Kids in Emerging Church

“. . . in a postmodern context we still think primarily about young adults and I wonder if we aren’t on the verge of missing the next generation.” From Shannon’s blog posting about “Girl Talk”

Actually, some of the girls who were sleeping over at Shannons loft, and staying up really late talking about girl things, were my daughters. They had a great time. They felt honored, grown up, listened to, and gained much from the experience.
Tim Bednar has an excellent comment (perhaps one of the best comments i have every received) in which he says re: emerging church . . . “It also has little or nothing written about how children and teens fit into the emergent church. Or how parents ought to disciple their kids.”
Its true that this is still a big issue for us. Some of the early alt. worship churches (Late Late Service in Glasgow) also found it a difficult challenge.
We have tried to be an “apostolic family” and minister as a family. This is not something that Seminary trained us to do. DUH! We try to travel as a family for a few months of the year so that my wife and our kids can be a stronger part of what we do as a family. We used to travel full time when we had an RV in USA. But when we are at home, we do the best we can and we are still trying to find a way forward. Sometimes we tap into the youth groups of traditional churches and sometimes we do our own thing at home.
but having Shannon offer to do a girls night was fantastic.
Samuel was 7 years old when he helped design our multimedia rave labyrinth called “Ecclesia”, which we did in Austin in 1999. Part of the event was the Peach Rave, based on James and the Giant Peach, and the idea of heaven being ” a city that we long for, very far away”. We asked him about what heaven would be like and he said we would be jumping up and down on mattresses and grabbing candy that was hanging down. So we brought in mattresses and hung up peach candies. We also used peach flavored fog in the fog machines and peach soda, and a peach hallway that you had to crawl through to enter – becoming like a child to enter the Kingdom of God. It was a cool event and it was great to see Samuel standing at the entrance – a 7 year old RaveMeister!
But on a more down to earth basis, our kids are very much involved in whatever we do (except when dad preaches in traditional settings) and sometimes they are at the forefront.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • darren says:

    You’re right, its interesting listening to stories from communities that used to consist of peimarily young adults suddenly dealing with children…
    this’d be a new thing for many young adults in the emerging church area and it’d also be a frightening experience.
    theres a group in adelaide who meet on the third sunday each month to go for a walk through a conservation park or along the beach.
    the kids run ahead, make noise, fall over, the parents tend to each others childrens needs, and then to each others needs.
    somewhere along the walk they stop and share a story, or a poem, or a letter. a child reads the story of the last supper from a picture book, another prayer is said and they eat the meal in that space.
    a blessing is said and the walk continues.
    bringing up children in a church without walls… its a beautiful experience to be a part of that community.

  • brad says:

    Two quotes I go back to frequently on the subject of next generations:
    “You can’t tell kids in Sunday School to sit down and shut up, but all the sudden at age 18 they’re supposed to get out and go tell.” Linda Wolf, on the subject of missions with middle-schoolers.
    “In the long run, what counts is how the next generation thinks. How far new ideas permeate culture is not measured just by attitude change during one generation, but by what is taken for granted in the next.” Helen Haste, in the book, *The Sexual Metaphor,* talking about the impact of feminism.
    In my attempts to help churches that are transitioning from traditional to survival, I encourage them to think in terms of 100 years. (That’s probably no big deal for many of us in the “emergent layer” or the “farther beyond layer” of post-postmodern cultures. But it’s usually an eye-opening thought for many in the traditional/residual layer.”) The “kids” in pre-school today could be leading church-planting teams or participate in intergenerational apostolic teams as teen-/twenty-somethings in not-so-many tomorrows from now. Why shouldn’t “strategic plans” include the reality of our discipleship-community’s kids?
    Also, since (the exceptionally post-postmodern) Marin County where I used to live reputedly has the smallest percentage of disciples of anywhere in the U.S. (less than Taiwan or Hong Kong even), I’ve seen where the (very few) healthier churches around there are generally those started 50 years ago or less AND where there is a second-generation of the kids-now-adults who have stayed put and assumed leadership roles. How else are we going to raise a generation of disciples who are truly indigenous to postmodern cultures to reach our communities through plowing, sowing, and watering for a sustainable long term, unless we help them see as they grow up what possibilities they have in who God has made them to be and how that could in with the places we’ve planted ourselves? It makes a whole lot more sense to raise up the next generations of disciplers from inside our own families as we plant ourselves somewhere, perhaps for our lifetime, than to expect people who are outsiders to the local cultures to come in and plant “successful” churches when they generally have no skills for contextualization and no strategies for sustainable missions.
    If you want a *fascinating* case study for what it means to be parents who expect to change the world as a family and who therefore raise their children for a world that does not yet exist, take some time to read up on Eliezer ben Yehuda …

  • Tim Bednar says:

    I am a former children’s pastor (nine years working with inner city kids in Minneapolis) and my wife is a marriage and family therapist. We are new parents (daughter 13 months) and our little church in Uptown now probably has as many kids under 3 as adults.
    We have been more and more aware that as we have separated ourselves from traditional churches–we also have NO PLAN, NO PROCESS to hold us accountable for discipling our kids.
    Rebecca and I have kicked around some ideas for writing a things for parents and kids regarding spiritual formation, but it is a huge undertaking. It is complicated also by the fact that the emergent church has so many different forms including house churches and meeting in pubs. We sorta decided to just worry about our church and our kids. We had a hard time trying to conceptualize something that could help churches, help parents “disciple” their kids.
    I used to write comic stories for a web site called Kidzweb (it no longer exists). I’m wondering if there would be any interest in a new web site dedicated to raising kids in the emergent church?
    I’m not sure what I’m saying or why I’m saying this here. Maybe I should write something at my own blog….

  • Andrew says:

    too late Tim . . . you are already totally committed to doing this.
    We will hold you accountable/check on your progress.
    Let us know what we can do to help you get this web site up. We have 5 kids and are totally ready for an internet resource that will help.

  • will says:

    I think the emerging church has got to become more complete, and that will involve things like Tim’s idea, which I think is great. There also is a sense, though, in which we need to figure out how do that at the local level. Maybe the best resource would be more about innovative concepts that can help spark each church on creatively, rather than pre-packaged material? I also think that this is some place where we can be informed by the catechisms. I am not suggesting that we all break out our Westminster Confessions, but for many years churches found in the catechisms a structure for educating children that we would do well to review as we consider this question.

  • Daniel says:

    I am pleased that someone finally mentioned the roll of children in the emerging church. For years my wife and I have searched for some discussion on the subject, but to no avail. I hope that the church never overlooks our children in the overall plan of God. Children learn and emerge so much easier than hard headed adults do. For most of us we were adults before we joined the emerging church conversation. Imagine what a child could come up with if they joined it early on. (hopefully it would not be as painful for my children as it was and is for my wife and I) Simply introducing children to God begins an emergence that could thrust christianity to the forefront of culture. I hope the conversation grows.

  • Tim Bednar says:

    Okay, here is what I’m thinking. We start a web ministry, but it is not the guru type where we tell people how to parent kids in the emergent church. I’m thinking that we’ll need a blog (or many microblogs) where we can freely discuss parenting, families, moms, dads, (partners), kids, babys, teens, singleness, sex, etc.
    Here we can try and formulate a how one should parent their kids for spiritual formation. We need to look beyond just what we’ve considered emergent to anyone looking for an alternative to mainstream family/children’s ministry. We also need to make sure we address all kinds of family structures, even if we agree to disagree about gay marriage.
    This blog will help us find the people who need to be encouraged to write for the rest of us–we’ll then publish a mag like Next Wave monthly.
    I also would like to try and create content just for kids also?
    Then we need to have a create a directory of families/churches that are doing family spiritual formation. This will be a subscriber service; call it a intranet for emergent families. It would be great if we could figure out a simple MeetUp kinda thing where families could do play dates, etc. That might be a long commute from Minneapolis to London. The would encourage peer to peer parenting helps. We also could provide technical resources to help local churches provide online tools for their families to use to connect? Well need to localize this as much as possible.
    We also will need a knowledgebase created by practitioners about theory, things they do and teach. Like the small fire alt worship site? This will be searchable and open source. Think of this like the early days of the Ooze or Jordon Coopers old lists of pomo resources. Just totally searchable and syndicated, etc.
    We then will need to find ‘guru-types’ that can synthesize this material and produce products (not sure what these would be) for families and churches. WHY? We can not expect existing church programs to embrace emergence unless we give them some kind of map. I looked at Solomon’s Porch kids page–they actually have something for kids. But I still see practictioners needed resources made for them–not just adapting or flying by the seat of the pants. I know that its like to write a lesson plan every week for kids–its exhausting and over time your passion diminishes. The cool thing is that this could really bring a global approaching into our churches–maybe that would be cool. I know kids would dig having pen pals in London or Australia.
    Another need will be to elevate those who work with kids and teens in terms of visibility and respect. Children’s workers are usually taken for granted and patted on the head a lot when in “big church” settings. The emergent church can not let that happen. To be honest, this is one reason why the best and brightest out of seminary do not work with kids.
    Do this will test the emergent church? Deciding what to do with your kids betrays who you really are? Are you really as hip and emergent as you think you are? If you are convinced that this where God is taking us, then we need to step up and figure out how to apply it to our kids.
    What I’m saying is that it is easy to be all postmodern and stuff when your sitting in a pub talking about God–but we need to take those same ideas and apply it to my 13 month old daughter. We’ll see how emergent we all really are. Or like your first post asked, when will we emerge?
    This might be really cool. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

  • Michelle says:

    Just a thought, but perhaps we should let the kids lead us more. Faith of a child, etc, you know. They seem to come up with the coolest God-connecting ideas anyway, and haven’t had our years of “conditioning” to religion. We could learn a lot from how they see God, how they make a connection to Him and how they see the world we live in. In fact, I think I’ll put my son in charge of our God-time this week and see what happens!

  • Interesting blog entry as well as follow-up posts. I’m a little late posting here and have never posted here before (although I’ve been reading tallskinnykiwi’s writings since 2002), but thought I’d attempt to contribute anyway… How do children factor into emerging church? I can’t speak for the emerging church, but for myself and my family, children have factored in for years. My personal opinion is that children simply be included within the larger context. I am fairly opposed to most segregation by age. My family tries to do much of life as a family. Whether that be “official ministry” type stuff, tae kwon do, or being with my oldest child during cancer treatments or most anything else. I lean strongly towards discipleship being “caught more than taught” and living life together does that. We started this direction years ago. For example, we were in an institutional church when our first child (we have 5 at present) was born. We chose not to place our young son in the nursery during Sunday School and the “Service” and instead brought him with us. I am so glad we made that decision back then even though it went in opposition to what was expected. I am a better man today because of that choice.
    Is it always easy to have the children integrated rather than seperated? No, especially not in a culture that “values” children by sending them away to be taken care of out of sight (and out of mind). It is not alway easy but that is not terribly relevant. It is a way to invest our lives in others and to put the needs of other before ourselves. On the positive side, it is much easier to keep children and adults together in some ways. Some problems and concerns in more institutional segregated methods of church/children’s discipleship/caring for children are not even issues at all when staying together.
    Perhaps it is more important for adults to be with children than vice-versa? We adults need the freestyle of children and the “interuptions” and noise they sometimes bring to remind us adults that what we have to say and do is not necessarily “so important” that it can’t wait or be modified. Our Lord points us to children in relation to the kingdom of heaven (and as blessings)– we should probably pay attention to them.
    Well, I’ve rambled long enough. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

  • Cassie Biggin says:

    Hi, I’ve been running an emergent congregation (part of an anglican church) for just over 2 years now. We’ve got almost as many kids as adults, and are passionate about exploring ways to do church together, and in separately in smaller groups. I’ve learnt so much, and love the ride, but at times it’s been lonely, especially when I’ve completely run out of inspiration and people to discuss it all with.
    The thing is, the times you have a bunch of people – mums, dads, grannys, kids, christians, god-fearers, sceptics etc – sitting around sharing a story from the Bible, offering thoughts and eating together, those are the times that you know without doubt that you wouldn’t trade the mess and heartache for an easier experience of church. Or when you have a bunch or 10 year old boys in your kitchen trying to organise themselves as a cell-group whilst trading Yu gi oh cards, but then hear them pray the most honest prayers for each other, again, it’s more than worth the banging headache! We have to keep exploring, cos we’ve only scratched the surface. Cassie

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