Pastoral Series

Church Matters: Eavesdropping

   On Monday I mentioned Christopher Lasch. A regular focus of his writing was the breakdown of the family, and how our institutions and society’s practices contribute to its demise. Here is an interesting thought from him, entirely pertinent to church:

“Anyone who has spent much time with children knows that they acquire much of their understanding of the adult world by listening to what adults do not necessarily want them to hear – by eavesdropping, in effect. Information acquired this way is more vivid and compelling, since it enables children to put themselves imaginatively in the place of adults.” Eavesdropping – or as I’ve asked quite a few parents: What have your children caught you doing? You can tell a child to pray or read their Bible or be calm or let somebody borrow your toys. But does your child ever amble into the room unexpectedly and catch you doing such things?

Neil Postman, in The Disappearance of Childhood, wrote in a similar vein, pointing out how we are so determined to put our children in age-appropriate settings, how adults go do adult things while 7 years olds are always with other 7 year olds. But Postman argues children need to be exposed to adults so they can then learn how to be… adults.

Postman also is concerned about what he calls “adult secrets.” There are things only adults can understand or are equipped to deal with. But increasingly, children learn about these adult secrets, not from trusted adults in their lives, but from the media, from TV, online, from other kids.

Little wonder then that wisdom is in scarce supply. Children grow up around children, unexposed to grownup wisdom – and then inevitably they are a bit childish as grownups. Once upon a time, children sat at the feet of trusted, wise adults they knew well, and learned about the world, life and God.

So: church matters. We are a place where all ages come together. How many other activities have all ages? Tennis leagues? Beerfests? Poker nights? Banking associations? In a large church, if we aren’t careful, we will over-segregate by age. The value of church should be that children get to see adults being adults – and frankly that adults benefit also from seeing children be children. We eavesdrop. We catch one another. We are careful about adult secrets, and how and when they are shared. It takes a village to raise a child? It takes a church – especially when parents compact together and agree on what our children know, where they go, and when they know new things.

Church matters, because all ages matter, and they were meant to be deeply interconnected, which we have a chance to get done at church.

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