:

  1. If you sense the church is a bit understaffed, you might want to ask if they need any help; especially if you have the requisite police clearances or certifications.  Maybe not exactly what you had in mind, but…
  2. VBS is a pricey ministry option, even by Children’s ministry standards. Sometime during the week, drop by the church’s office and make a donation to show your appreciation.
  3. Be on the lookout for a mom who is, like you, appears to be not from the host church, and offer to buy her a coffee. Or maybe a mom who is just going through a rough day and could use a sounding board.

Failing the first and third option, relax and take a deep breath, especially if an avalanche of kids is coming to your church next week.

June 7, 2014

To All The Parents of Problem Kids

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:36 am

To the parent of a child in

  • Junior Kindergarten
  • Senior Kindergarten
  • Grade One
  • Grade Two
  • Grade Three

who is hearing school staff talk about

  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Hyperactivity
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder

we know what you’re going through. The frustration. The calls from the school. The appointments with specialists. The inappropriate comments from other parents.

We’ve been there. Keep praying. Keep talking to other parents. Keep open to nutritional, non-pharmaceutical alternatives.

Thursday, he graduated with an honors degree in Engineering.

~Paul & Ruth

 

February 3, 2014

Kids and Communion: Sacrament or Snack-Time?

This is a topic that was covered here twice before, in February of 2011 and December, 2011. I’m presenting both complete today, but including the links because the December one attracted a number of comments. You can join that old comment thread or start a new one here that might get seen by more people.  The first article is more practical, the second more doctrinal. The first article also appeared on the day after a piece about children and (immersion) baptism, which is why it begins…

Continuing where we left off yesterday…

I like the story of the little boy who wanted to take part in the communion service that followed the Sunday morning offering. When told by his mother that he was too young to take communion, the eager participant whispered loud enough to be heard five rows back, “Why not? I just paid for it, didn’t I?”

~Stan Toler in Preacher’s Magazine

Last week was Communion Sunday at our home church. We attended the 9:00 AM service so that we could actually get to a second service at 10:30 at our other home church. The 9:00 AM service is attended by families with young children who wake up early, and I was horrified to glance and see a young boy of about six or seven helping himself as the bread and wine were passed. Maybe this story describes the kind of thing I’m referencing:

At my church, we had a special Easter night service, and we took communion. My brother was in there, and he’s only 6, so he doesn’t understand the meaning of it. When he saw the “crackers” and “grape juice” being passed around, he said “mommy! Its snack time! I want a snack too!” Obviously, he’s too young to take communion. But for those of us who do take it, do we see it as “snack time”? Communion is great. I love to hear Pastors words describing the night when Jesus and his 12 apostles took upon the 1st Holy Communion. I think since we do take communion regularly in church, we overlook the importance there is in it.

~Summer, a 15-year old in Illinois

But not everyone agrees with this approach:

I have allowed my children to take communion ever since they have told me that they love Jesus. I think 3 was the age they were first able to verbalize that.

We explain it to them each time as the bread and wine come around, and while they dont get it all, they know they are considered ok to partake.

This would not have happened in the world I grew up in.

~Andrew Hamilton at Backyard Missionary (no longer available)

The latter view is the one currently gaining popularity among Evangelical parents. And there are often compelling reasons for it. A children’s ministry specialist in New Zealand only ever posted four things on his or her blog, but one of them was this piece which argued for including all children because:

  • The historical reason: Children would be included in Passover celebration;
  • The Passover parallel: It is a means of teaching children about Christ’s deliverance for us;
  • Salvation qualifies them: If they have prayed to receive Christ, which is not exclusive to adults, they should participate;
  • The alternative is complicated: The age at which a child would be considered “ready” would actually vary for each child, and setting a specific age adds more complication;
  • Communion is an act of worship, something children should be equally participating in.

Having read that, it might be easy to conclude that this is the side to which I personally lean.

That would be a mistake.

Despite the arguments above, I really think that Summer’s comment adequately describes the situation I saw firsthand last Sunday. As with yesterday’s piece here — Baptism: How Young is Too Young? — I think we are rushing our children to have ‘done’ certain things that perhaps we think will ‘seal’ them with God.

I thought it interesting that one of the pieces I studied in preparation for yesterday’s post suggested that the parents of children who would be strongly opposed doctrinally to infant baptism have no issues with their non-infant children being baptized very young. Another article described a boy so young they had to ‘float’ him over to the pastor, since he couldn’t touch the bottom.

I’ve often told the story of the young woman who told me that when she was confirmed in her church at age 14 — confirmation being the last ‘rite’ of spiritual passage for those churches that don’t practice believer’s baptism by immersion — she stopped attending because she ‘done’ everything there was to ‘do.’ She described it perfectly: “The day I officially joined the church was the day I left the church.”

Are we in too much of a hurry here to see our children complete these things so we can check them off a list? Are parents who would be horrified to see their daughters wearing skimpy outfits because that constitutes “growing up too fast” actually wanting their sons and daughters to “grow up spiritually too fast?”

I was eleven when my parents deemed me ready to take communion. While I question my decision to be baptized at 13, I think that this was a good age to enter into the Eucharist. I know that Catholic children receive First Communion at age seven, therefore I am fully prepared to stick to this view even if I end up part of a clear minority.

(more…)

January 23, 2014

Home-Schooled Kids Speak Out

Filed under: education, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:36 am

A few days ago, the cable network Al Jazeera America reactivated a dormant Twitter hashtag #homeschoolkid with this question: Should home schooling be regulated more?  There was also a link to this article on their website. Responses have been pouring in, and I thought we’d share a sample here for those of you who don’t do the Twitter thing.

  • As someone who was (very successfully) homeschooled for 12 years, yes.
  • Homeschooling was one of the best choices my parents made for me as a child. I was given freedom to learn – & I went for it.
  • H-schooling saved me from gender stereotypes (girls=bad at math). I delved into my interests w/o being pushed down by society.
  • We w/subjected to state tests yearly, and my family always ranked higher than school district.Here’s to not following curriculum.
  • Homeschooling allowed me lots of of time at home alone reading encyclopedias

Somewhere along the thread however, you notice a shift in response that is perhaps less Al Jazeera’s regular audience, and more from people in the Christian stream of home-schooling:

  • Pro – I became a great speller Con – I grew up believing Robert E Lee was just doing his Christian duty.
  • Maybe the bigger issue with homeschooling is this ‘divine right of parents’ thing that seems to have no boundaries.
  • I think homeschooling can be done well, but someone has to look out for the kids who aren’t getting the education they need.
  • Homeschooling should not be an altar raised for the gods of parental rights on which children’s rights are daily sacrificed.
  • I’m disgusted that my parents belonged to HSLDA, a group that called a man who forced his kids to live in cages a “hero”
  • I was raised with ACE, a curriculum that until recently, claimed that the Loch Ness Monster actually existed. Seriously.
  • As a #homeschoolkid I knew a few of homeschoolers who stopped school after middle school. The homeschool community did nothing about it.
  • My white mother and black father taught me history from Bob Jones [curriculum]
  • It’s always sad to hear people say my time as a #homeschoolkid “sounds like a lot of fun!” – it really wasn’t. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
  • I’m fond of telling people that I was Valedictorian, class clown, prom queen, and most likely to get pregnant.
  • new responses still being added…

October 29, 2013

Top Ten Reasons You Wouldn’t Want Your Parents to Name You ‘Messiah’

I have this linked on tomorrow’s post, but it seemed too good not to share in full here.  Send the creator known as Flagrant Regard — who gave kind permission for Thinking Out Loud to reblog this — some stats love by reading this at source

In Tennessee this week, a judge was cited for his ruling that a couple who’d petitioned to have their new-born son registered with the first-name, ‘Messiah’ could not do so on the grounds that, “The word ‘messiah’ is a title, and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person, and that one person is Jesus Christ.” 1

While we agree that the judge was a little over-zealous in his ruling – that people should have the right to name their kid almost anything they want – we DO think that growing up with the name, ‘Messiah’ may have its drawbacks.

Here now (ala David Letterman format) are the

TOP TEN REASONS WHY YOU WOULDN’T WANT YOUR PARENTS TO NAME YOU ‘MESSIAH’

10. Getting caught swearing by people who are happy to note, “Well that sure doesn’t sound Aramaic to me!”

9. Having to avoid common sayings that could offend such as, “I’m just hanging around” or “Really nailed it” … (sorry!)

8. Trying to live up to the high expectation your mom has that you’ll treat her like Holy Mother Mary at all times

7. Problem when there’s a shortage of grape juice at the family dinner and everyone turns to you, begging for you do something about it

6. Finding that, when another kid named ‘Messiah’ in your class is the one causing problems, you hear yourself telling the teacher, “But I’m not the Messiah you’re looking for!”

5. Your mother talks about you to her friends, saying, “Oh he’s fine – just don’t cross him.”

4. Being chided by your professor of religion (right after he informs you that you’re failing his class), “If you are indeed who you say you are, throw yourself into your work and I’ll give you all the great grades you see before you.”

3. High probability of bullies in the schoolyard whacking you from behind and shouting, “Okay Messiah, who hit you?”

2. Being told by your family waiting at the airport for your arrival during the thanksgiving holidays, “Yeah, we saw you coming in the clouds” every flippin’ year

… and the NUMBER ONE REASON FOR WHY YOU SHOULDN’T NAME YOUR CHILD ‘MESSIAH’ …

1.Far too easy for psychiatrists to figure out what kind of complex you’re developing.

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

(1) http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sns-rt-us-usa-tennessee-judge-20131025,0,617443.story

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