Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Answering Luke

In the comments section of my last entry, Luke wrote this: "So, who is responsible for this? Is it the parents, is it the childrens workers, is it the kid, is it the pastor for not having good enough leaders? I don't really know either, I am just wondering what you think."

It's everyone's fault. And it's no one's fault. I'll try to unpack that for you now.

It's the parents' fault for not training their child to respect others. But it may not be their fault after all. They may have never been given the tools they need to train their child. They may not even understand that it's their job to do so. They may have bought into the idea that society pushes (and churches do, too) about outsourcing your kids training to the experts.

It's the children's workers fault for not understanding how the curriculum is designed to work. At 252Basics, we don't teach kids the Bible. We teach them Christlike virtues. We use the Bible to illustrate these virtues, but Bible instruction is not an end in and of itself; it must be a means to a greater end. That end is having kids grow up and become more like Jesus. But it may not be the Children's workers fault after all. They're doing children's ministry the only way they know how -- the only way they've ever seen it done.

It's the kid's fault for not behaving himself. As my friend Hal Runkel says, adults are not responsible for our children; we're responsible to them. If our kid decides to act like an animal, that's his choice. But it may not be his fault after all. He's learned how Sunday morning works and is working within that system pretty well. His "Children's Church" rewards one thing and one thing only: recitation of the memory verse. He met the standards and was rewarded accordingly. As far as he knows, this is the only goal he needs to concern himself with.

It's the preacher's fault for going 25 minutes over his scheduled time. It's no wonder the kids were climbing the walls -- they'd been there for what felt like an eternity. He may say he fully supports the children's ministry, but if he goes 25 minutes over, he communicates to everyone that what he's doing is more important than anything else on that campus. It shows how little he really values the children and the children's workers. But it may not be his fault after all. Kids don't give much money, parents do. As long as their contribution meets budget, that feels like a win to most pastors. Attendance, buildings and contribution -- these are the ABCs of church health. At least, that's what most pastors think.

Actually, it's the system's fault. There's a saying in systems management circles: Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you're getting. In other words, that kid isn't behaving that way in spite of what we're doing; he's behaving that way precisely because of what we're doing. If your church isn't producing disciples (whether among children or among adults), you probably don't need to try harder -- you need to try something else.

So, Luke, whose fault is it? It's everyone's. It's those workers and that kid and his parents and the pastor and yours and mine. Until we're courageous enough to re-think and re-boot our churches, we will continue to produce the same results we've been getting for the past generation -- namely, a 65-80% drop-out rate and consumers who sit and soak and aren't really interested in becoming more like Jesus.

That's what I think.