postmodern children’s ministry

February 20, 2005

When I first saw that there was a book called Postmodern Children’s Ministry, I rolled my eyes. It seemed to me that we were now taking the concept of postmodern and turning into another Christian brand (ie Purpose-Driven). I feared that soon we would have book titles about everything with Postmodern in front of it, because the publishing houses knew it would sell: God’s Postmodern Politics, The Pomo-Driven Life, and Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Stories About Living at Your Full Postmodern Potential .

However, I’ve read a couple of really positive things about this book on other blogs, and even added it to my wish list a few weeks ago. Today, Sivin posted a quote from the book that just about guaranteed it’s something I’d like to read:

The church’s ministry to children is broken. A cursory look doesn’t reveal its brokenness. From the outside children’s ministry looks healthier than ever. But it is broken. It’s broken when church leaders and senior pastors see children’s ministry primarily as a marketing tool. The church with the most outwardly attractive program wins the children and then the parents. It’s broken when we teach children the Bible as if it were just another book of moral fables or stories of great heroes. Something is broken when we trivialize God to our children. It’s broken when we exclude children from perhaps the most important of community activities: worship. It’s broken because we’ve become dependant on an 18th-century schooling model, forgetting that much of a children’s spiritual formation is affective, active, and intuitive. It’s broken when we depend on our programs and our curriculum to introduce our children to God — not our families and communities. It’s broken when we’ve come to believe that church has to be some other than church to be attractive to children. It’s broken when we spend lots of money making our churches into playlands and entice children to God through food fights and baptisms in the back of fire trucks. And perhaps most importantly, it’s broken when the church tells parents that its programs can spiritually nurture their children better than they can. By doing this, we’ve lied to parents and allowed them to abdicate their responsibility to spiritually form their children. A church program can’t spiritually form a child, but a familiy living in an intergenerational community of faith can. Our care for children is broken and badly in need of repair. Let’s imagine together a new way, a new future.

As someone who is about to be a part of a church plant, and then possibly be a lead planter in a few years, I had better care about children’s ministry — not because it is a program to be done right so that we can attract young families. It has to be a part of the all-encompassing strategy of how the church functions so that children will be intentionally raised toward spiritual maturity. I have plenty of questions about how to do this — perhaps this book can help ask the right questions, and maybe even point toward a few answers.

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