Monday, August 1, 2011

Age-Segregation and America's Exclusion of Children and Teens from the "Real World"

I think that's about the longest title I've ever written! :-)

Valerie just read a book not long ago called “Too small to Ignore.” by Dr. Wes Stafford president and CEO of Compassion International.  God has given my sister such a heart for adoption, and she is constantly searching for, and buying books about adoption, like this one.  
She was reading me some parts of the book, and I couldn’t help blogging some of the incredible statements Stafford made.  He grew up as a missionary’s kid in South Africa.  As he explains, it was quite different from Western Culture.

To Valerie’s surprise and delight, she discovered that the focal point of this book is to bring to light the fact that children are being excluded from the “real world.”  I’ll just say he hit the nail on the head.  Over and over again. 

Here is his experience in an African tribe: “The path to adulthood started in early childhood.  As the children grew, he or she did more and more of what adults did.  We were taught, challenged, praised, teased, and loved all on a steady path toward becoming adults.”  

Western culture gave him a different picture:  “Children were rarely viewed as useful, and not often allowed to participate in the normal flow of life’s duties and activities.  I found teenagers my age who were frustrated, bored, and bitter at always being excluded, as if they had been placed on a shelf to wait out the adolescent years.”

“Here, (speaking of America) we have forgotten that there is no higher calling than to raise a child.  We tend to do a lot for our children, but not a lot with our children.”  

(Speaking of Africa) “There was no artificial category of adolescence.  We never felt the frustration of being physically and mentally ready for life’s challenges  but not legally allowed to take our place in society….My heart goes out to the youth pastors I’ve met in the U.S. who are completely frustrated with their work because they are expected to entertain teenagers.  Laser tag, paintball, bowling, trips to the amusement parks—they are running out of ways to keep kids tied to the church so that someday they might play a role.”  

“Likewise, children are not tomorrow’s church in waiting or in training.  They are an important part of today’s church.”

“The value of love, instruction, and role modeling that should flow from generation to generation is lost.  It can’t be bought with money, it requires time and relationships, which are two things now in short supply.”  

“We are disconnected, accountable to no one, bereft of counsel and love, and shared wisdom.”  (So to take the place of human contact, kids get wrapped up into empty Internet relationships, spending hours writing witty comments back and fourth with numerous technologies designed to “bring us closer together.”)

“I have become convinced that the more wealth a country accumulates the more isolated and lonely its people become.”

“In most of today’s Western churches, I know the thought of having children present in the worship service is anathema.  God forbid that the holy atmosphere should ever be pierced by a baby’s cry.  Everyone under the age of ten must be packed off to a sound proof nursery or other activity, it seems.

“But in so doing, we forfeit the chance for children to see their dads and moms engaged in earnest prayer.  They miss the classic hymns of the faith.  They fail to catch the rhythms of a well-delivered sermon, which carry a message of their won even if the child cannot yet grasp the theological specifics.  They are excluded from the spiritual family gathering in the presence of God.”  

Sorry for another one of those long posts :-)

There is some evaluation going on at our church right now, as the elders wrestle with the fact that 80 percent or more Christian teens are leaving the church by adulthood.  Something about youth groups and Sunday school is not quite panning out…no matter how much the youth workers pour themselves into the children.  


Could it possibly be that what these kids need is a family to care for them? After all, it is written all over the Bible “You shall teach YOUR children.”  

And what do we do about those without Christian parents????

We bring them into the family of God, where they can experience the love of adopted ‘grandparents’ ‘parents’ ‘sisters’ and ‘brothers’ who can disciple them, love them, talk to them, mentor them, care about them, and include them in all types of conversations!  Not just jell-O snorting contests with a bit of Bible reading and prayer on the side.   Because kids are aching to be someone!  To do something great, to be included!  They want to be acknowledged as a valuable part of the Body of Christ!    

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