Last month I wrote my first blog post on our current church search, so this is just a continuation of that. In the past eight weeks (five in January and three in February) we’ve visited a couple of different churches, each with some great points and each with concerns that either Melissa or I have. We know we will never find the perfect church, and that’s okay, but we’re looking for the right church.
One of the advantages, if you can call it that, of this journey is that it’s really causing us to think and talk about what it is we want in a church, what we need in a church, and what a church should be. Since we have two little girls we’re obviously spending time looking at the children’s ministry programs, trying to make sure that where ever we land it will be the right church for our family, not just for us as parents.
One of the really important things for us is to find a church that not only allows but welcomes kids in the service. We’re not looking to have them with us the entire time, because once the sermon starts we want them to have the opportunity to hear the Word at an age-appropriate level. Why do we want them in the service? A couple of reasons… First, so that they can learn to participate in a service and understand how adults (since they will one day be one!) “do church”. Second, because we want them to see that we place a high value on attending worship and participating in the service. If their experience is limited to what they see in children’s church they won’t see the big picture.
On a similar note, we appreciate finding out what the girls are learning in the children’s time. At one of the church’s we attended when we pickup the girls we are given a sheet with a summary of what the teachers covered, as well as follow-up questions we can ask to reinforce the lesson. It makes us feel like we are involved with what the girls are learning in their teaching time even though we are not there with them.
Another important thing we’re looking at is the entire philosophy that runs through the kids’ ministry. Recently we attended a visitor’s luncheon at one of the churches we’re considering and the director of the children’s ministry got up and spoke for a few minutes – and what he said has profoundly impacted me and caused me to really consider children’s ministry in a new light. He said the focus of their “program” was to show kids that they could have a real, authentic, personal relationship with Jesus – it wasn’t “just for the adults”.
It was the fact that he verbalized it exactly that way they made such an impression on me. Both our girls are involved in some great programs, and I really like the programs they are involved in, but at times I feel like the programs focus more on transferring head knowledge than building an authentic relationship than with the creator of the universe and the one who can be their personal savior. Now I’m not saying that memorizing Bible verses is a waste of time and learning scripture stories isn’t important – it is – what I’m saying is if that’s the limit of what a kids program is then there’s something missing.
All this to say that the children’s ministry at a church is a very important component of our church search… We’re not trying to allow our kids to pick our church for us, but we want them to have a say in it because we are looking for a church to attend as a family, so that means every member of the family needs to get a say (even if there’s still someone who gets veto power :)) We also are taking our responsibility to direct the spiritual development of our girls seriously – and, ultimately, we’re looking for a church to partner with us as we raise our girls, we’re not looking for a church to delegate it to (and that’s a major difference)