Doug Wolter gives voice to an issue that continues to challenge:
As we think about all the types of people we preach to on Sundays, don’t forget the children. They may be the biggest group of unreached people in your church… and I guarantee when you get on their level, the adults will be tracking right there with you.
Spurgeon once said:
…He is no preacher who does not care for the children. There should be at least a part of every sermon and service that will suit the little ones. It is an error which permits us to forget this.
~ Charles Spurgeon, Spiritual Parenting, 15.
In some places preachers don’t have to worry about addressing children in their sermons, because children are never there. They’re in another room being taught by others. This is difficult to understand from the context of biblical practice, a difficulty which would be increased in churches which affirm a covenantal unity among a local congregation.
In some places (including the church I serve) preachers direct a talk at the children during a segment of the Service. Yet a practice which reinforces, week after week, the notion that ‘this part of the Service is for the children’ must, at the very least, run the risk of also reinforcing the notion that the rest of the Service is not for children.
The answer is not to infantalise the Service, reducing its tone and communication level to that of a Wiggles concert. There is no reason to take Spurgeon’s words in that light. As I wrote earlier this week there is a difference between child-like simplicity and immature banality.
Those who lead our Services must make a conscious effort to address the covenant community as a whole, but also in its constituent parts, when appropriate opportunity presents itself.
This is challenging, but to do otherwise is to reject in our practice that which we affirm in our theology. If practice undermines theology for any length of time then our theology will be marginalised, not because it has been proven unbiblical, but because it has proved inconvenient.
The current ambivalence which can be discerned to covenant theology in the Presbyterian Church of Australia is not so much because covenant theology has been found wanting but because widespread practice in congregational life has undermined our understanding and appreciation of it.