Came across this great piece about children and communion through Nadia Bolz-Weber, who said, “Children should not be allowed to receive the Eucharist because they don’t understand what it means, my ass. Anyone who runs to it or yells ‘thanks!’ gets it more than I.” Is it the kids who do the “weird” things, or do we adults weird-ify communion? Weird is in the eye of the beholder.
Here is some cool stuff kids teach me about communion based on things that have happened to me:
- Run down the isle. It is okay to run down the isle for communion. In fact shouldn’t we all be running to feast with Christ? Next time, don’t walk to communion – run.
- Take communion with a stuffed animal. This should be acceptable, as long as the stuff animal is served communion as well. Kids understand that everyone is welcomed to the table. Human and teddy bear alike.
- Drink every drop. It is critical that every drop of grape juice and morsel of bread is consumed at communion. Who cares is people are waiting behind you to move back to their pews, you do not leave that table until you have been able to take ever last moment you can with Christ..
- Ask for a “big piece”. Why settle for just a little bit of Christ? Don’t we all want a “big piece” of Christ?
- Dunk the whole piece into the cup. If you get to dip the bread into the juice, soak that bread and be sure to no worry about drips or stains (see points 3 and 4 for justification).
- Seek out the leftovers. The bread of Life is too good to discard in the trash or fed to the birds. That is why we eat all the bread after worship.
- Being shy is okay. Kids understand that it is an honor to be at the table of God and they do not demand a place but know that it is a treat to be there. Being shy to kids is like being humble to adults. Humility at the table of God? Great idea.
- Laugh. Partaking in the banquet of God is a joyful event! Smile, laugh and if you need to, put a rubber crocodile on your head and make the pastor laugh with you.
- Express thanks. One thumbs up at the meal is something, but two thumbs up is great.
- Save some for later. Putting bread into your pocket seems like a reasonable way to take Christ into the world.
Back in November, Brian McLaren and I took a few moments to talk together about children, youth, and a revolution that needs to happen in spiritual formation. You can check out the video of this conversation here. If what we say resonates with you, considering joining us at Faith Forward 2014 in Nashville.
Over the past year, ROOTS (a ministry resource magazine in the UK) has featured some articles I wrote for them about spiritual styles and my first book, Children’s Ministry that Fits. They put together a great resource to help people get to know spiritual styles by putting faces to the styles. You can read it here.
I love a good dog shaming picture as much as anybody (at least I used to…). But there’s something terribly wrong with the idea of publicly shaming our children through social media, as some people have done through these photos.
At a time when countless dollars are being poured into anti-bullying campaigns and when we know too well of kids who have committed suicide because of bullying, these photos are more than just insensitive—they’re dangerous. Here are children who are in turmoil because of fears, disappointments, and frustrations that they consider to be incredibly real and incredibly painful. Yet rather than soothing the child in tears, these parents have taken photos of them and posted them for others to see and laugh at. This is nothing short of bullying (cyber-bullying, to be specific).
Now, I understand that these photos are meant to be funny and that the reasons for the kids’ tears seem strange and even downright hilarious (like the child crying about losing his rubber duck that’s on top of his head). But these pictures promote disrespect for others’ pain and they give each person the right to judge the pain of others. Instead of promoting empathy for suffering that we might not understand, these photos tell us that it’s perfectly okay to make fun of people who are struggling about things that we don’t think are worth struggling over.
As someone who was bullied as a child (and continues to encounter my share of bullies, as all adults do), these photos make me cringe. They make me wonder how anyone can find pleasure in the pain of others. They cause me to think about what these images teach to the children, teens, and adults who are entertained by them. Essentially, they teach us that bullying is perfectly acceptable and that publicly humiliating other people—made in the image of God—is a viable pastime (and a good way to get lots of hits on your blog). They teach us that there’s nothing wrong with shaming another person as long as it gets a good laugh. They teach us that empathy is overrated.
Of course, there’s much more that could be said about these photos, like what they say about perspectives of children that are common in our world today. And they make me wonder if dog shaming is also a problematic practice (especially considering recent research into the emotional lives of our four-legged friends). But whether these photos make us laugh until we’re sick or they just make us sick, they are part of a hidden curriculum at work within our society that teaches us how we ought to treat one another, not just face-to-face, but also in the public arena that is social media.
My wife and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela after walking 850 km in 35 days. We began walking in Hendaye, France, and walked along the coast before heading southwest and making our way through the Pyrenees. It was a remarkable journey and we’ve tried to capture it as best we can in a short video here.
When Ivy Beckwith and I started writing Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus, we wanted to pull together a book that represented our journey of thinking about and practicing spiritual formation with children and we wanted to share our ideas in a way that others would find helpful. In a sense, our hope was to write a book that we wish existed when we were rethinking what children’s ministry is all about a number of years back. At the time, I had no idea that the book would receive so much support and such a wide readership in only the first few months after it was released.
So I was surprised and honoured when Hearts and Minds named Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus the best book about children’s ministry of 2013.
Here’s what they have to say about it:
Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus David M. Csinos & Ivy Beckwith foreword by John H. Westerhoff (IVP/Praxis) $18.00 Some background: in 2012 a fascinating conference was held about the role of children and youth in the changing church and cultural settings we are seeing; this was emergent, somewhat post-evangelical, diverse and progressive, with voices sometimes not heard at such events. The papers from that conference have been published in a stimulating, important book about emerging children and youth ministry, especially among congregations with a progressive vision and creative new theology (searching for a better way than the old debates between conservatives and liberals.) That book is called Faith Forward edited by Melvin Bray and David Csinos and I announced it here. Out of that gathering has come an organization, Faith Forward, and the founder and president is David Csinos, co-author of this new, excellent book. Ivy Beckwith (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) has done other very good books on children’s ministry, especially in the postmodern setting, and has a chapter in that first Faith Forward anthology. That Csinos and Beckwith have here collaborated to give us a first-rate, theologically robust, culturally savvy, psychologically aware, congregationally serious book about the role of children in our churches is a great, great gift. Long-time scholar of these things, John Westerhoff raves in the foreword about the fresh, solid ideas, and many leaders from across the ecclesiastical landscape have endorsed it. (Scottie May of Wheaton College, for instance, raves, and says it will “help to change children’s ministry as we have known it.” Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore calls it a “wonderful guide.” I am sure we should declare it one of the best books in the field. It is a must for anyone working in churches, anyone who cares about kids, anyone interested in vital congregational education and formation. Cheers!
Day Smith Pritchartt offers a thoughtful response to this question here.
I was speaking at a recent conference and I mentioned that I hear lots of people say that Sunday school isn’t working anymore. So I suggested that we just scrap Sunday school altogether, an idea that was met with some cheers and some eyes wide in shock. People in the room wanted to do more intergenerational activities and they wanted kids to be part of the wider church–all things that could easily happen if Sunday school went the way of the dodo. But when it came time to talk about how to do these things, some people wanted to build intergenerationality and participation into Sunday school, almost as if having Sunday school survive was the goal, rather than having children flourish within a larger faith community.
Getting rid of Sunday school seems to some to be an obvious move to make, while for other it’s an incredibly radical idea. I guess much of it depends on how we do “Sunday school” and whether the program or the children who attend (or don’t attend) the program are what matter most.
If you’re seeking to explore questions like this–questions that have the power to change formation with young people as we know it–then join us at Faith Forward 2014 in Nashville, May 19-22. It’s a gathering like no other!