Thinking Out Loud

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

September 1, 2013

Children’s Worship

In the time and place where I grew up, the songs we sang in Sunday School, Children’s Church and at the Christian camp were quite different from what the adults were singing in the main auditorium at weekend services. Lately there has been more of a convergence of what is heard in the Christian Education wing of the building and what is sung in the main sanctuary (and what is played on Christian radio).

We could argue the merits of this and also the weaknesses, but my point here isn’t to get into a deep debate on the philosophy of Children’s ministry. I think there are obviously some pluses to having Mom, Dad and the kids all being able to sing the same worship songs in the car on the way home; and there are obvious benefits to age-appropriate worship songs, too.

This weekend I went searching on YouTube for an older song I remembered from my past: Lovely Noise. The only versions I could find were kid-min (children’s ministry) versions, but I appreciated the life and energy. Here’s that song and another I listened to more than once:

The same song is also available here. I liked the graphics on it, but preferred the audio on the one I posted.

I’ve always associated the song Undignified with, at best, youth ministry, but I suppose that with the right set up (explanation) you could teach it to older children.

Bonus video: Here’s a kid min version of Trading My Sorrows. I know there are probably more current songs being used in Children’s ministry, but I wanted to simply introduce the genre here with the ones I watched in the last 48 hours.

August 29, 2013

Back to School Blues

New Church Year

In many parts of Canada, back-to-school doesn’t happen until after Labor Day. So the weekend takes on added significance…

My friend Jimmy watched from across the road as my parents off-loaded a very pale version of my younger self from the backseat. He approached the car to ask about our weekend away at a Christian conference center, but I was quickly escorted into the house, into my room and onto the bed.

People did get sick from the water sometimes — it was before the days of today’s water control standards — but my ailment was brought on entirely by the stress and anxiety of facing another school year. It arrived for several years like clockwork on the first Monday of September.

I have no idea why, and no idea how it disappeared. I know in high school there was always a nervousness about new teachers, new textbooks and new subjects; but by then I looked forward to school. Furthermore, the actual physical illness dissipated by Junior High, though there was always a little bit of trepidation.

With two kids in university, we’re still not divorced from the school start-up date as being the true New Year’s Day; and I still find myself sensing echoes of the butterflies and apprehension involved in kicking into another fall season.  In most of our churches, the ministry year kicks off in earnest in the fall; and the business I own is tied to the retail cycle, where September marks the ramp-up toward Christmas.

In some ways, I suppose it’s spiritually good and healthy to recognize when things are a little out of your control. Each portion of the life cycle brings with it enough uncertainty to know that it is God, not us who is fully in control.

Jimmy went on to become a Catholic priest. I tried to track him down, and got as far as church he had recently left, but then the trail went cold. I’m not a detective; I don’t have the resources to pursue it any further. I thought he’d like to know that we shared a common destiny of being involved in different aspects of vocational ministry.

Mysteriously, I was always well enough to attend school the next day. I never missed the first day of classes. Maybe I was becoming ill 24-hours too soon.

I know that my mostly U.S. readership lives in places where the kids have been back to class for as much as three weeks now; so be it belated, or just about right, I wish you a happy new year.

August 25, 2013

Just in Time for Back-to-School

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:08 am

From Bobwama’s Wallpaper of the Day – http://bobwama.tumblr.com/

August 5, 2013

Christians Should Be More Procreative

Procreative.

Oh…my spell check approves. I thought I’d just made that up. Okay, maybe I have heard it before. Either way, it’s a good lead in to Adam Roe’s article, Why Christians Should Have More Children. Here’s a couple (meaning ‘three’) of highlights:

At some point the church bought into the idea that 2.3 kids is the ideal.  In speaking with an older and wiser friend about this the other day, I was informed that this might be a sort of generational bleed-over.  When everyone was worried about overpopulation after the baby boom, Christians joined in the cause and largely kept their families at about 2.3 children.

and

Even our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are having difficulty in this area.  In a 2008 article by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Monsignor Vittorio Formenti noted, “while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer.”

and

Child rearing is the ideal in the Bible, and no reading of Scripture I am aware of, in connection with historical interpretation (Protestants concluded), can lead one to conclude otherwise.  God’s first command before all other commands is to be fruitful and multiply.  To separate children from marriage is as artificial as separating God from the Creation narrative.  God created because it is in His nature to do so.  God calls on humanity to be fruitful because we exist in His image.  To live in the image of God is to love in the image of God; within community and fruitfully.

So why are you still reading this. Time to turn off the computer and…

Otherwise continue reading here.

July 5, 2013

Saturate Your Home With Christian Media

Since my 72% US audience are all off celebrating the time they told England to get lost in 1776, here’s a repeat item from a year ago about which I am still very passionate…

I’ve previously written here about how we’re big fans of sermon audio when we travel, and as someone who works in the Christian bookstore environment, it’s a given that I’m a huge booster of Christian books and music.

But today I want to approach this from a slightly different perspective. Over the past few days I’ve written about the battle that goes on for our thought life, and how this takes place on a moment by moment basis. Back in June, I posted a great analysis of the types of thoughts, that are going on in our heads at any given point in time.

I don’t spend a lot of time commuting, but I am increasingly aware of the contrast that exists between the mental processes that take place when I omit to turn on the radio — which is mostly presets for Christian stations — and the times I have worship songs playing. This is a giant contrast, not a mild difference.

Listening to Bible Teaching

Yesterday we listened to sermons from North Point and Crosspoint. We tried to find another “point” but left it at those two, plus what we heard in church that morning. The day before I listened to one at Mars Hill (MI), a few days earlier it was a conference talk streaming at Elevation. You can find all these churches linked in the sidebar of this blog.

Life was not always so.

I can remember asking my parents why they had to constantly listen to more preacher programs. Their media of choice was WDCX, an FM station in Buffalo, and WHLD, a Buffalo AM outlet. Of course, my choice would have been Top 40 rock station 1050 CHUM in Toronto. I think that was the real issue.

But today, although I hunger to learn and grow and discover more about Christ through what others have learned, I also am acutely aware of what happens in the absence of Christian media in the home.

Bible teaching can come in other forms besides radio and television. There are the aforementioned sermons-on-demand and live-streaming church services on the internet, plus some teachers, like Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House often do a separate podcast. But there’s also CD audio and of course books.

Listening to Christian Music

For some Christ-followers, the dominant form of uplifting, inspirational and wholesome media is Christian music; which may consist of hymns, mass choirs, southern gospel, adult contemporary, Christian rock in all its various genres, and the current favorite, modern worship.

Again, these can be accessed in various forms. Some choose mp3 files which can be played back in the car and in the home. Many people are still buying CDs. Christian music song videos abound on video sharing sites like GodTube, Vimeo and YouTube. There is an abundance of Christian radio available online, and here in North America, most people live within range of a broadcast station that plays music, teaching or a mix of both.

But I have to say that as a worship leader, nothing compares to the songs that you experience in a worship environment with your faith family. Maybe it’s because I was playing in the band yesterday, but one particular song — an original song written by our guest musician — stuck in my head for hours yesterday, and in a good way.

For a listing of some of my favorite songs with video, visit the sidebar in the right margin at Christianity 201.

Listening to God

These varied media I find to be a positive alternative to anything else, and in fact fulfill a direct instruction from scripture:

Phillips – Col. 3: 16-17 Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.

What will control your thought life this week?

July 4, 2013

When Faith Doesn’t Stick

Recently, my wife and I have had a number of recurring conversations prompted by comments overheard that among some Christian parents we know that their children have arrived at their late teens or early twenties only to reveal that the Christian faith they were immersed in, for lack of a better phrase, didn’t take.

At that point, I usually shake my head in despair and usually lament the time and energy that was poured into their Christian education would appear to have been entirely ineffective, at least to this point. Specifically, my comments repeatedly run along the lines of:

  • “…all those Sunday school classes…”
  • “…all those nights at youth group…”
  • “…all those weeks at church camp…”

and other variations you can fill in. 

The other day when I was finishing up this litany my wife said something that arrested me in my tracks. Now remember that, (a) she is very wise, and (b) she had the advantage of experiencing multiple repetitions of my soliloquy before issuing a comeback.

So when I said, “…all those years in church…” she said, “Yes, but you don’t know what was said in the car on the way home.”

True.

Or over dinner.

I can’t imagine that any of the parents in question would do anything knowing that it had the least potential of undermining the nurture of their children’s faith, but that’s just the point, isn’t it?

How many kids are destined for a young adulthood (and beyond) without a faith component because we inadvertently did a really crappy job of modeling for them what Christ-following looks like?

You don’t want to think about that.

So parents, be careful what you say in the car ride home on Sunday. Your comments are being picked up by little ears.

Coincidentally, The Pew Research Forum has just released a report on the religious life of Canada, my home and native land. The charts and graphs all speak for themselves — two are reproduced below — but the message is clear that an attrition is taking place in the church as we’ve not seen before. Furthermore, in Canada and the United States, the religious landscape is forever changed because of immigration policy.

Pew Research - Canada - 1

Pew Research - Canada - 2

The results are similar to a study done by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), called Hemorrhaging Faith, which we reported on here a few months ago. That study looked at four demographic areas: Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics in Quebec, and Roman Catholics Outside Quebec; and divided respondents into Engagers, Fence Sitters, Wanderers and Rejecters.

The Pew Study looked only at Protestants and Catholics, as well as respondents from other religions and the rapidly growing category known as “the nones” (not nuns) who check off the “none” box on census and other surveys. Unfortunately in the EFC study, the results for Evangelicals — while showing stronger adherence — did not point to a much brighter future over the long term.

Survey companies like Barna and Pew make money selling reports, and the very nature of the business means that bad news tends to get more attention. So books like David Kinnaman’s unChristian are better known than the counter response found in books like Bradley Wright’s Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites: And Other Lies You’ve Been Told reviewed here. People will flock to buy a book on how the sky is falling, but not so much toward one which advises the sky is intact.

But the Pew Research study and the Evangelical Fellowship’s study highlight statistics that are undeniable: Kids are leaving the church in record numbers.

June 9, 2013

Social Justice: Why I Got Arrested -Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Sometimes when you take a stand for social justice, there is a cost. It might mean separation from your family. It might mean facing detainment and criminal charges.

It might mean both

Today I have another one of those situations where I would like to simply say, “Ya gotta read this for yourselves;” and then people would click through; but experience teaches me that for maximum exposure I need to simply carry this here as a re-blog. The author is Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who has been featured on these pages many times before.  The circumstances here are not as important as the principles which shine through, so don’t feel you’re coming into the middle of a story. This is the story.

This is a letter to his children.

To read at source, click here.


A Letter to My Kids: Why I Got Arrested

Dear JaiMichael and Nora,

Since we went to Moral Monday together a couple of weeks ago, I’ve wanted to sit down and write to both of you to tell you why I got arrested—why I wasn’t home that evening to read you your stories and say prayers with you. I’ve rarely felt happier than I did that evening when the bus pulled out to take us to jail. I looked up and saw the two of you standing with mom, waving good-bye even though you couldn’t see me through the wire mesh of the bus window. Thank you for being there for me.

As you both know, we live in a hospitality house and share our life with other people because God has given us this way of life as a gift. It’s not always easy to greet every knock at the door, eager to see Jesus in the stranger. But that’s what we try to do because this is where Jesus promised to meet us. Indeed, the two of you are teaching me much about how to do this as you grow up at Rutba House.

One of the things we know about God’s family is that we don’t all look the same. Even though you are brother and sister, your skin is not the same color. Uncle Matt and Uncle Vern are not the same color. This is how it is in God’s family.

You also know the story of how Grandma Ann, when she was working to integrate the schools here in Durham, became friends with a white man who had led the Ku Klux Klan. Some people say strong black women and white men in the KKK shouldn’t become friends. But Grandma Ann and Mr. Ellis realized that when poor black people are pitted against poor white people, all children suffer. They became friends because they learned a better way.

Some people say that parents should work as hard as they can to give their kids all the opportunities that are available in our society—that this is what it means to be a good parent. I know you’ve been disappointed at times when you didn’t get to have a video game or wear the coolest new clothes. But your mom and I believe that the best life for you (and for us) is a life in the beloved community that Grandma Ann and others worked for—the life that God wants to give us in relationship with others who are not like us.

The men who run our Legislature in Raleigh right now are people who love their kids like I love you. They are afraid because they believe that the inheritance they have to pass on to their children is the wealth that they’ve been able to accumulate. They do not want to see that inheritance squandered by others whom they think undeserving. They are determined to defend their way of life at any cost.

But we believe they are wrong because we know a better way of life. We have asked them to consider the pain they are causing others by pursuing their own interests. They have refused to listen. Because they have power right now, they don’t have to listen to what we say. They can have us arrested and taken away.

But what they are doing cannot last forever because it is not true. God will stop them; we don’t have to. But I chose to get arrested because I don’t want those men to miss out on God’s great party. I want them to know that there is a better way—that they do not have to listen to our worst fears and re-play the worst chapters of our past.

I want them to know that God has invited them to be part of the beloved community too.

Thank you both for being there in Raleigh with the thousands of others who want a better future for our state. And thanks for helping mom get everything done at home while I was gone. I know it is not always easy to invite everyone in—even the legislators who do not want to listen. But, like I said, I’m grateful to both of you for showing me how to extend the invitation with enthusiasm.

I love you both,

Dad

Two other arrest perspectives appear on his blog from a Political Science professor, and a School Board member.

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