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Entitlement vs. Relevance–The Fine Line of Children’s Ministry

Normally when I write an article like this one, I have thought through the issue and am ready to share my thoughts.  This is an exception.  A thought occurred to me this morning on my way to work.  I want to throw it out there and get your thoughts on it.

There is no doubt that we live in a day and age with an “entitlement mentality.”  We idolize personal autonomy to the point where anything and everything that might infringe on that personal autonomy is jeered at and derided as intolerant or “old fashioned” thinking.  This sense of entitlement is slowly destroying the very fabric our our society as it eats away as established institutions which have been the bedrock of our society and raises a whole generation to think “It’s all about me.”  I believe this propensity is becoming more and more apparent is successive generations, but don’t sneer is you’re older.  All of us up through Generation X’ers (that’s me) up and to the Baby Boom generation (maybe beyond) have been bitten by this bug.

In children’s ministry, the kids coming through our churches are likely to either have this same entitlement mentality or at least be tempted by it on a daily basis.  To continue to convince kids that it really should be all about Jesus and what he’s done for us will mean, more and more, overcoming the presumption of entitlement.

Here’s the rub.  I think most of us would acknowledge what I’ve written so far.  We’ve seen it in our kids, and maybe even in ourselves.  But, in children’s ministry, we also throw around the idea of relevance quite frequently.  We have to make our services relevant for kids.  We have to understand their culture.  The message never changes, but we have to keep up with the medium.

Here’s is my question to think about, and what I was wrestling with this morning.  At what point do our efforts to be relevant – to reach kids where they are – feed into the very entitlement mentality that might keep them from believing there is something more important than them?  In other words, if we make the church service all about them and what they want, are we inadvertently feeding the very beast (pride and selfishness) that the Gospel intends to overcome?

What are your thoughts?

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3 Comments

  1. Ivy Beckwith

    I love the question. Will be interested to see what responses you get.

  2. jenniferbussey

    I think we probably underestimate kids more than we should. The church does not HAVE to keep up with XBox and Disneyworld to grab their attention, and their hearts. You can certainly tap into what’s going on in the world, but I would never sacrifice content for it. For example, I used to write scripts for our children’s ministry, and we often took something that was popular at the time and riffed on it. Like Lord of the Rings, superheroes, or Narnia. But the content was biblical. Too much sugar in the coating, and you can’t taste what’s inside. I would risk losing some relevance to protect the integrity of the Gospel and its reach. To do less is not just underestimating the kids, but underestimating the Gospel.
    On a related note, I think your concern is incredibly valid. Having served in leadership with young married couples, I have seen the EXACT same hang-ups. “If we have my favorite donuts, and I can sit with my best friends in class, and I like the curriculum, I guess I’ll come.” What about striving to grow in your walk and equipping yourself to serve?!? Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church! And then what is that modeling to their kids, who go to the children’s ministry and make good people like you ask good questions like this?
    I will now hand the soap box to the next person!

  3. samluce

    Great question Wayne. When it comes to relevance I think we misunderstand it. We tend to reduce relevance simply to style points. Relevance in my mind is taking complex truth and unpack it in a way that kids can understand and apply it without robing the truth of it’s power in an effort to be simple. Kids may love technology, iphones, xboxes but what they really crave is relationship and truth.