Of Topics for Dissertations

I continue to struggle with narrowing my dissertation topic. When I first began considering it several years ago I was asking the question, “Why do we do children’s ministry the way we do it?” Not long after, I began asking, “Why do we do church the way we do it?” Currently I am asking, “Why do we do life the way we do it?” There was a natural progression in the questions. I expect that there may be more to follow in the coming weeks and months.

My hope is to write a practical theology of children and family ministry with a view toward rethinking the assumptions of how we do ministry, particularly in light of our cultural worldview. I am weary of a consumer-based paradigm of ministry, treating children as products to be modified or consumers to be pleased (so long as they remain segregated into their age appropriate religious ghettos), especially as an extension of their parents, the keepers of the cash and controllers of their time. Yes that is a provocative statement and intentionally so. I am interested in challenging myself and my church to move into a way of living and ministering in the culture which honors children as persons and families as integral to holistic community life, so that discipleship and mission flow hand-in-hand as natural expressions of faith. I am interested in seeing children grow up as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ, rather than checking out of a life of faith altogether as soon as they are old enough to distance themselves from anything resembling life in Christ.

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3 thoughts on “Of Topics for Dissertations

  1. Glen, I would be interested in hearing a further description of this statement:

    “I am weary of a consumer-based paradigm of ministry, treating children as products to be modified or consumers to be pleased (so long as they remain segregated into their age appropriate religious ghettos), especially as an extension of their parents, the keepers of the cash and controllers of their time.”

    I think I understand your perspective but still asking.

  2. Hi Todd,

    Thanks for the question. I am referring to a model of ministry which says the professionals (paid or volunteer) on the church campus are responsible to entertain, evangelize, and disciple the children so that they will be good citizens and Christians fit to go out into their families and the world. I realize there is no church that actually espouses this kind of thinking deliberately. However, it has been my observation that because the majority of parents are so overwhelmed with maintaining their busy lifestyles (and their children’s too) and because the church often adds to the already packed schedules by segregating kids into separate groups and then asking parents to have some part in all of them, that they have little margin in life to proactively engage in the discipleship of their children in the everyday rhythms of life. That responsibility has largely been given over to the church on a once or twice weekly basis with little, to no input or direct daily input from parents, other than to bring their kids or occasionally volunteer. Of course, there are always exceptions to this. I am speaking in general terms.

    I am not suggesting we give parents one more thing to do on top of their already swamped lifestyles. I am suggesting a change in lifestyle as a better way forward, wherein the church truly embraces its role as a spiritual supporter, discipler, mentor, and pastor of parents, rather than a spiritual surrogate for their children.

    Again, I know what I am saying is a bit controversial. I think many church do campus based children’s ministry really well and that it does have a strong value. I am less confident in its long-term impact since it is relatively brief and since many homes have little to no time or inclination for much daily spiritual formation beyond the activities of the church campus.

    I am simply trying to find a way forward which eases pressure off of parents and encourages the church to model a lifestyle of discipleship that is practical and sustainable by virtue of a simplified way of living. Randy Frazee has some strong suggestions in this regard which he has actually implemented in his life, at Pantego Bible Church, and now is in the process of implementing at Willow Creek Church. We may not buy into all of his solutions, but we would do well do listen to what he has to say. I think his message is much needed throughout Christendom.

  3. Very good, I will continue to follow your blog closely for more of these great discussions.

    These are truly great thoughts in a much needed time.

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