A few years ago I helped plan and deliver a conference for the URC in Sussex. We gathered at Pilgrim Hall, a fantastic venue in the middle of the Sussex countryside. Our theme was a familiar one, (at least for readers of this blog), “Household of Faith” . . .
As a starting point for our planning we referred often to the URC Charter for Children. This was created, many years ago, and continues to this day to be a prophetic and challenging statement of intent. In many places, even where churches totally agree with the charter, it remains aspirational.
I wonder how it speaks to us today in the midst of Covid?
Here it is,
- Children are equal partners with adults in the life of the church.
- The full diet of Christian worship is for children as well as adults.
- Learning is for the whole church, adults and children.
- Fellowship is for all – each belonging meaningfully to the rest.
- Service is for children to give, as well as adults.
- The call to evangelism comes to all God’s people of whatever age.
- The Holy Spirit speaks powerfully through children as well as adults.
- The discovery and development of gifts in children and adults is a key function of the church.
- As a church community we must learn to do only those things in separate age groups which we cannot in all conscience do together.
- The concept of the “priesthood of all believers” includes children.
A key question for me now is – what does this look like in the home? The charter was written assuming and expecting the body of Christ – represented by a local congregation – to work this out together in community. Despite (as I write) some restrictions being lifted in relation to churches being open for prayer and maybe as many as 30 people being able to gather for worship on a Sunday – we are mostly going to remain at home – zooming in to church or Facebook live or Youtube.
Can we put these statements in to practice in the home environment?
Take a couple of them – “The Holy Spirit speaks powerfully through children as well as adults.” I think it was John Leech who said,
Children do not receive a baby or junior version
of the Holy Spirit – it’s the same Holy Spirit!
There are a whole bunch of instances in scripture of children responding to God speaking to them or stirring their hearts to action. Naaman’s slave girl; Samuel; David; Josiah. As we participate more together, as our services are a more collaborative effort – what are we expecting our children to contribute?
If our children have the same Holy Spirit and love and follow Jesus – what can they not do through His power? The challenge for us in our homes is to create space and opportunity for our children to bring what God is saying to them.
Here is another of those statements, “As a church community we must learn to do only those things in separate age groups which we cannot in all conscience do together.”
Right now, and for the foreseeable future, “church” isn’t in separate age groups – at least, worship as it is streamed to us is an “all in” thing. Or is it? Do we frame our welcome, our worship songs, our preach and our notices to the whole church family that are engaging online? I’m not sure we do . . .
There might be some activities on the side, or highlighted afterwards on our church website that children and young people can do. As we are all tuning in together, why not the same for the adults! What if – every talk was an all age talk? Accessible to all, recognising the diversity of who is watching. In normal circumstances you would look out on a congregation, see that more than half of those present were children, and – if not going out to groups – you’d have a responsibility to “pitch” your talk for everyone.
No, pitching your talk for everyone isn’t easy – but this should be the default if we are attending online in our family groups.
We are an intergenerational church online – it would be so awesome if we didn’t simply try to replicate our “off line” groups and activities for an online audience. What if – I mean, what IF we collaborated more across the generations? What would children and young people notice and want to share, talk about, create – would we have the humility as adults to just see where it goes and join in? Could we make something beautiful together if we gave space and opportunity for younger generations to lead us . . .
This classic BIG clip gives a glimpse of what is possible 🙂