Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mission Statement: Impossible

The year was 2002. Everyone was listening to a promising new artist named Alicia Keys. The Osbournes won an Emmy for best reality show. Scientists reported a new type of black hole. A little indie movie called My Big Fat Greek Wedding struck box office gold. Martha Stewart was accused of insider trading. And I was an idealistic young children's director, fresh out of college and ready to change the world.

According to some experts, I couldn't change the world until I'd written a mission statement (not to be confused with a vision statement, which I apparently also needed.) So I got right to work. I toiled over those mission and vision statements. I wanted them to encapsulate every single conviction about children's ministry that I'd come to embrace over four years of college. And I didn't want them to sound like everyone else's mission and vision statements. Mine had to be unique. Distinctive. Awe-inspiring. To put it bluntly: the best children's ministry mission and vision statements ever written.

So after much labor, I finally produced two dazzling statements. And then I forgot them a week later. To this day, I really don't know what our children's ministry mission and vision statements are. I believe they might have something to do with discipleship, but I could be wrong.

Thus, I think Isaac Watts' amazing hymn, Let Children Hear The Mighty Deeds is going to become our new mission statement. It pretty much sums up my major convictions about children's ministry and it rhymes!

Let children hear the mighty deeds
Which God performed of old;
Which in our younger years we saw,
And which our fathers told.

He bids us make His glories known,
His works of power and grace;
And we’ll convey His wonders down
Through every rising race.

Our lips shall tell them to our sons,
And they again to theirs;
That generations yet unborn
May teach them to their heirs.

Thus shall they learn in God alone,
Their hope securely stands;
That they may ne’er forget His works,
But practice His commands.


Anonymous said...

That would make quite the mission/vision statement!

Any parent who doesn't like that one is probably going to be trouble.

Anonymous said...

Actually, any parent that embraces anything to do with children's ministries is already in big trouble because they obviously don't understand their covenant (you know what a covenant is - that particular way that God deals with His Creations) duties.

The following is a quote from this article.

Speaking from my own experience as a youth worker for over 16 years, I received great satisfaction from hearing my students tell me that they were closer to me than to their own parents. One high school girl told me that she saw me as her father figure rather than her own father! This can be heady feedback and reinforcement for a well-intentioned but misguided youth minister and his philosophy. But especially now that I have a daughter, I find that I would be heart-broken if she said that she loved her youth leader more than me! Families are being splintered and children are questioning the authority of their parents and the church leaders because they spend so much time being shuffled from program to program. Each program has a new authority and it isn’t very long before children lose faith in all authority. Is it any wonder that our church families are falling apart at a pace with those of the world?

Considering that the church does not look much different than the world in regards to divorce, sexual immorality, integrity, gossip, etc., I think we might want to look at how we do "church" and see if some changes might not need to be made.

Jenny Bruce said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for your thoughts and the link to the article. As a children’s director, I’ve thought long and hard about the validity and usefulness of children’s ministry. I have a few questions for you and would definitely appreciate your feedback.

1. What leads you to believe that there is a link between Sunday school and divorce, sexual immorality, gossip, etc. in the church? There appears to be anecdotal evidence on both sides. For every story of a children’s program that splintered a family, there’s another story of a children’s program that strengthened a family. And for every example of a kid who went to Sunday school and subsequently rebelled against God, there’s another example of a kid who attended an intergenerational service and subsequently rebelled against God. The anecdotal evidence doesn’t seem to prove or disprove this link. So what additional evidence would you cite to prove a link between children’s ministry and an unhealthy church?

2. Why do you draw a dichotomy between the family and the church? Although I agree that parents should definitely disciple their children, why shouldn’t the Body of Christ disciple and encourage them as well? I don’t understand why a children’s ministry would necessarily conflict with a parent’s obligation to instruct their child in the fear of the Lord.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn’t say that there is a direct link to Sunday School and divorce, i.e. “if you put your kids in SS you’re heading for divorce” but I would say the fact that the modern church is so focused on programs (among other things) that are designed to accommodate (perceived) needs demonstrates that it has lost its bearing in the “tohuvabohu” of the ocean of modern society. Children’s ministries are not the cause of an unhealthy church it is the sign of it (when I say church I don’t mean a specific church or denomination, I mean church as in the body of Christ). The church and its members have no understanding of God’s covenant economy. We just cruise along going “Jesus loves us this I know” but that’s about all we know. Do we know that we are in a covenant relationship with the Suzerain King of all creation? Do we also understand that this covenant relationship is to be mirrored/expressed in the family? The ultimate expression is God/Christ. Christ is head, or the “prophet, priest, and king” of His bride/church. He is the (prototype) prophet in that He proclaims the Word of God, He is the Priest in that He makes intercession, He is the King in that He protects His vassals. This trickles down to the church that should be a (type of) prophet, priest and king of its members/families. The family is to be a “type and shadow” of this same covenant relationship. The father is the head of the family or a type of “prophet, priest, and king” of his bride/church. He is the prophet in that he proclaims the Word…

So is the father being covenantally faithful to God when he lets his charges out from under his protective umbrella? Now I’m not saying that the average SS teacher is trying to subvert the authority of the father but just pointing out what has been man’s (specifically men) nature since the fall played out in the garden. Abdication. Man’s propensity is to abdicate his (God-given) position of authority and be lazy and recalcitrant in his duties before God and I believe the nature of how “church” operates these days is merely a reflection of this “dropping of the ball” by the fathers as well as the same by the church. Once again, I don’t think SS is the problem or cause of the church’s woes I think it is a symptom.

I don’t deny that there are many “success stories” within modern Christendom and its modus operandi. At this point in my pilgrimage to the Celestial City I embrace the Reformed notion of Christianity but in God’s sovereignty I found myself in an Assembly of God church when He removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh so there you go. Also, I hope you understand that I’m not the sort that thinks that if you don’t do things my way you are “in sin” and that I got all God’s truths down pat. “In the essentials – unity, in the nonessentials – liberty, but in all things – charity.” I just think that we are way off course in a lot of ways and need to return to God’s covenant economy.

Anecdotally speaking I see the youth of my church growing up under the watchful eye of their parents. I see them learning self control and obedience. I see other parents learning (by example) how to train up their children. I see the joy of the parents (as well as the other congregants) when their children are called upon by the pastor and can articulate things about God that most adults don’t understand. I see lots of things that I wouldn’t otherwise if the kids were shipped off to children’s church or an age specific SS.

I would ask how much of what we do in church has come about because of cultural/societal norms? I’m sure that I have many misconceptions about God’s requirements (in regards to daily life) because I look at Scripture through the lenses of a 21st century American. The modern family is caught up in the bigger house and better toys. In order to do this we must ship the kids off to daycare and public school. For the most part the modern Christian is no different. We mirror society instead of being a light to it. The father should be providing for the family in such a way that the children are protected from the influences of fallen culture but instead the mother has to work too. Throughout the course of the week the kids are shipped off and Sunday is no different.

Sorry for the sermon but I’m kind of passionate about “The Church” becoming “salt and light” to a lost world instead of something to be mocked and ridiculed.