ringing the changes

A number of months ago I was asked what I was doing in my next session leading Children’s Church. I explained, starting with the key theme and scripture and how we were going to extrapolate that using some drama and then expressing what they had learned either through craft or writing or painting. It was up to them.

The person, a lady person, in her mid 40’s, asked if she could come. We laughed. A seed of an idea though was planted. A lot of the people I encounter on a daily basis have not been brought up in church and if they did go, were dragged.

The concept of “Messy Church” covers this, telling basic bible stories and parables so adults and children together learn something of the bible. There are alpha courses and Emmaus for further teaching and yet for all this: I meet people who have been coming to church longer than me who don’t get forgiveness and don’t get grace and mercy and love.

Is Children’s Church about retelling bible stories over and over again in a three-year cycle, or is it about giving them some foundation so they can explore their faith, grow in their faith and take over as leaders of worship, leaders of Children’s Church and youth initiatives?

When I was small going to church was treat, going to a political conference was a chore. Sitting on a stool in a Methodist Class of women, talking about “real stuff” in their lives and encouraging and admonishing each other was a treat, listening to a political argument on trivial matters of no consequence was a chore. However, I was brought up differently, for that time. My Christian friends were not allowed to play with me and committed a sin by doing so (that of not honouring parents.)

Today, I am not that differently brought up compared to the general population which is no longer church going by default of which piece of land they were raised. The church is becoming an optional extra. A friend of mine in the States tweeted the question, “will I go to the gym or church?” The Gym won.

We have to make the church a treat, not so it is vapidly full of emotive music, repeating choruses to encourage fervour, or to make it what people want to hear – “You are doing okay, much better than that guy.” It is to balance the attractional elements with sound basic teaching, extolling without gushing and using language that people today will understand.

So let’s stop making the assumption that people know what grace, mercy, love and forgiveness mean just because we sing and recite ritually. Let’s not try to be clever when someone says they believe in Jesus and say something like, “what do you mean by belief, Satan knew who Jesus was?”

I had another conversation a couple of weeks ago where a person was blaming the government because people didn’t know how to cook and live on a budget. It is easy to blame the government for this and it is easy to blame “Church” for the lack of understanding within the church.

Let’s turn the world upside down and meet people one-to-one, let’s listen to what they know as well as the deficit in understanding, let’s fill that gap. Each one of us, individually live out the authentic life of a Christian, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not just what Jesus would do, it was what he did. He invited us to his upside-down Kingdom, let’s share that…

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9