In the 15th Century, the saying, “Children should be seen and not heard” was created to reflect current thought of the day. That saying remained popular until the later half of the 20th century. At that time, child rearing experts taught that children must be able to express themselves and be listened to, however actual practice began to take a different spin.
With the advent of the rumpus room, and then the Atari connected to the old TV in the rumpus room, a new tradition was born where children would neither be seen nor heard. As television and videos became more of a central figure in family culture, meals were increasingly eaten in front of the television. Now, instead of family discussions of religion, politics, general knowledge, conflict resolution, problem solving and the adaptations and resilience that was needed for life, the children were being educated, socialised and indoctrinated by F-Troop, My favourite Martian and Mr Ed.
That watershed moment in family history led to culture changing in the opposite direction to which it should have been moving. More and more in our culture, children were withdrawn from social situations where they would mix with adults. We even saw this in the church, where the demise of Sunday School classes resulted from society’s urge to withdraw the children for their own ‘children’s church’ during the service time, effectively isolating them from all that was said and done in the adult service.
The alienation has grown more intense in this century. The constant barrage of social and digital media available on such a range of devices means that the opportunity for children to be exposed to proper adult reasoning and problem solving and modelled behaviour has become even less. A child’s entire Saturday can be taken up with Minecraft, movies, Facebook, Instagram, iTunes and the like. That is a far cry from hanging with your Dad and talking about what it is going to take to fix the mower and the surprise gift he is planning for your mother and the thought processes he is going through as to whether to get a new car or not.
This has also served to deaden creativity in current generations. Children used to grow up putting on little performances for their parents and for other families when they came to share a meal. They would play an instrument, or create a play, or dance, or put on a puppet show. They would show you the drawing they did that day or they would sit and draw something for their guest to give them as a gift.
My great hope is that this hasn’t died completely. My strong desire is to see the rebirth of the creativity that didn’t have a chance to continue flowing in so many of our young people. Certainly, I have been greatly encouraged by churches like Pour It Out Church at Maroochydore and Peace Christian Church in Rockhampton, where the children have the opportunity to stay with their family during the church service. They are a valued part of proceedings, active in the different aspects of corporate worship that take place on a Sunday. Our children are not the future of the church. They are a crucial part of the church right now. They have gifts and talents that are needed for the body of Christ to be whole. In churches like these, the children grow up with the opportunity to do most things that the adults do. They are exposed to the highs and the lows, the victories and the struggles.
My advice is this: Get alongside some people the generation older than you. Be seen more than you are heard and see what you can learn. Get alongside the people in the generation younger than you. Talk your head off about life. Share your story and what you’ve learned. Be somebody who works toward restoring intergenerational relationships and learning. Be boldly creative and encourage those of every generation around you to be creative with you.
Ever changing; Thy Kingdom come.
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