“It’s not fair!”
Recently, I had a conversation with someone that contained this theme throughout our discussion. In short it was shared that,
“Intergenerational worship is not fair. It’s not fair to adults who want to listen and participate without distraction. It’s not fair for parents to have to have their kids sit with them in worship. It’s not fair for the kids to have to sit through something boring and not geared for them. It’s not fair to the pastor to have to hear kids talking, babies crying, and tween whispering. It’s not fair to anyone. Why are you advocating for something that is unfair to so many people?“
I agree. It’s not fair.
Never said it was.
Never said it was easy. Never said it was comfortable. Never said it was simple.
Never said it wouldn’t take effort, intentionality, and hard work. Never said it wouldn’t mean that adults, parents, kids, pastors, and the church family at large wouldn’t have to sacrifice their own desires, wants, and expectations for Sunday morning, Wednesday nights or church in general.
I just don’t think the kingdom of God is about what’s “fair.”
I think God is more concerned about what is best; what is best for His will, His kingdom, and His church.
The author of Psalm 73 (a psalm that in my very scholarly opinion could have been titled, “It’s not fair!”) shared a very similar frustration. He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” He goes on to share quite emphatically that it just wasn’t fair that these guys were doing so great while he saw the people of God suffering. He shares, “I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, until I entered the sanctuary of God and I understood their destiny.”
He saw the end. The finale. The conclusion. And seeing that changed everything. He saw with bigger vision; eyes that saw past the moment and into the future. He saw and understood that standing in a moment, with all of its seeming unfair frustrations, was only a small part of the picture.
And with that God-sized vision, he says, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant, I was a brute beast before you. Yet, I am with you. You hold me by my right hand. You guide me in your counsel.“
We, as in, we the Church, need a God-sized vision.
We have to look ahead, not even to the finale, but to 20 years from now when our children no longer have a place to go away from us and not be distractions, but to when they find their own place to go away from us and explore other distractions. We have to understand there’s a bigger story than our uncomfortable Sunday morning, namely, the devastating decline in younger generations remaining in the Christian faith and instead declaring themselves as “Nones.” It is imperative that we allow our church experience to be greater than what we can “get out of” a Sunday morning to what we can “put into” the larger kingdom of God.
And again, I share, I am not “against” times where kids and adults are separate and have activities that are specifically designed to help them grow in their faith, appropriate to their age and maturity, BUT I am opposed to a model that never or rarely allows generations to interact in corporate worship, communal celebration, and intentional discipleship on a regular basis. Because it may not “be fair” in the moment, but moments are fleeting; consequences are lasting.
I think we all need to do a better job of extending grace to one another in the corporate context. I think we could do a better job at welcoming kids into worship so they are engaged instead of bored. And I think, based on everything I’ve read from people far wiser, more learned, and better experienced than me, that it is worth the effort to do so and not worth the risk to choose to remain unchanged.
If your child is being disruptive, then yes, take him/her to a place where you can love and discipline out of respect and love for those around you. If you are easily distracted and unable to concentrate, then for that moment, concentrate on modeling God’s grace and mercy to that “distraction” by inviting them to worship with you. And we can all ask God to help us look past the momentary frustrations to the eternal rewards. My hunch is, if we willingly do so with joy, if we are a cheerful givers of our right to worship when and how we like and graciously embrace the entire body of Christ, Christ will be found among us.
In fact, I’m sure of it. Because Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a child like this one, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, doesn’t welcome me but the One who sent me” (Mark 9:37). It’s not about what’s fair or not fair. It’s about what is God’s will.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Jesus
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.