Families are so strange; having a family is so strange. Should I still feel like I'm just figuring this out? When do I feel experienced?
Anyway, one of my constant "back-and-forths" is what I should expect from my 10 year-old in church. Heck - should we even put our 10 year-old in church!? Our church has a Sunday School component that runs congruently to the service; unfortunately, there's not adult "Sunday School" component (space constraints). What that ends up meaning is that if we're a "one service" family - which is easiest to be - the girl either goes to Sunday School or she goes to church.
She probably "gets more" out of Sunday School. It's "age appropriate" (man - see the quotes? that's because I'm skeptical - not of the program, but of the concept), and it's good curriculum.
But there are these huge elements of church - and what it means to be a Christ follower in a community - that I want taught to my daughter that she doesn't get from going to age-segregated Sunday School. How does she find a wonder and an appreciation for the One-ness of the church? How does she learn about sacramental living - even in a highly non-liturgical church? Musical worship? Depth of teaching? Communal prayer? Tithing and giving? Body life?
Now, we're blessed, I guess: because I'm on staff, I don't tend to be a "one-service guy." It's possible to drag the kid along earlier, plop her in S.S. and then go to church together at 10:45 as a family.
After doing this for four weeks, these words started to pop into my head: Inconvenient. Frustrating. Distracting. Annoying (I'll admit it). Uncomfortable. Unhelpful.
The last one stemmed from conflict that would actually arise from asking a 10 year-old to sit for an hour during an engaging (at least to me) service. "Can I get a drink?" "no." "Can I go pee?" "no." "I can't see the words!" "then move." "I don't know this song!" "then listen." "Can I borrow your pen to doodle?" "no."
Enough no's, we know, always creates cross kids (and I don't mean properly discipled ones).
So I struggled. Do we do the Sunday School + Church thing? Or do we just do Sunday School? She gets a ton out of Sunday School - and there's even the genuinely important social aspect. But do we sacrifice dragging her into church on the alter of frustration (I'm guessing you can see where I'm headed).
Ultimately, this is really about one thing: Is church about me, and what I can get out of it - or is it about my family, and what we can get out of it?
I think if I step back and take that question in stride - I mean, it's super easy to see the benefits of having the kid in the service. And it's not just waiting for a "Come to Jesus" moment; it's about building the consistent and life-long habit of gathering with people who are extrinsically different but intrinsically united and worshipping. And you learn that - your value that - by doing that.
If church becomes about me: what I want - what I need - what I can get - then she's always going to get in the way. If church is about us... well, then drink up and pee out girl - we're going to service!