let the children come
“So you’re writing the curriculum each week as well?” the man asked me in disbelief. “How do you do all that?”
“well…i drink a lot of coffee…”
Which is true, but the deeper truth is we will always find the time for the things we are most passionate about. I am passionate about people knowing about Jesus, and kids are no exception. On the contrary, kids knowing Jesus is what gets me out of bed most mornings. (Especially once it gets cold outside.)
There are all kinds of numbers out there, but suffice it to say that an overwhelming majority of people who end up following Jesus decide to do so before they graduate from high school.
Also worth noting is that many walk away from the church in college.
There are all sorts of ideas on why this happens, but here is my thought: kids walk away from God, because we rarely show them who God really is.
I’ve seen my fair share of children’s Bibles and Sunday School curriculum – and was brought up under some of them myself. By and large, they disgust me.
The story of Noah escaping God’s wrath? Clearly, it’s about how to care for your pets. Come on! All those cute, little animals that came two by two? Animal care is obviously in the hermeneutic.
The Prophets? Other than maybe some selections from Elijah’s and Elisha’s day, not important. Until you’re in middle and high school anyway, then we will pull Jeremiah out of context to help you remember that God has a wonderful plan for your life.
And the New Testament? Ends after Jesus ascends, duh. Maybe we can talk about Pentacost, and maybe we can talk about the fruit of the Spirit (because kids like fruit). But that’s all. Paul is too confusing.
I think kids walk away from the church when they get out into the real world because we have failed to show them a real God.
In the name of protecting their innocence, we have sanitized the Scripture and shamed the children who dare to ask deeper questions.
We have raped the Gospel for the purpose of teaching our children to be good Americans, voiding its power and all but extinguishing its flame.
We have made God into a friendly, comforting Papa whom children can pray to about monsters under their bed, but have failed to show them God’s mystery and magnitude.
And when they are confronted with other beliefs, with the harsh realities of this world, with a society that scoffs at the God we have created for them, they leave.
“I want the kids to know and see Jesus for who He is with as little of an American lens as I can give them. I want the to see just God, and nothing else.”
I want them to see the ugly. The God stories that I don’t even like. Harsh judgements and warfare in the Old Testament.
Because it’s part of God’s story.
I want them to see the weird and the hard to understand. Like Ezekiel dancing with dry bones or Hosea marrying a woman who would cheat on him repeatedly.
Because it’s part of God’s story.
I want them to understand that when Jesus said to sell all you have and give it to the poor, that He meant it. He didn’t just want the peoples extra cans of green beans.
I want them to love God far more…
Love others far more…
Sacrifice far more for the Kingdom than I can even begin to imagine.
Because they are part of God’s continuing story.
it is an insult to the Spirit when we dumb down and sanitize the Gospel “for the sake of the kids.”
Children are born with hearts that believe passionately, that are fervent and wild. And what do we do? In the name of Jesus, we tame them. We quiet their questions instead of helping them learn to wrestle. We hand them a storybook, rather than a Bible. We leave it to a lesson plan or a bunch of animated vegetables to show them who God is, and fail to show them with our lives.
We make God small, so that God is on “their level” rather than trusting that the Holy Spirit could be at work even in the heart of a child.
And in my experience, perhaps even especially so.