“History behind the PrayGround.....
About 40 years ago a profound shift took place in many congregations... for all the right reasons... with one troubling and unintended consequence:
The shift: Kids worshiping with the big people for one hour followed by all ages attending a second hour of Sunday School, to churches creating Sunday School experiences for kids that ran concurrently with their parents’ worship service.
The consequence: While many adults enjoyed a worship experience “uninterrupted” by children’s voices and wiggles, and children’s ministries grew... one HUGE unintended consequence was that we raised a large unchurched generation.
As we shifted kids out of the main worship experience, en-culturated them in their own program, and robbed them of any touch points with the rest of the body of Christ we also segregated our kids out of worship and we never assimilated them into the life of the congregation. They had no touch points. They had no experience. They had no connection with the main worship service-its liturgy, its music, its space, its environment, and its adults. It was a foreign place to them. And so...once they finished with the kids/or youth program, they left the church- for good!
With good intentions we attempted to raise kids to be Christians, but we didn’t raise them to be Churched Christians. And perhaps that, in part, is why so few of them attend a church today. We’ve essentially “Sunday-Schooled” them out of church-because we never assimilated them into church. We never “church-broke” them.
I remember worshiping alongside my parents- sitting in the pews, passing Lifesavers (my dad always had Lifesavers in his pockets to share!). But I also remember passing the plate and watching my parents give, I remember sharing communion, I remember being part of the body.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” What does it look like in the 21st Century to be a church that belongs to such as these kids? What does it look like to be a church that makes children the priority of the Kingdom? That raises them to be “Churched Christians?” What does it mean that all of us are the Body of Christ together?
It may be an upstream challenge. Many of our churches are used to separating the kids from the adults and having squirming, squealing kids may dramatically change the worship dynamic. Many parents want their kids in Sunday School during worship and may even demand it...or will leave to attend a church that does so. But what is our ultimate call? To create programs? Or to raise disciples (i.e., followers of Jesus committed to his church and his world)? And what might that calling to raise “churched” disciples look like? I think it looks like the Children’s PrayGround - a welcoming space for our families to worship together. Let’s give this a try!!