Children’s Ministry: It Isn’t Just Ministering to Kids

My son as I picked him up from Willow Creek last Wednesday night.

My son as I picked him up from Willow Creek last Wednesday night.

My nearly 11-year marriage to an unbeliever tended to leave me feeling like a single parent as my spouse seldom came to church with me. My shift to officially being a single parent has effected very little change in the way I attend church. I come, my kids come with me, and wrangling them to church and back falls squarely on my shoulders. This is a much bigger job for one set of hands than it is for two.

Different churches handle kids in church in different ways, and this variable typically depends on a tradition’s attitude towards children and the size of a church. I have spent most of the past 14 years attending relatively small churches (fewer than 100 in attendance on most Sundays), and it has been my experience that small churches have fewer options for childcare and struggle to find enough workers for the children’s ministry. Perhaps, in part, because with only one main service running, anyone who volunteers for the children’s ministry will be missing church for the week. At churches with multiple services, childcare workers have the option of working in the children’s ministry for one service, then worshiping at a different service.

My situation has always been complicated by the fact that my daughter has borderline disabilities complete with behavioral problems. I cannot count the number of times I have visited a church and dropped her off with the children’s ministry only to have her returned to me mid-service because, “we’re having a hard time with her.” While I understand why children with special needs put a strain on the volunteer resources of smaller congregations, this does not change the fact that when this happens, I get very little out of the service because I spent my time there managing my child instead of participating, listening, and reflecting. I’ve sometimes left services like this wondering why I bothered to come at all.

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Life Begins at Blood

I wrote a paper on this for an ethics class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School last year. I offer this as a pro-life alternative to the “life begins at conception” position.

My paper was finished in a hurry at the last minute, so I over-relied on online sources, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find that the paper contains a number of errors. Still, the basic framework for my defense of this idea is there.

This was being discussed on a friend’s Facebook page recently, so I thought I would just go ahead and make the paper publicly available. Would love to publish more formally on this subject someday, especially if I could pair with someone with more scientific training than what I have. Feedback is welcome, though I have precious little time for in-depth argument on this at the moment.

Life Begins at Blood (PDF)

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Of Health & Healing: Part 2 of …

(Cross-posted at ClobberBlog.)

Child’s Pose. Image from Real Beauty

The triage nurse told us to have a seat in the waiting room. I found myself scrunched into my chair in child’s pose, my head resting in my husband’s lap. I imagine there are few things more ridiculous-looking than a 6’0″ woman curled into child’s pose sobbing, but it seemed to lessen the pain ever-so-slightly, so there I was. I had reached the point of not caring about a public display of pain. My husband gently stroked my hair and whispered that it was going to be all right, but I could hear the worry in his voice.

This time, the ER docs ordered a CT scan and wrote me a prescription for narcotic painkillers: methocarbamol and hydrocodone. Those drugs may have addled my brain and made me think everything was funnier, but they definitely took my pain away and allowed me to become semi-functional again. My pain was still bad though. Throughout the weekend, I found myself counting down the hours until I could take another pill as the pain in my neck began to creep back.

The doctors also told me to make an appointment with my PCP to have my neck evaluated; however, the last PCP I had seen was 12 miles away in Mundelein, and I had only seen her once or twice, the last time being ~18 months prior, so naturally, I didn’t do this. I kind of treat doctors the same way I was (at the time) treating God: I avoid them until I desperately need something from them. I had a temporary solution to my symptoms and didn’t really care about treating the cause.

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Of Health & Healing: Part 1 of …

(Cross-posted at ClobberBlog.)

I woke up sick. Lightheaded, nauseous, my neck aching and throbbing like it needed to be popped. I almost never throw up. It’s like I have a high fortitude save, so I have to roll a 1 to throw up. In nine months of being pregnant with my daughter back in 2005-2006, it only happened once. Yet, on Saturday August 4, I threw up.

My summer had been pretty awesome up to that point. Scratch that, my entire year had been mostly awesome. I had completed 19 credits with nothing lower than a B (hey, it was Calvin—what do you want from me?), I had switched my thesis topic to something that I am zealously passionate about, I was eating healthier (thank you pescetarianism), I had kicked my dependency on caffeine, and I was learning to cook and losing weight. I had co-organized a new Mormon studies blog with the help of 24+ people much smarter and sexier than I am, and I’d had a blast at the 2012 Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City. John Dehlin called me a “rock star” after one of my sessions, so it must be true. I seemed to have my depression and anxiety under control, and it dawned on me that I felt happier with my life than I had been in years. I didn’t remember feeling so happy since my mother was alive.

My guilty secret was that I was finding all of this wholeness and balance and happiness without God.

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Hell—Yes

John Constantine descends into Hell in Constantine (2005). © Warner Bros. Pictures.

The doctrine of Hell has come under considerable fire in recent years. [1] One need only browse the rumblings on religion-themed Internet discussion forums and Web logs to glean that the notion of a God who eternally disciplines sinful humans in the afterlife is about as popular as parents who spank their children. [2] Over a year ago, popular author and pastor Rob Bell sparked intense debate amongst evangelicals with the publication of Love Wins, a book wherein Bell speaks favorably of universalism, saying: “Whatever objections a person might have to [universalism], and there are many, one has to admit that it is fitting, proper, and Christian to long for it.” [3] Bell insists that he is not a universalist, but many within the evangelical community raised their voices in protest of this apparent attack on Hell from within our own ranks.

For my own part, I affirm the existence of Hell. I believe the Bible teaches that Hell is a real place, that it will be occupied, that those who go there experience anguish, and that assignment to Hell is permanent and based on one’s actions in this life. Furthermore, I believe that the alternatives to Hell—namely, universalism and post-mortem salvation—create more problems than they solve. A belief in the possibility of negative eternal outcomes as well as positive is the only option that validates our free will and grants meaning and purpose to our mortality.

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