During the week, I had the good fortune to attended a local preaching conference.It was well run, had great speakers, motivated us and was an absolute delight to participate in. I should have been on the other side of the world, but as these things happen the fires that are heavily affecting two countries, America and Australia, put paid to business/social plans and so I was able to attend this instead. And I was excited, still am, but there was one thing, that niggles at me for the two days, this conference, for Ministers of the Word, assumed that their audience was over 18 years of age, understood English, and were educated to Tertiary level at a time when listening and contemplation were necessary skills for learning.
It did throw a nod to the mentally ill, first generation Australians, and a brief reference by one of the key note speakers to the fact that there is only one reference to mass gatherings and preaching while most other references of Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels was through stories and small group discussions.
Given that the convener was an ex-teacher and Chaplain at that, I was surprised by this oversight. I found the response that it was the responsibility of another department of the Church, unsatisfying. It perpetuates the idea that children are not part of ministry. Yet if we take the view that Preaching is more than the sermon, the whole construct of the service, children are still present for a third of the time in a traditional format, ie leaving through the service to attend Sunday School. These little jugs have ears, they see, hear, feel, even if the ecclesiastical arguments are beyond them. Failing to include the worshipping child in a conference on Preaching is an oversight, a mistake of history, but one that could so easily be addressed. Is it really, too hard to invite the presence of another department? Aren’t we in the business of integration!
And it is not just an issue with this conference, I spoke to some of our Minister’s that had attended an American Preaching conference earlier in the year, not one, recounted in their experience of the example of preaching with children.
Until the walls come down between child learning and faith formation, and adult worship the divide that exists between children and adults in the worshipping community will continue, while we still see that it is not important to give our best leaders to the children, we are not being true to Matthew 18: 1-5. We can do better, it takes a bit of thought and effort, but we are really close, if we just think a bit more broadly.