It lightens my heart to see children participating in services more frequently these days.
More and more congregations are making church notices more available for children, with reflection spaces, hints and ideas for them to participate more fully within the service, some congregations are using more visual graphics to let children and non-official language speakers to know when to stand, sit, pray, sing etc. These are even occurring on screens, where they are being used.
Where we do seem to be failing our children and non-official language speakers is that the church documents and policies are not being given the same consideration.
Twice this week I became aware that we do not have appropriate resources to teach our children the important documents, not of our catholic faith, but of the documents that differentiate our understanding of faith practices from other denominations interpretations. Now, to be precise I am talking about the Uniting Church of Australia, but on a casual look around other denomination sites it seems we might not be the only one overlooking this teaching to our young.
I was lucky enough to pick the brains of a respected semi-retired minister and discovered that our denomination had a few great resources around the 1990’s, but these resources had not been maintained during the past quarter of a century. That’s a whole generation that have not been taught why we think the way we do and why we practice the way we do.
In some general conversations this week, I discovered that most people felt that this information should be available to our teens but few went as far as to suggest that we should have these resources available to our children.
This disappointed me, to know what differentiates the denominations is an important part of a child’s culture. Thus, having books that are age appropriate that talk about the history, or explain the Basis of Union, even our Baptismal or membership practices seem to be in short supply. An example of what I am trying to describe is one from the Wesleyan tradition called Gospel’s Story by Gary M. Best. There are some beautiful offerings for Children on sacraments etc at Paraclete Press.
Another issue, is that the documents that need to be available to the public, such as our CoVid safe policy, are written officially, very wordy, without letting either our children or those who struggle with the official language from feeling safe and understanding that we are following the legal guidelines. It takes very little to create a visual document that explains the formal verbose statements. (As a practice, I completed one using WORD and one using CANVA) Yet as I was informed this week, by someone on a Church Council “we are only doing this for legal reasons we don’t need to consider anything else”, no wonder children don’t feel welcome when they are not considered by those meant to be making the important decisions for the future of the church, their church.
To sum, up if we want to engage our children further, we need to have resources that share their denominational history in a way they can understand. To make everyone feel welcome we need to have documents in easy to understand language as well as legal versions.
I am writing this on Wurundjeri land and wish to pay respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.