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Posts Tagged ‘children’s church’


One of our members is a Baptist in transition. He is interested in understanding more about covenant theology and particularly how this informs and shapes how we treat children in the church. He asked about books to read in this subject. I couldn’t really think of any. We are great about defending infant baptism, but after that ….

Then I came across Our Covenant With Kids: Biblical Nurture in Home and Church by Tim Sisemore (it was previously released as Of Such is the Kingdom). I don’t like the title, finding it misleading. It isn’t our covenant, but God’s covenant with us that includes our children. But I suspected I ought to read it to gain a better theoretical understanding and therefore begin to move the congregation toward better nurture of our covenant kids in the church.

“The purpose of this book is to examine the entire teaching of the Bible that relates to children, to systematize it, and use this foundation to develop strategies that more adequately enable us to minister effectively to our children.”

This is, in many ways, a big picture book. He is thorough, and covers much ground. Numerous topics are covered, and covered well, but not exhaustively. For instance, in the chapter on the salvation of children, he talks about those dying in infancy. He covers the main views succinctly, and briefly argues for one over the others. I agree with him. But this discussion could have taken up many more pages. Sisemore displays great restraint and discipline as he approaches these topics. He gives information to help you sort through some things and make better decisions.

He begins with the nature of the task, parenting in a world hostile to our faith. The culture has affected the Church in general in a few significant ways: the loss of truth (we disregard doctrine), the loss of humanness due to evolutionary thought and the animal rights agenda (we’re okay with slaughtering children, but not seals, whales etc.), and the adultification of children (the world seduces them from an early age). As a result, he sets out to give us a theology of children, not merely instruction. So much of this is often assumed in parenting books. He wants to make it explicit so we can see if we are deviating from biblical norms in how we think of children. If we are deviating from biblical norms, our approach to instruction and nurture will be ineffective and possibly harmful.

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As a small church pastor, we failed to satisfy many a parent’s desires when it came to children’s programming.  This is the plight of many a small church.  This is the subject Chester and Timmis address next in Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community.

They begin by exposing the problem they are having in Great Britain.  Despite the focus on youth work, many leave the church upon reaching adulthood.  It seems as though the growth of youth ministry in England has not produced any significant, positive results.  They wonder how churches can make a better impact for the gospel.

Rather than siphoning them off in a youth-focused ministry, they seek to integrate them into the gospel community.  There they are exposed to real-life Christianity.  They are also connected to more mature Christians, deepening their relationships with the whole congregation instead of just the youth worker(s).

They have also witnessed similar problems with churches utilizing children’s church.  Though it sounds as if those churches still had children’s church for teens.  If they are not integrated into the rest of worship earlier than that, then it is no wonder they leave when they graduate.

At Crowded House they integrate the kids into the gospel community as well.  They seek to maintain “dual fidelity to the gospel word and the gospel community.”  They want the kids to see people taking the Bible seriously and seeking how to obey it.  Some of their groups break up into application groups that are age appropriate.

“The integration of children into the life of the church is consistent with an understanding of the church as an extended family.”

I agree with this, yet I have also led family-oriented small groups.  The kids were a huge distraction.  The reality of the situation is that we don’t have to embrace a false dichotomy: either total integreation or total separation.  We can avoid the extremes to find a workable solution that makes sure the kids and youth are consistently exposed to the gospel (not moralism) and the gospel community, yet not distracting to the adults.  Even in the family, the kids often go off to play or study alone while adults spend quality time together.

This brief chapter left me going “yes, but” quite abit.  I embrace the ideals, but have not found their solutions as helpful as they have.

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