There is a lot of discussion going on lately in response to Kara Powell’s discussion on the “kid’s table” concept of ministry. She makes a compelling argument for families being together, across ages, to worship and serve. You can read more about her thoughts here. Then, Jonathan McKee posted a follow-up on Doug Fields blog that you can read here. Obviously, I agree with both of them. I do believe that we need to get parents serving, worshiping, and learning with their kids more. That’s the drive behind the Orange philosophy, for which I am a HUGE proponent.
Here is my challenge. We need to do both/and. I have a concern that we will, in typical Western church fashion, make a poorly thought out swing in the far direction, and begin to demonize the kid’s table in its entirety. I know that is not what Kara is saying, nor do I believe it’s what Jonathan or Doug are advocating. They would never say that. But, we have a tendency to swing the pendulum too far, looking for a quick fix. That is not what we need right now.
We need to continue on with the programs that we are running, with the opportunities for students to gather on their own, and grow. Socially, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually these events/meetings/trips/groups have merit. Students need a time to process on their own. We can’t eliminate these events in our current culture and see students drawn in. If we do, it mandates that we only draw students whose families are already engaged in the life of the church. The “kids table” discussion only covers a small percentage of the students most of us work with. It is a relevant conversation about students who have families engaged in faith and the church congregation. But many of us also reach students who are missional in their own homes, and whose only faith support is the “kid’s table”. To do away with these opportunities will greatly hinder our ability to reach these students.
I think our challenge is how do we not relegate every kid to the kids table? How do we create intentional paths that flow in both directions, so that we allow students to move to the adult table and worship with their parents, serve with their families, grow with those they are related to AND create a path for adults to engage with students outside of ministry. (This too is a message of Kara Powell and FYI). We need to keep doing many of the healthy ministries with students, and become bridge builders to our congregations as well as to our families outside the church.
The trick is that many of us did NOT sign up for this calling. We want to work with students, and maybe the adults who like students. But to have this piece of ministry be only 1/3 of our role, that’s a startling thought. What if we see our roles as 1/3 to the students, 1/3 to parents in the church, and 1/3 to parents outside the church? (Obviously, you can divide that differently depending on your setting, but you get the idea). What if we understand that the parents who never attend church have as much or more spiritual influence on students than we do as ministers? (They do, by the way.)
I love the conversations that are going on right now. Please, let’s just be mature enough to avoid jumping too fast to the newest thing. Let’s act with wisdom and discernment. We have such a great opportunity for ministry in our hands. Let’s maximize it.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.