In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Huxley painted a grim picture of what our world would look like not with, sadness, pain, discomfort or solitude. He showed us his picture of a world in which happiness was the greatest goal. The results were shocking and a bit more like modern American than even Huxley imagined was possible 80 years after his book was published.
In reading Brave New World I started thinking that we need to ask better questions. Did you have fun is a question that should be asked in church but only till kids are 3 or 4 after that we need to change the questions we ask because we are reinforcing the idea that fun and happiness are the highest good.
The idea of did you have fun in church is unfortunately not limited to Children’s ministry. The model of church where fun is practiced and happiness is the greatest good has so thoroughly saturated our culture that if we are not vigilant it will even take over our sacred spaces with its pervasive grip.
I am not a curmudgeon I don’t think that church should be joyless on the contrary it should be the most joy-filled place on the planet. The issues are when we make fun the vehicle that brings us to a place of ultimate happiness. In church, everything we do should be infused with fun and whimsy but it should not be the basis of what we do. Asking a 9-year-old if they had fun is missing the mark. You are catechizing your kids into a brave new world where fun is the means to our ultimate good being our own personal happiness.
If we want to transform the goal of our teaching we must change the method of our teaching as well as ask different questions. Asking kids if they had fun is fine as long as it is not the only question asked and not the first question asked. When we ask our kids if they had fun we begin to train them that church is a commodity to be consumed rather than a community to participate in. We teach them it is an event we attend rather than a place to come to know God and be known by God.
Neil Postman in his classical work Amusing Ourselves to Death argues several years ago that television has transformed our nation into an entertainment-driven culture.
“what I am claiming here is not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience….The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining, which is another issue altogether.”
The problem television created the internet and social media has only multiplied. Kids today have been conditioned to believe that if it’s not presented as entertainment than it isn’t of substantial value, this has lead the church to overvalue being creative and undervalue being sacred.
When kids grow up with an understanding that church is about entertainment they grow up and measure the wrong things. I didn’t grow up like that and yet I still measured the wrong things for years. Measuring the wrong things makes us ask how can we say this more creatively rather than ask is what we are teaching even true. It makes us ask how can we reach more kids rather than how do we faithfully disciple the kids God has given us. We rightly want more kids to come but go about it the wrong way. At Redeemer, we still do fun events hoping our kids will bring friends. What is different is that isn’t the primary metric we measure success with. We ask different questions. This didn’t happen overnight and we are still adding to the list. But it starts with you asking yourself “What kind of question am I asking our kids?” “What kind of questions do I want our parents to ask their kids?”
What kind of questions should we ask?
- What happened in the Bible story?
- What was Jesus doing in the story?
- How did you see Jesus at work in your class today?
- What was your catechism question for today?
- Did you have fun?
- What friends of yours came to church today?
- Are parents leading their kids deeper in their faith?
1 comments On Brave New Church
The question, of course, is “How do we keep the interest of an entertainment-based culture without becoming entertainment based?” The simple reality is that if no one comes to church, if no one pays a tithe, the church is going to close for lack of members and lack of funds. We’d like people to be interested in holiness. We’d like for them to be interested in being spiritually educated. We’d like for them to recognize the value of healthy fellowship and service to their fellow man. But if they aren’t, we can’t make them be interested in those things. Aside from pray, what do we do about it?