Tag Archives: Children

Musings from a Momma

by Karla Hein

I used to think I was a calm, rational person. Then I met me, the mother of two preschoolers. My delusion shattered. I’m a nice person…the first time I have to wrestle dancing feet into a pair of jeans. Tell me to potty train a small human and my “good mommy” persona starts to slip. Most days my words are less than inspirational. Dirty dishes ferment on the counter; toys are scattered in every room. My husband comes home from a busy work day to hyper kids and a frazzled wife. Continue reading Musings from a Momma

Dr. Harvey Plett Children and the Church (Part Two): Safe in the Kingdom of God

by Dr. Harvey Plett

We need to accept children as children and that they are safe in the Kingdom of God, and not demand that they make little adult choices when it comes to spiritual decisions.

In no area of life do we accept a child’s decision as binding. There is no good rationale to change that in the spiritual realm. By accepting that they are in the Kingdom gave me as a parent a real sense of peace.

Developing a Child’s Spiritual Life

We need to continue our programs for nurturing our children in the faith. We need to teach our children that Jesus loves them, that they are in the Kingdom, and that they need to affirm their love for Jesus. We need to continue to teach the children about right and wrong as well as stressing the need for confessing their sins to Jesus and asking His forgiveness.

The parent-child love relationship is a good model to illustrate the love that exists between Jesus and the child. This means we need to be careful we don’t teach the frightening realities of being spiritually lost until they are old enough to understand. Any child can be scared into making a decision without knowing what is involved by scaring it with hell. Care and discretion needs to be used.

Similarly we need to use discretion in terms of which Bible stories we use to teach the Bible to children. We need to be aware of what our children are taught in Sunday School, at camps, VBS, and other clubs.

Accept a Child’s Decision as a Child’s Decision

We need to expect that children below the age of accountability will make decisions for Jesus because they live in an adult world and see and hear how adults are asked to make decisions.

In addition children do make decisions as they grow. Children will also confess the wrongs they do and ask Jesus for forgiveness as they have been taught. When this happens we rejoice in the child’s response, affirm and encourage the child but deal with the child on the child level and not a miniature adult level.

We also need to accept the decision as the decision of a child and not that of an adult. We can expect that our children will make many decisions as they grow in their understanding. We need to affirm them each time. Should it not be possible for a child from a Christian home to never know a time that it was lost because it made decisions for the right as the opportunity came along?

Balance Our Conversion Stories

In our churches we need to ask those who have dramatic conversions to share their testimony, but each time we have one of the dramatic conversions we should invite someone who does not have a dramatic conversion experience to share his or her testimony. This will help the child understand that there is no one model of conversion that must be experienced in order for a conversion to be genuine.

The child will share her or his decisions they made as a child and possibly date their conversion from that time. That is good but it will probably be rather non-dramatic. In my class at Steinbach Bible College I asked the question, “Who can give me the date of when they became a Christian?” Surprisingly many times one third to one half of the class didn’t have a date. This was due to their upbringing. I said, “Fine. What is important is that you know you are a Christian today.”

Believer’s Baptism

We need to be clear that baptism is believer’s baptism and not infant or child baptism (Matt. 28:18-20). And so we baptize an individual when he or she is mature enough to own the faith. Baptism is not a sacrament that conveys the grace of God. It is a ceremony that illustrates what the grace of God has done and incorporates the individual into the visible local body of Christ. Therefore infant baptism is not baptism for the church that believes in believer’s baptism.

We do not thereby condemn those who baptize infants, but neither do we accept that baptism. We are dealing with truth here and not feelings about how good that person is. We need to graciously take a stand on the truth.

Using More Accurate Language

We need to clean up our language when it comes to the idea of child dedication. We cannot dedicate another individual. A person is responsible for himself or herself. We can influence them, but we cannot dedicate them to something. In reporting such services, churches should identify them as Parent Dedications.

By calling them Child Dedication services we are communicating something we, first of all, don’t believe in, and sort of assume that people will understand that we are not conveying sacramental grace with the ceremony.

Though many consider something has happened to the child in the Dedication ceremony, in actuality it hasn’t. The dedication is of the parents committing themselves to raise their child in a Christian environment.

I believe the dedication of parents is an important idea and practice, but it does not mean that parents who don’t do this in a public service are any less Christian or less concerned or dedicated to raise their children for the Lord. To assume that children who have gone through the ceremony have something more than those who haven’t is reading more into the ceremony than what it is.

Implications for Communion

This view of the child, church, and baptism, also has implications for participation in the communion service. Like baptism, communion is for those who have made an accountable decision to follow Christ and have been baptized on that faith commitment (Acts 2:38; Matt. 28:18-20). A child does not understand the meaning of the communion service. A child cannot do the self-examination nor discern the body as Paul teaches (1 Cor. 11:27-29). Therefore it is not ready to participate in the ordinance.

I suggest that we let the child be a child and not require of it what we require of a person who is accountable. The communion service is not a sacramental service that conveys grace. It is a commemoration of what Christ has done for those who understand what that is.

Time to Re-Examine!

On this issue of the child and the Kingdom of God, I believe we as a Conference have experienced what Arnold L. Cook would call “historical drift.” Our drift seems to be towards sacramentalism on the one hand; and, on the other, demanding of a child something it is incapable of doing. It is time to re-examine some of our practices to see whether they are in line with Scripture and what our early Anabaptist forebears lived out.

A child is in the Kingdom of God; and as we teach the child, it responds to the truth at its level of understanding and thereby remains in the Kingdom unless, when accountable, it makes contrary decisions.

Dr. Harvey Plett
Dr. Harvey Plett

Dr. Harvey Plett (Prairie Rose) is a long-time EMC minister, educator, and conference worker. He has served as president of SBC and as EMC moderator. He continues to do some teaching, preaching, counselling, and writing. He and his wife Pearl live in Mitchell, Man., and celebrated 58 years of blessed marriage on Aug. 22, 2016.

Dr. Harvey Plett: Children and the Church (Part One): A Search for Comfort

by Dr. Harvey Plett

Many parents have some misgivings about how their children relate to the Church and the Kingdom of God. A question that haunts many is, “If my child dies, will it go to heaven?” This discomfort has been produced, in part, by a lack of teaching in our churches, or by improper teaching about what the Bible says regarding children.

A further influence that has affected this discomfort is the influence of various groups that stress child evangelism. They stress that as soon as a child knows it is doing wrong it is old enough to make a salvation decision. In addition, most groups stressing chid evangelism also teach eternal security. This gives impetus to the idea of getting children to make decisions, for then they are eternally secure no matter what may happen in the future.

Another influence that has raised questions about the child’s eternal welfare has been getting to know people who have been baptized as infants. Later they have accepted Christ and are dynamic Christians. Many of these have continued to hold a strong view that their infant baptism, whether it is sacramental or covenantal, is a valid baptism. This creates a problem for us when such people ask for membership.

We understand, with our Anabaptist forebears, that the Scriptures teach a believer’s baptism. We tend to be afraid that by requiring a believer’s baptism of such individuals we will offend them and turn them away. We do not want to offend or hurt them and so seek for a rationale that will permit us to accept their infant baptism as a valid baptism.

Consequently many people are not sure about the spiritual status of children. For many it has also been an impetus to find an answer that is biblical and will give us peace should our child die.

 Psychological Comfort

In the search for some assurance, some parents find comfort in Child Dedication. Psychologically going through a ceremony gives a sense of comfort even though we all know that no human can dedicate another human, for each is ultimately responsible for himself or herself.

Somehow we hope the ceremony will do something to the child until it is old enough to make its own decision and also condition the child to make the decision when old enough. Those believe the biblical teaching of believer’s baptism know the ceremony really doesn’t do anything for the child, but it makes us parents feel better.

Children Are In the Kingdom

Jesus teaches children are in the Kingdom of God. Mark 10:13-16 gives us the context in which Jesus teaches this. In verse 14 Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Rather clearly and simply Jesus rebukes his disciples for hindering children coming to Him and then adds that they are in the Kingdom. You find the incident also described in Luke 18:15-17 and Matt. 19:13-15.

Children are in the Kingdom because the salvation of Christ. Romans 5:18 says, “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” Titus 2:11 also suggests that the salvation in Christ covers those who are still in what could be called their innocent state. No ceremony or baptism is needed to secure a child’s salvation. The child is covered by the blood of Christ.

Age of Accountability

This raises a few critical questions. Does this mean a child does not need to make a decision for Christ? When is a person old enough to be held accountable so that when he sins he will experience the consequences, separation from Christ?

We do have two illustrations in the Bible when children are held accountable. The first is that those who were 19 and younger would be able to enter the Promised Land (Num. 14:29-31). Evidently they were not held responsible for the murmuring and rebellion against God, which resulted in the condemnation to all who were 20 and over. The second illustration is Jesus being brought to the temple at the age of 12 (Luke 2:41ff). This could have been preparation for his Bar Mitzvah the following year. A Jewish boy became responsible and accountable for himself in his obedience to the Law when he turned 13.

Child Development

Both examples are illustrative and not necessarily normative. However, when we add to this our knowledge of child development, we know that a person grows in knowledge, understanding, and accountability.

Somewhere around puberty a person begins to become accountable. To make a decision for Christ, a person has to have some understanding of what sin is, what faith is, and what salvation is. The understanding of sin, as merely individual acts, is not an adequate understanding of sin.

A child taught about right and wrong by her or his parents will be bothered when it does things it has been told not to do because its trained conscience registers it negatively. Human development teaches us that a person becomes responsible and accountable as they grow older and develop understanding and, as I have suggested, it probably comes around the onset of puberty.

Discernment

Two more truths in connection with this must be kept in mind. Each person develops and matures at his or her own pace. We all know individuals who were very mature by 14 and others who were only that mature when they were 16 or 17. Thus we as a community of faith will have to do some discerning when a person is accountable enough to receive baptism.

The second truth is that the transition from childhood to adulthood, through what we call adolescence, takes time. And so, we have a somewhat overlapping of the childhood state and young adult state. Again this demands discernment by the community of faith. This discernment must be made humbly, lovingly but not motivated by fear.

Dr. Harvey Plett
Dr. Harvey Plett

So what does this mean for our life together as churches? Stay tuned for Part Two.

Dr. Harvey Plett (Prairie Rose) is a long-time EMC minister, educator, and conference worker. He has served as president of SBC and as EMC moderator. He continues to do some teaching, preaching, counselling, and writing. He and his wife Pearl live in Mitchell, Man., and celebrated 58 years of blessed marriage on Aug. 22, 2016. They have a daughter, three sons, 13 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.