The Corridor: June 2007

The Corridor

We are a church community committed to having an incarnational presence in the Washington/Baltimore Corridor.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Discipleship and our Children

I have been wrestling lately with trying to reconcile several threads of concepts that have strong implication for both my personal life and the church community we are planting. I am a father of three and most of our core group also have children so we regularly have a conversation that is common to both large and small church communities; “what do we do with our kids?” This question also has other interesting dynamics among those who find an affinity with the Emergent Church. What does discipleship of our children look like in a less programmatic/more organic structure, and a less propositional gospel/more kingdom living gospel message?

Our planting church community has brought many of these questions to the forefront as we look for ways of helping each other disciple our children. With this I found that these issues have with them a very interesting tension of approaches, especially between me and a few mothers that come from a strong churched background. I very much appreciate these advocates for our children’s spiritual growth because their love for our children and passion for this issue is helping us all give this topic the attention it deserves.

One struggle I have is accepting popular children’s programming of the modern church as discipleship. Sunday school is a long standing program and programs such as “Caravans” and “Awana’s seem to be thought of fondly by some of our parents as good models for children’s discipleship. I think Sunday School is too broadly defined to be considered a method because what is done during that time varies so much from church to church with the only constant being that they meet with children on Sunday. As for other children's programs like Caravans, when I had my children take part of an Awana’s program I was extremely disappointed in it. Do not misunderstand me, the program is executed extremely well (though the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are run far better), I just struggled to embrace a philosophy of compartmentalized spirituality and the promotion of a propositional gospel. Awana’s curriculum is based on memorizing very select scriptures that lays out the propositional elements to the “plan of salvation”. The thrust of these kinds program is designed to “disciple” children to assent to a particular belief system rather than to disciple children in a way of life. Being a disciple of Jesus is not about assenting to a particular belief, it is about following Jesus; and that is how I want to disciple my own children.

Here is the clincher in all of this for me; I feel like my wife and I disciple our children by walking beside them as parents and guiding them in living a good life. By this I mean that discipleship is played out with our children when we help them behave appropriately and love God and others. When our children have conflicts and struggles we are discipling them when we help them navigate through these things. As we follow Jesus as a family we help our children understand what it means to follow Jesus in the context of our every day lives and how we treat and love others. I do think that teaching about scripture and church community is important which is why I am thinking that some sort of catechism should be a part of the life of a local body; but this should only be supplemental to a lifestyle of discipleship and the discipling of our children.

I think the problem I am wrestling with is that in our consumer culture we are tempted to want a program to disciple our children for us. Combine this with the false idea that discipleship means just the indoctrination of the correct believes that we should assent to, and we are left with a very poor idea of what it means to disciple our children. So what can we do?

There are a few things I am thinking that we may do as a community. First I want to talk more with my core group about discipleship as a way of life as we follow Jesus and less about finding a program or curriculum. This conversation will also touch on how we as parents are discipling our children 24/7 and explore how we might help one another in this regard. The next thing I am thinking about is how we might disciple our children together as a community as a way to reinforce what we are doing as parents in our homes. I think part of this will include some type of catechism; even the most ancient of catechisms seem to be based on the asking of questions and leaning on pondering these kinds of questions may resonate with our post-modern sensibilities. The other part of corporate discipleship of our children should include a service aspect. I want our children to know that disciples of Jesus are the salt of the world and should make a difference to the world they live in.

I am still very much processing all this out in my own mind and our dialogue about this as a community is still very new. I do not feel that I have any real solid handle yet on how to go forward but I think I may be going in the right direction. The three things I am thinking about doing that I mentioned in my last paragraph needs fleshed out a whole lot more and there are probably are pieces I haven’t even thought of yet. I don’t know if what I wrote will make sense to anyone else but it did help me to write out some of what I have been thinking about on the topic. This is just the tip of the iceberg but being on this journey is what discipleship is all about; I just want to help our parents and our children in the journey of discipleship as well.