Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Appeal to Worship Leaders from a Parent of Small Children

There is a group of people that work during worship services almost as hard as the preacher– the parents of small children.  These men and women are doing their best to worship and grow themselves, while at the same time teaching their children to behave during worship services.  They are also doing what they can to keep their children from distracting those around them.  After services you can see those brave parents leave, visibly more haggard and disheveled than when they entered, but glad that they were there.   
     I realize that small children are not the primary consideration for most worship services.  However, I think that there are a few small things that we can do that would help those parents in their plight.  I also think that many other people in the assembly would appreciate these same suggestions. 

·         To Prayer Leaders:
Keep it short and simple.  Prayer asks intense concentration, reverence, and silence from an audience.  With my children with me, then I can give you that for a couple of minutes – maybe 5 minutes on a really good day.  Beyond that, the task of keeping children quiet becomes so stressful that I have no idea what else you have prayed about, and can only breathe a sigh of relief when you finally finish.  Don’t get me wrong; I am a HUGE advocate of prayer, but there is a time and place for lengthy prayers, and the regular worship service is not that place. 
You might say that long prayers are a sign of spirituality and maturity.  However, consider the example of our Lord when he taught His disciple to pray.  In the New King James Version the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) is only 66 words long.  It is short and simple, yet very powerful.  John 17 contains the longest prayer in the whole New Testament, yet the entire text can be easily read aloud in about 3 minutes time.  Surely these examples show that a prayer’s value is not measured by great length and wordiness.  The point is that a short, thoughtful public prayer might be more effective than a long, winding one. 

·         To Song Leaders:
The song service is largely a welcome respite for parents.  Kids don’t have to be as quiet, and can actually participate in a verbal way in this portion of the worship service.  The one suggestion I have for this portion of worship is that having the songs on PowerPoint would be helpful.  That way I can wrestle my son with both hands and still see the words to the song.  There are times when, frankly, it just isn’t worth messing with the song book.  

·         To Preachers:
Having served for years as an associate and also a pulpit minister, I have spent enough sermons both in the pulpit and the pew to understand each side quite well.  The task of preaching is an important one, and I do not ask you to shorten your sermons.  Take as much time as you need to cover the topic, but please don’t make me listen to (and keep my child occupied through) meaningless fluff.  If we’re going to fight to keep our toddler quiet and still so that we can listen to you, then reward us with substance worth listening to.  I can remember a guest speaker once who spent almost 20 minutes in introductory chatting and small talk before he actually began his lesson – which of course ran quite long.  An audience’s best attention (and a child’s best capacity to sit still) is at the very beginning of the sermon.  Don’t waste this time.  Get right into the lesson as quickly as you can.

Having said all of that, these are just my opinions.  I recognize that everyone has their opinions and preferences, and yours may differ from mine.  That’s fine when it comes to matters of discretion.  I only intend to present a perspective that I hope that fellow worship leaders will take into consideration at congregations with small children.  What are your thoughts on the matter?  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hot Pockets

     Recently a 43 year old woman and her family took a trip to the beach.  Her children picked up some stones that had aroused their interest.  The lady stuck the stones in the pockets of her shorts, and they continued their outing.  About an hour after they got back home, a very unusual thing happened – the rocks in her shorts caught fire!  There she was, just standing in her kitchen, when her pants suddenly burst into flames.  She tried to “stop, drop, and roll”, but to no avail.  Her husband frantically tried to get the shorts off of her, and he got burned in the process.  Eventually the stones fell from her pockets and began to burn the wood floor.  When firefighters drove up to the home, they found the woman, finally freed from the flaming shorts, in the yard being hosed down by her husband.  Meanwhile, the smoldering rocks were found to contain phosphorous, which is probably to be blamed for the sudden combustion.   
     When I read that story, the first scripture that came to mind was, Proverbs 6:27 (NKJV) “Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned?  Of course, this lady didn’t do anything immoral in this story, but I think there is a valuable lesson that we could learn if we view it as an allegory.  Let’s say that the stones are seemingly harmless, secret sins.  They were picked up and hidden away safely in the lady’s pocket.  She should have cast them from her, but she kept them.  Who would know?  What would it hurt?  But eventually they came back to burn her, causing pain to both her and her husband, and exposing the secret contents of her pockets in the process.  Luke 8:17 cautions, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.”
     There is no such thing as “getting away with” sin.  The results may not be immediately seen, and suffering may not immediately result, but that doesn’t mean that the sin was safe.  As Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”  If there are any secret sins in your life, then the best thing for you to do is to get rid of them as fast as you can, before you wind up getting burned.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to Treat Children That You Hate

 1.  Always give them their way.  They will like this, and won’t see what a horrible thing that you are actually doing to them.  Very sneaky!
Proverbs 29:15 (NKJV) The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV) Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

2.  Never discipline them.  After all, correction is a sign of love and permissiveness is a sign of hatred.
Proverbs 13:24 (NKJV) He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
Proverbs 3:12 (NKJV) For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
Hebrews 12:7-8 (NKJV) If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

3.  Be more concerned with giving short-term happiness, than teaching long-term lessons.  This is a great way to ensure that they will be failures in life.
Proverbs 19:18 (NKJV) Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.
Proverbs 29:17 (NKJV) Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.
Proverbs 23:13-14 (NKJV) Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.

On the other hand, if you love your children, then you should do the opposite of all of these things.  I’m certainly not condoning abuse in any way.  I am not recommending that you take out anger on children or be intentionally mean to them.  However, a good parent knows that being good their children is not always the same as being kind to them.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dear God...

The following are said to be actual prayers of real children:

· Please send a new baby for Mommy. The new baby you sent last week cries too much. Debbie, 7
· Who did you make smarter? Boys or girls? My sister and I want to know. Jimmy, 6
· How many angels are there in heaven? I would like to be the first kid in my class to know the answer. Norma, 8
· This is my prayer. Could you please give my brother some brains. So far he doesn't have any. Angela, 8
· Thank you for the nice day today. You even fooled the TV weather man. Hank, 7
· Please help me in school. I need help in spelling, adding, history, geography and writing. I don't need help in anything else. Lois, 9
· Tomorrow is my birthday. Could you please put a rainbow in the sky? Susan, 9
· I need a raise in my allowance. Could you have one of your angels tell my father. Thank you. David, 7
· I am saying my prayers for me and my brother, Billy, because Billy is six months old and he can't do anything but sleep and wet his diapers. Diane, 8
Remember the sweet innocence with which we used to pray as children.  Perhaps our lives could be enhanced now, if we could restore a touch of that pure innocent faith to our adult prayer lives.
Matthew 18:1-6 (NKJV) 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. 6 "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.