Ok, let’s be honest, Alex is behind the curve again. I didn’t hear about this Andy Stanley calling small church people “so stinkin’ selfish” or something like that until today. Understandably, all of the videos I tried to hunt down have been removed by North Point Ministries. Since the video went viral and generated so much vitriol on social media, Stanley has apologized stating that “even [he] was offended.”
First of all, Andy Stanley is a human being. He also makes mistakes, like the rest of us, and as Christians we should forgive and let go. (And, really, the high pedestal we put ministers on crushes more of them than it helps. Another topic, another day.) He’s already going to have to live with that statement for a while and has lost credibility with many that looked up to him. The least we can do is try to understand where his mind was. As I mentioned in a previous post, being happy that a successful church made a mistake is about as un-Christ-like as it gets. We are better than this as God’s children.
Secondly, he has a point. The point he was trying to make is that children need a healthy environment with other children to help them along in their journey with Jesus. Sure, we often like to cite the fact of “where two or three are gathered,” but try asking a child if they’d invite a friend to a 3 person party. Then ask if they’d be willing to be the new person at a 3 person party. Does that shed some clarity?
The church where I currently serve and worship has been my church home for nearly 14 years now. I grew up here. Much of my Christian formation was here. My youth minister from that time is a big part of why I decided ministry was where God was leading me. (Trust me, very few choose ministry – it chooses them. It’s a scary position – read Jesus and Paul talking about a teacher’s role.)
The reason my family stayed at this church? My brother and I. We were 4 and 10 respectively and we immediately fell in love with the other kids and the leaders in our groups. While we were visiting churches, both of us would beg to go back to this church because experiencing Jesus was fun and engaging.
The point I want to make is this: your church home will be a part of shaping how your children grow and develop as disciples. If your church is not equipping you and your children for faith development – ask your leaders about it and get something started. If you feel strongly about it, you may have to be the one to create children’s programs. You may be the one to ask for space for a nursery, or for children’s rooms. You may need to be the one to find volunteers and invite parents. As a very, very final last resort, after everything else has failed – if the leaders don’t act, maybe it’s time to find a church that considers children a priority. (I’m very biased as a children’s minister as to the importance of Children’s Ministry, which means that as I write this I am keenly aware of what these statements mean for myself and my team.)
Can smaller churches provide the kind of environment where children can thrive? Of course. Can they do it with excellence? Of course. Does it take effort, time, and dependence on God? A thousand times yes. Could you be the one to lead the charge? It’s very possible.
I am not advocating that you leave the family that you worship with each Sunday. I am not advocating that you find your nearest mega church and be overwhelmed.
I am, simply, asking you to evaluate your church family. I am asking you to fight for your church family and challenge the leaders to step up to the issues facing kids, preteens, and teenagers – if they haven’t started already. I am asking you to think, love, and act like Jesus when it comes to bringing about needed change.
And if you’re church-hopping right now… maybe take some time and listen to where your children want to go.