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Kenny Conley: I’ve found that the longer I’ve followed Christ, the easier it is to become institutionalized.

I’ve found the longer I’ve followed Christ, the easier it is to become institutionalized. We surround ourselves with people who think like we do, act like we do and believe like we do. We so easily create a Christian ghetto and consider it a good thing. I remember being a part of a church a long time ago that created a ministry environment where there was something to do at the church practically every night of the week. From athletics, school, swimming pool and even a cemetery, every significant experience in your life could happen right on that 80 acres of property.

Christian parents tend to do the same with their kids. We want to protect, protect, protect. Protecting isn’t a bad thing, but too much protection may have a negative consequence. Over the years, I’ve had parents visiting my church ask me about our church’s stance on Harry Potter, Halloween and other pop Medim icons like Pokemon and such. I can’t help but feel questions like these are missing the point, right?

No doubt, kids in our family and our churches need to know and understand the truth of the Gospel. They need to learn to discern truth from lies that culture pushes. They need to learn what it means to have faith that transcends what they hear from peers and cultural influences. For this to happen, I think we need to allow for a little bit of messiness to creep into the environments where spiritual formation is supposed to happen. In our natural and honest desires to protect our kids from what can harm them, we may give them a false experience of what being a Christian in our culture looks like.

How is this played out? We’ve got kids in our ministries who have some serious problems. There’s a good chance my son might pick up some inappropriate words from peers at church. Our kids might grow up having good friends who aren’t Christians. They might even share other faiths like Islam or Hinduism. My kids are going to know a peer or adult in their life who has diametrically opposed values or ethics than what they hear at home.

Fifteen years ago, I don’t know how I would have responded to any of these situations. At the very least, I would have been incredibly uncomfortable with the situations. However, I like to think about the kind of church Jesus would lead if he were walking this earth today. I’m pretty sure the crowd that would follow him and sit in his services would be pretty messy. If I attended this church and hung out in this crowd, I’m sure my kids and family would be exposed to things with which I’m uncomfortable.

So, if we can ensure our kids understand truth and can be given the opportunity to walk out a faith that is messy, being relationally connected to others who don’t have it all together, that’s a faith that is genuine and worth living. Again, just food for thought. I’m sorting through what this looks like for my family as I already lead a ministry where messiness is a norm.  

Kenny Conley Kenny Conley is the primary author of Childrens Ministry Online and the NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. In addition to creating the Illuminate Conference, a high quality kidmin conference designed specifically for volunteers, Kenny is a published author and speaker.

More from Kenny Conley or visit Kenny at http://www.ChildrensMinistryOnline.com

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