Dixon United Methodist Church
Friday, December 06, 2013
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
I am grateful for the adults who gathered in August to reflect on our ministry with children. Jesus called the children to him, and this is our mandate to invite our children into a relationship with Christ.
This task has many challenges for us today. Forty years ago, participation in the life of the church reached a highpoint. It was considered a social norm to be a part of a church. Also, women were more often than not still working inside the home. Teaching Sunday school year after year was a way for women to exercise their creativity, and they had time to devote to preparation. There were organized activities for the children, but not many on the weekend and certainly not on Sundays. As a result, Sunday school classes were full and ample teachers available.
Very quickly, however, life changed. More women were working outside the home. There was less time for both mothers and fathers for volunteer activities. Household tasks had to fit into evenings and weekends. There was a significant increase in the variety of organized activities for children, and they had to be done in the evenings and on weekends when parents were available to volunteer. When Saturdays were full, activities moved to Sunday. Going to church was no longer a social norm. The Church was one good thing amongst many good things for children to do.
In response to these changes, dedicated church members worked hard to hold things together. Parents and other busy adults rotated through the year in teaching assignments. They struggled to make Sunday school and other children’s programs exciting, with high quality. This was hard to do with small numbers of children in classes. Leaders in children’s ministry felt they were losing in the competition with non-church programs, and with church programs in larger churches.
It's been rough, and we should express thanks to all who have been working in this area through these last decades. Alas, the situation hasn’t just been a problem for churches. It’s a problem for people, people who do not have a sense of God’s love and purpose for their lives. Our current generation of children, youth, and younger young adults have little connection with a life of faith, just 4%. Those who are connected are very committed. However, they are few in number relative to their peers.
We are having to think differently about how we are called to be in ministry with children today. I am grateful for the group that gathered in August to begin the process of reflecting on our ministry with children in this time. There are no easy or simple answers. There is, through, the power of God, and our faith in God to supply us with what we need for God’s ministry with children.
Several of our young adult parents have made a commitment to meet weekly to pray for children and our ministry with children. They are going to be still and pray for a season, and truly listen and look for God’s guidance to emerge. No one knows what will happen, but it will be good and right.
In the new year, we will reconvene the larger group and listen to what has been learned through prayer. We will then walk gently in a process of discernment for the shape and form of our ministry with children.
I invite any and all who share a passion for the faith of children to join in this season of prayer. You may join with others or pray on your own. It is all important and we will feel blessed through prayer.
Yours in Christ,
Cathy Morris, Pastor