GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.
There’s a Subtle Message When We Divide
Christmas was at our house this year for the first time in a decade. My son Alec was coming home from college, my parents would be there, and my brother’s family was driving down from where he lives out in the sticks… a total of 13 in our small dining room.
We’ve done 10 around our table, we’ve even squeezed 12 once (it was pushing it), but 13?
Lori and I discussed the possibilities. “What about a kids’ table?”
Think about the ramifications of this decision. My kids are 14, 16 and 18… my brother’s kids are 3 and 5.
Neither of us wanted two tables. It didn’t seem fair. What 18-year-old wants to sit at the “kid’s table”? Besides, Alec was home for just a few days from college and we really enjoy family conversations around the table.
Lori and I dialogued about it for a while and we came to the conclusion that we really didn’t want to split everyone up. So we added a little card table to the end of our dining room table (it was the perfect height to slide slightly underneath with no gap in-between) and stretched the giant tablecloth over both tables as if they were one big table.
One table—one family.
I couldn’t help but say an “Amen” when last week’s “Sticky Faith” video A Tale of Two Tables was posted. In this video, Kara Powell talks about the message we communicate to kids when we divide to two tables around the holidays.
“Sadly, that’s a lot like the church.” Kara proposed. “Over time many churches separate kids and adults entirely. This starts when they are young and results in kids who graduate from youth group and don’t know the church.”
I agree with Kara’s comparison.
A few years ago I worked with a church that excelled at the separation of ages. I’m not talking about just dropping off kids at the nursery, I’m talking about “youth worship services” during “adult worship services” so that kids and adults literally split up at the church parking lot and greeted each other hours later at the car.
I’ve never liked this structure.
But to what extent? Does this mean I’m against youth group?
Far from it! I think it’s great to have a place where teenagers connect with other teenagers and parents connect with other parents, just not at the expense of families worshipping together. Why not provide both?
The church I attend now has a worship service at 9AM where families worship together. Then at 10:45, adults and teenager split to their fellowship groups. In addition to these groups, the church offers a family meal on Wednesday nights where families can actually sit together with other families, before attending Wednesday night classes and fellowship groups. The church also offers opportunities to serve as families, and others to serve in your own age group. The result is a balance between family time and a time where you can connect with your own “life stage.”
I don’t think my church has it perfect. I think that we all can use some improvement in this area. But I’ve notices a significant difference in the attitudes of the kids at this church than the other. In this church, families are valued. Families are given opportunities to connect with each other and other families.
How do you think churches can be proactive about connecting families?
Question: How else do you think we can help kids graduate and, as Kara says, “know church”? What are your thoughts?