Wednesday, August 20, 2014

From Patheos: Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church

Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church

About 40 years ago a profound shift took place in many Christian congregations across the country…for all the right reasons…with one troubling unintended consequence:

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, my generation, Baby Boomers, rebelled against the “institutional church” just as we did with every other institution our parents built/supported.  We rebelled by dropping out: 2/3rds of my generation dropped out of church.  In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, innovative pastors and congregations of all sizes and denominations looked for ways to draw Boomers back to church.  They began to create worship experiences based on the unique “personality” of the Boomer generation. These churches went “contemporary,” “seeker,” and/or “seeker-friendly.”  Because these were the primary parenting years for Boomers, these congregations recognized the need to not only provide Boomer-friendly worship experiences for adults, but the need to create dynamic experiences for their children as well, knowing that if the kids wanted to come back, the parents were more likely to come back.  XX Sunday Morning-p7 dk

So began a shift from kids worshipping 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.  In other words, kids and parents were separated from each other, having different Sunday experiences.

Again, the reasons were right…or so we thought.  Because these new Boomer services had a sense of evangelism about them (trying to win Boomers back to the church) we didn’t want anything to interrupt their focus…like squirming or crying or screaming kids. Church leaders sensed that Boomer parents wanted the one hour break from their kids—that they wanted to focus on their own spiritual life for an hour away from the distraction of their children.  And, again, we assumed, reasonably so, that worship targeted to adult boomers would not be all that engaging for kids.  So dynamic Sunday school programs were created to engage the kids at their level in their language while their parents were in worship.  In fact, some churches didn’t (and don’t) allow kids into big people worship at all.

The result: Many of these innovated congregations had a positive, significant impact on the lives of disenfranchised Boomers and their kids.  Many saw their congregations and their children’s ministries grow exponentially.  The evangelism imperative to reconnect with Boomers seemed to work.
But there was (and is) one huge unintended consequence:  We have raised the largest unchurched generation in the history of our country.

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