It doesn’t seem possible that 2011 is already drawing to a close. Where did twelve months go? Well, no use trying to find them. They are behind us. So, what lies ahead? As we approach the celebration of the new year, look for some regular “all network” gatherings, times for celebration, prayer and seeking the Father’s direction. These will be for the Summit Fellowships and other networks and communities with whom we partner. Second Tuesdays will be set aside for gatherings of what might be called “deacons” and “elders,” namely servant leaders from each of the fellowships (if you translate in your mind those terms to mean “masters” and “commanders” I will come and haunt you in your dreams! 🙂 ). Also, every month or so, we’ll schedule a celebration called “The Vine.” ** The purpose will be for fellowship, celebration, prayer, refreshing of kingdom vision and to encourage followers to step into their calling. Check the calendar for dates and times.** Why, “The Vine?” Because a vine is something that is rooted but growing and moving. A strawberry plant, although not technically a vine, illustrates the idea. The mother plant sends out a runner that puts down roots in a new location and another plant is established. The goal of The Vine is to encourage such extensions of the kingdom.
Jill is from a network of fellowships in Australia
We call the time we do things with the kids ‘whole church activities’ rather than marginalizing it by calling it ‘children’s activities’.
0 – 5 Year Olds
We make sure that they are given attention by more people than just their parents. If they are ignored by others, they are very likely to act up and try to monopolize their parents.
One adult or a couple of older kids, sometimes plays ball with them outside, to use up some of their excess energy and give them the feeling that they are worth spending time with.
We have colored pencils and paper on a low table for them to draw with, while people are talking. (We have found that texta colours and crayons can make unfortunate marks on carpet and furniture, so it is best not to make them available to this age group.)
We have found that a ‘difficult’ toddler will often benefit from an adult, who is not one of the toddlers parents, but who is prepared to be a ‘special friend’ to him or her. This involves the adult paying this child special attention in meetings but not being monopolized by him or her. It starts the child on the path of positive interactions with adults when perhaps most previous interactions were negative (‘don’t do that!’, ‘be quiet.’ ‘get away from there!’).
We have a box of ‘quiet’ toys for the little ones, in the room where church meets. Because they don’t play with them all the time, they are likely to be more interesting than the ones they could bring from home. Noisy toys like ‘corn poppers’ and hammer toys need to be put out of sight before the little ones arrive. This age group seems to learn about Christian life by EXPERIENCING Christian love and attention from other people in the group more than from hearing about it in teachings.
The little ones in our church love action songs.
6 – 10 Year Olds
We have acted out whole books of the bible, a chapter or so at a time, for the benefit of this age group (older kids like this too). Over the years we have done Acts, Matthew’s gospel and are now planning to try Exodus. (Sometimes we skip over the very philosophical parts, which would be difficult for the children to understand.) Everybody seems to enjoy this kind of exercise. The smaller ones love playing Jesus or some kind of a ruler because it reverses the role they usually play in life.
The adults benefit from doing something physical and the stories stay in people’s minds because we have seen them unfold before us.
This age group is often happy to share a prayer time with the adults, where everyone says a one-sentence ‘thank you’ prayer. In general, however, our 6 to 10 year olds hate to sit through long adult prayers. For this reason, we save up our expansive, peaceful praying to a time when the adults are alone together.
11 – 15 Year Olds
The children in this age group in our church, love special church outings. We have a tradition of going once a year into the foothills near Canberra to pick blackberries and have a picnic. Also, around this warm time of year we have an afternoon of boating and sailing together on the lake. Home church camps at the beach are also very popular.
We are just beginning a roster with adults and children alike being responsible for different home church activities, e.g., choosing the songs, accompanying songs with musical instruments, getting the food heated and on the table. 11 to 15 year olds often seem to have practical skills that can benefit the church. We have discovered that it is worth looking for them in each child. Perhaps they are enjoying cooking at school and would like to cook something for everyone. Some of our girls learn singing and are able to lead us in part-singing. It has been quite a heavenly experience at times.
Some of our kids, at this age become morose and a bit uncooperative in church (Probably because they want to be somewhere else with their friends. Other times I think it is just because they are tired from high school, home work and a heavy social life.). I find that I have better ‘spiritual’ talks with my teenager, when crises and questions come up at home than I do at church. Because these are the real and important issues of life, I try to make time to listen and talk when she is ready to speak. This is hard, but I think it has paid dividends over the years. Adult mentors from within home church are good for kids of this age and older.
This is a description by a Bible scholar/historian concerning what typically would be the “gathering together” of early believers. I don’t know about you, but it kind of puts in perspective the whole idea about “church meetings,” programs and questions like “What do we do with the kids.”
“The worship of an early Christian house church probably centered around the dinner table. They don’t necessarily all sit facing forward like in a church building that we think of today but rather they’re in someone’s dining room and the center of their activity really is the fellowship meal or the communal meal. The term communion actually comes from this experience of the dining fellowship…. We need to remember that dining is one of the hallmarks of early Christian practice almost from the very beginning. All the gospel traditions tend to portray Jesus at the dinner table as a very important part of his activity. Paul’s confrontation with Peter at Antioch is over dining, and when we look at the context of the letters, especially First Corinthians, the role of dining in fellowship is central to all of their religious understanding and practices.
“We also know that all other aspects of worship that we think of as going with early Christian practice probably happened around the dinner table as well. Paul refers to one person having a song and another person bringing a prayer. Everyone is contributing to the banquet whether it’s in the form of food or in the form of their piety and worship. They all bring it to the table…. Some of them bring prophecies or charismatic gifts, and these too form some of the concerns that Paul deals with in some of the letters. Sometimes charismatic gifts also produce tension within Paul’s communities. We hear at times of Paul having to discipline people or suggest that the congregation discipline people by kicking them out of the fellowship dinner because he doesn’t like the ethical behavior of some people. We hear of questions of dining with pagans and going to dinner parties where the meat might not be of a suitable sort, so there’s all kinds of questions that come up in the context of this house church environment in Paul’s letters.”
Taken from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/congregations.html