Let the little children what?

It is unfortunate that my Bible trivia game opted for a memory blank in this spot:   “Let the little ________  come unto me.”  (One tends to insert “blankety-blanks” if one is not at one’s best and has urchins or brats in one’s mind.)  The game is otherwise pretty well-constructed.

Children are important, obviously.  Four years ago, I wrote a letter to the Christian Chronicle, stimulated by the previous month’s editorial about training and young boys to lead in the assembly.  It was not that anything terribly unseemly had occurred in my personal experience, although I had witnessed few child exploitations in the name of getting kids involved.

My purpose in the letter (below) was to emphasize the responsibility of public leadership.  I would now say things a little differently, at least adding that public leadership is in view too much on Sunday mornings.  If we were a bit less official and leader-y, there would be less need for such child “training,” not to mention fewer opportunities for disagreement over a-biblical concerns.

As long as we have pulpits and microphones and pews and audiences, I suppose we do need some training, but I think there are better venues for experimentation and experience than in the full assembly.  Sometimes I’ve thought a certain congregation was more interested in saying, “Awww, isn’t little Trey cute up there?” or “Mikey has a squeaky soprano voice … har, har” than in hearing the voice of God in scripture or in singing heartfully to each other or to the Lord . . . while Trey reads or Mikey sings.  See what you think.

The April Chronicle’s editorial suggested in its conclusion that young people be involved in assembly leadership roles.  Gifted, interested young people should indeed be encouraged in this type of work, but not at the expense of the quality of the assembly’s activities.  No person should be leading publicly if he cannot really lead, unless there are no other options in the congregation.

If an individual is typically unable to connect one thought to the next, and if he struggles to pronounce words in succession, he is not a good choice for congregational readings which are, after all, designed to communicate, not merely to fulfill an obligation to mutter.  The purpose is to convey the message of the Lord, not to perform or to have some reason to compliment John or little Tommy on his improvement since last time he stammered through a reading.

There may be a time and place for children to read scripture publicly, but not when we really need to hear the message of the reading.  I also recommend reserving the lengthier passages for the more experienced, fluent readers.  The assembly should engage us with deeper things than the adorable 8‑year-old all dressed up with that cute little necktie on.

Yes, our congregations are Christian families, and we can surely provide some avenues for our little boys to practice leading in these ways (at home, at least!).  But simply because our model—not a biblical model—presumes that all immersed men should be public leaders in the assembly does not mean we need to move little boys into significant assembly roles before they are mature enough to do so effectively.

I find more flagrant issues with inept, apathetic adult readers than with child readers.  If I’ve heard scripture read 3,000 times in Sunday assemblies, it’s probably been purposeful reading on maybe 100 of those 3,000 occasions.  3% is not good enough, and it is the adults who are wholly to blame.

What we ought, then, to emphasize is effective leadership — whether with training of young men, or with the redirection of older men into other areas of service if they are not cut out to be public leaders.

Let the little children lead songs or read scripture from the mic?  Maybe, with some limits.  But letting non-leader adults lead from the microphone?  If they don’t do that sort of thing well, I don’t see the point, and it’s not cute anymore.

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12 thoughts on “Let the little children what?

  1. godschildrenorg 04/12/2014 / 1:42 pm

    Well said! Dan and Durwood Pickle co-taught the young single professionals class in the 70’s. They mentored shy young men and helped many grow into fine leaders. They started them off by asking them in advance to read a short scripture in front of the class. Next, when the young men were “ready,” they were asked in advance to lead a prayer in class. The 3rd step was to have them teach one class session…when Dan and Durwood could see and hear that each young man was ready. (And, a by-product of that was…when the young women in class saw these young men growing in the Lord…well, maybe they were also growing in self confidence and courage…we had 6 or 7 weddings…and they are all still married today!)

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    • Brian Casey 04/12/2014 / 1:57 pm

      My memories of Dan lead me to think that he was likely simply excellent in this role with young boys. (Forgive the reference, but I’m sure Bro. Pickle has a new legacy in Veggie Tales. Was he like Larry the Cucumber in personality?) 🙂 I like the progression these men uses — “when they were ready,” next step.

      On Sat, Apr 12, 2014 at 1:42 PM, NT Christianity wrote:

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    • godschildrenorg 04/12/2014 / 2:15 pm

      Durwood and Elizabeth Pickle — amazing, kind, intelligent, fun, fun, fun, devoted Intentional Followers of Christ. As a couple, they mentored countless young adults. Part of the legacy they left for this earth are two amazing sons. Now, as to comparing Durwood to Larry the Cucumber in Veggie Tales…you’ll have to decide for yourself. An architect by profession, he designed amazing buildings, retired early to become a gifted landscape artist. An example of his well rounded personality — for one of Dan’s birthdays, Durwood arrived for the party with his trumpet in hand, stood on our front porch in North Dallas and played, “Happy Birthday!”

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    • Brian Casey 04/13/2014 / 4:50 pm

      They sound like wonderful folks!!

      On Sat, Apr 12, 2014 at 2:15 PM, NT Christianity wrote:

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  2. godschildrenorg 04/12/2014 / 1:49 pm

    Brian, have you read PAGAN CHRISTIANITY?: EXPLORING THE ROOTS OF OUR CHURCH PRACTICES, by Frank Viola and George Barna? I’m taking a look inside the book on amazon.com. Interesting material.

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    • Brian Casey 04/12/2014 / 1:55 pm

      Oh, my — that title does sound intriguing!! I have read another book by Viola and Sweet and tend to appreciate Viola a lot.

      On Sat, Apr 12, 2014 at 1:49 PM, NT Christianity wrote:

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  3. Gary D. Collier 04/16/2014 / 4:12 am

    Good thoughts Brian. Thanks for sharing. One thing please. Tell all the readers, young or old: there are no chapters in Psalms.

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    • godschildrenorg 04/16/2014 / 5:20 am

      Well, Gary, I imagine lots of people know there are no chapters, Maybe not. What about punctuation marks, or words that today begin with a capital letter? I heard a lesson in which the very capable minister stressed that rejoice was written in caps the second time in this verse, Phil. 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

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    • Gary D. Collier 04/16/2014 / 6:03 am

      Well, whatever your name is, you can imagine it all you like. It was a tongue-in-cheek remark, meant to bring a smile. Fact is, many people, don’t know it. That, or caps, or lots of other things. Sad fact is, God’s children are biblically illiterate. That’s not being judgmental, that’ a published fact. I would think you would agree with this.

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    • godschildrenorg 04/16/2014 / 7:15 am

      Yes, I know this to be true. It does not bring a smile. I’ve lived almost 80 years and have seen a decline in sincerely, intentionally following Jesus. I’ve always been “criticized” for being too serious. I’m not really all that serious, not a scholar. But I simply believe that we have a responsibility to know God’s Word, know how to rightly divide it, and let the Holy Spirit help us follow the path which God lays out for us. But only those who are intentional followers of Christ will put forth the effort. Too many “like” Jesus on Facebook, but they don’t want him messing around in their lives telling them what to do. — Anne Boyd, Master Clinical Social Worker, American missionary, St. George, Covasna County, Transylvania, Romania.

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    • Gary D. Collier 04/16/2014 / 11:46 am

      Well, Anne, it brings a smile to my face knowing that you are so serious about your faith. As for Brian’s statement: “I find more flagrant issues with inept, apathetic adult readers than with child readers,” I was agreeing.

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    • Brian Casey 04/16/2014 / 10:06 am

      I don’t want to speak for her too much, but Anne’s wide variety of experiences (missions in two countries in two distinctly different phases of life, minister’s wife in vastly different U.S. states, professional counselor, member of widely varying churches, etc.) help her to know there is a) a mixed bag out there, and b) a lot of biblical illiteracy.

      On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 6:03 AM, NT Christianity wrote:

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