postmodern children’s ministry

February 20, 2005 | 10 Comments

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.

  • I thought pretty much the same thing last fall. I saw the title and hoped the trend would die. But the quote does a good job of selling the point that Children’s Ministry has some questionable commercialism. But don’t you dare tell me that Psalty the Singing Songbook isn’t still an amazingly effective ministry tool.

  • you are right about the danger of “marketing” gimmicks especially when it comes to branding 🙂 and yet, I’ve learnt to look beyond that. Checking out Ivy’s Website was a good start. Now I’ve regreted not getting that copy entitled “postmodern youth ministry” by Tony Jones that I saw last year. . Let’s keep on learning together.

  • i would’ve been scared off by the title myself, but that quote just hits so many points so well.
    and by the way… nice fictional book titles, they’re probably not that far off…

  • Hmmm… Now I want to read The Purpose Driven Life just so I can write the book (kind of real and a satire at the same time), The Pomo-Driven Life. Or perhaps just a chapter of my current book for now. What about 40 days of Pomo? These really would be a great starting ground for satire, and yet kind of a fun way to show a new way at the same time.

  • marko

    we really struggled with the title and considered several other ideas — we were worried that “postmodern children’s ministry” would come off as cheesy. but in the end, we decided to keep it parallel to Tony Jones’ “postmodern youth ministry” (shoot, Tony and Ivy even worked at the same church!).

  • Dean

    Off Topic – Just saw your hit count map. Your getting action in Indonesia! Wow! What’s up with that?

  • tk

    thanks for the recco and the link to Silvin’s post. I just forwarded the link onto some of our children’s ministry team.


  • Doug Smith

    …what about the “lost” concept (and truth) of kids having NOT a “junior” or watered-down version of the power of God via His Holy Spirit, just because they are small and young…

    Imagine… raising a whole generation of the Body of Christ by nurturing and teaching the kids about Who lives inside them, and what that means. What if kids (yes, kids!) discover what their spiritual gifts are now, learn about them (on an age-appropiate level), and begin to walk in them … NOW! Good God (yes He is!), would that not rock the church, and the world?! There is a stone-cold revolution waiting to happen…

    Now maturity & wisdom are a whole ‘nother couple of concepts that needs to be in place to be “guardrails” for the kids moving down the highway to the Kingdom. That has to come from those in charge… Are we up to the task?

    Take a look at yourself, your level of maturity in faith at your current age, and imagine your kids, or those you have in your charge BEGINNING at their tender age, where you and I are now, and just imagine the possiblities – let it sink in for a couple of minutes!

    Is our mindset already there, are is it something we need to recallibrate?


    -luv to all


  • Ken

    I have read this book. I have also been in communication with the author. She’s great and right on.

    Post-modernity is a reality we live in. She knows this. She knows that the children growing up in today’s children’s ministries are post-moderns. Sadly most of their teachers are not.

    These are the types of issues addressed in the text, I definitely recommend it.

    I am wanting to implement even more experiential lessons and curriculum in children’s ministry. The author definitely is trying to do that and not ride the Po-Mo title bandwagon.

    Just had to share my thoughts.


  • Margie Hillenbrand

    I’m part of a church plant and looking for discussions about kids in emerging churches. I was excited about Postmodern Children’s Ministry. I very much appreciated Ivy’s observations and her questions. Very prophetic. As Ken said, “Post-modernity is a reality we live in… She knows that the children growing up in today’s children’s ministries are post-moderns. Sadly most of their teachers are not.” Lots and lots of changes…