Church Culture Out of Sight Out of Mind

Church Culture Series Out of sight Out of mind jkmcguire

I wrote this as a status update on my Facebook page a couple of Sundays ago,

“I woke up praying for all the kids stuck in the basement of their church while the ‘wise grownups’ get their worship on upstairs.” (you can see that here)

This has been on my mind a lot lately – children and church so I wanted to flesh out what it means to be “stuck in the basement” at church – in a culture that promotes: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

A fresh series – church culture out of sight out of mind.

Behind the Status Update
I awoke Sunday morning praying. This happens often in my world, I will awaken singing a song or literally praying in my dreams. That day I awoke with a start as the room was still dark, morning was just beginning to creep from around blinds.

I lay there in that “not awake yet” fog wondering at the images that had been a part of my sleep: Thousands of children in the basement of my childhood church – alone, crowded in together.

I was searching for my own babes in the midst of all those bodies. I found them and turned to take them with me and a few that were not mine followed.

As often happens with these types of images the only thing I know to do is pray.

what happens in the basement of your church jkmcguire

So I prayed for those children – the generations of children’s children and for the churches.

“Churches bear a heavy burden of responsibility to generations of children and their children’s children.”

And I’m afraid that many churches have buckled beneath the weight. They have taken upon themselves what is not rightly theirs to bear – at least not fully. Instead of partnering and coming alongside parents and families – they try to lead the charge.

Meanwhile many churches (and families for that matter) have failed to protect the innocent in their midst.

Here’s one of the many reasons why: Parents have not invited God into their homes – he stays at church most of the week and churches are bearing responsibilities that are not theirs in the first place.

  • We check our kids like coats to a children’s attendant and then proceed to our own adult thing.
  • We have learned to worship God separately: adults in the grownup spaces and the children in their spaces (which is often “out of sight, out of mind”).
  • We leave the spiritual training of our kids up to the “bought & paid for” experts
  • We bring home the brown paper bags filled with their work, craft or lessons – and it ends up in the trash.

Quite often (but not always) the majority of what we bring home with us as adults is the garbage: frustration, gossip, spiritually drained, and pettiness.

Does God even come home with us? Do we allow him through the doors…

does God dwell only in your comfort zones

Speaking of Closed Doors
In churches that have slammed the door on the work of the Holy Spirit– we find a people whose spiritual lives are on maintenance mode, while whole denominations have effectively castrated the Holy Spirit within their midst fearful of how He moves and works – attempting to box him and keep him within appropriate, guaranteed boundaries.

Keeping Him where we like Him to be – in our comfort zones.

Which in turn means that too many families have left the power of God, the truth of God, the love of God and even God himself out of their lives all together…one of the reasons why the innocent are not protected and those with power and position can afford to deal in hiding abuse.

when children are not welcome jkmcguire

When Jesus is not invited to the party – the children won’t be important either.

I’m afraid we treat church like a club… and that statement is not anything new. But are we hearing all the claims behind that phrase? Is it true?

Now hear me on this – I am not dissing our Sunday School or children’s church teachers/workers/pastors and I am not dissing parents.

What I am dissing is a church culture that prefers children silent, and hidden away in the basement.

What I am calling out is our continual cycling of bad ideas just because they worked for you when your parents were growing up. In many churches children are ushered outside the main gathering, parents are encouraged to deposit their kids elsewhere, or as parents you bear the incredulous reactions of all those “wise grownups” fully felt with their eye rolling, whispers and clearing of throats and judging passivity. (Does anyone actually get up to help?)

Why aren’t we receiving children among us with open arms and blessings…. LIKE JESUS DID!

Until a church culture makes the least among us a priority, seen as a blessing, instead of a distraction to be tolerated; families as a whole nourished; the youngest among us considered first in the making of our budgets and planning of our spaces instead of afterthoughts in our vision… we are going to miss it.

We ARE missing it.

empty swing watermarked jkmcguire

We are going to miss this amazing opportunity we have to love many young ones and their future children in the name of JESUS.

Whether we want to admit it our not young people are continuing to leave the church in droves. WHY?

That is our children’s children’s children not coming back.

A church can be generations old – having been in place for decades upon decades while decades upon decades of children have been subjected to the inner workings of the basement.

Some of the stuff that happens down there is not OK.

This article is already a bit long so I’m going to save the second part….

“What Goes on in the Basement of Your Church?” for tomorrow.

In the meantime what do you think?

  • Are we missing it?
  • Do you or did you keep your children with you?
  • How did that work?
  • If you keep your children with you – what works and what does not? If your church encourages families together – what works?
  • What amazing in the basement children’s ministries have been safe and effective for you and your family?



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So many good, tough questions. Thank you for being willing to open these dialogues. As a whole, we’ve bought the lie that our children are burdens to our ministry, obstacles to our good service.