Monday, May 30, 2011

The Vision for Mars Hill Kids

Love this and hate it.

  • Love that MD is taking ministry to children seriously.
  • Love the cool branding.
  • Love the indoor play centre idea.
  • Love the idea of clever use of video.
  • Love the idea of kids community groups.
  • Love the idea of kids being in leadership. 
  • Hate that the kids who are chosen as leaders are chosen on the basis of their personality rather than any kind of godliness.
  • Hate the exclusivity - not everyone gets to be a leader. Many kids will be hurt by this.
  • Hate that the woman writing the curriculum was chosen for her secular teaching qualifications and there was no mention of her bible teaching ability.
  • Hate that it is doctrine based rather than story based.
  • Hate the lack of confidence it shows in normal christians to teach the bible to kids. I'd hate to have to deliver (ie. press 'play' and sit down) exclusively that curriculum and never get to write or deliver my own.



  1. he lost me at "age appropriate lectures."

    Didn't listen to any more after that.

  2. I was waiting to see that last point you made come up....surprised it took you so long!!

  3. I didn't like the "age appropriate lectures" bit either. Sounds like he is trying to apply an adult style of learning (ie. lecture -> discussion questions)

    I also didn't like the association he made between kinasthetic learners and the 'play area'. Surely a more effective way for kinasthetic learners would actually learn something from the 'lessons' would be though a craft or activity specifically related to the lesson rather than a general 'cool' play area.

  4. Forgot to say that it also sounds pretty exclusive - especially when he started talking about creating their own children's bible which would be all 'Mars Hill' this and 'Mars Hill' that.

  5. re. Lecture.

    I think it depends what you mean by lecture. If you simply mean one person speaking, then I think that could be okay - especially if interspersed with cool cartoon characters and stuff. By this definition, I give the kids in RE a lecture most weeks but I think I do it in an age appropriate and fun way. But I'd prefer to say that I tell them a story...

    Giving them a doctrine lecture, however, I think could miss the mark.

  6. I listened to it all. I don't know what to say so I'll just say that it sounds amazing and awful at the same time.

    That's as accurate as I can be.

  7. I'll go with awful. I guess if their church is video-based they can see how this will work. I would feel like a babysitter if I was pressing PLAY and getting the kids to watch a VIDEO. I really don't like the "training 2-year olds to be worship leaders" statements either. So you know what spiritual gifts God has entrusted to this group of children at age 3? Seriously? You know for sure which kids are ready to be mentored to be campus pastors? Hmmmmm. Okay, so you have thousands of kids and you will therefore need hundreds of Sunday School teachers and you can't assure the quality of their teaching across the board. Quality control? Is there any room here for ordinary people to have a go trusting in the Holy Spirit to do work in the hearts of our kids?

  8. I think you've captured it fairly well. My reflections on a couple of your points are:

    * I assume that he doesn't bother to spell out godliness requirements as that's so obvious it is assumed. And there's a place for that, you don't teach people to suck eggs in a seven minute summary of the distinctive changes. But when one generation assumes it, the next generation will tend to focus on what has been explicitly stated, so when it comes time to unpack this at length, the personality qualities had better be put in their proper, very secondary, place.

    *not sure I mind the exclusivity about leaders. That's life anyway, some children lead others, they don't share it around that much. More telling will be if they can pick and develop children who are the leaders, rather than having the real leaders unrecognised and the formal leaders with little influence.

    * what it's based around doesn't necessarily drive the shape of the lessons. My goal might be to ensure that the kids walk away with an age appropriate grasp of the content of the Christian faith, rather than an age appropriate grasp of the content of a bunch of biblical stories. But I can still teach that by focusing in on biblical stories, rather than abstract exposition. So i'd have to see the material produced (and probably after they'd done it for ten years and learned a few lessons along the way) to make a judgement.

    * As I've flagged in other contexts the lack of confidence in average Christians is sometimes appropriate - it's a very context based thing. "Our" circles grow slowly, and invest heavily in teaching and training (relatively speaking). We ensure quality control, and probably at the cost of some rapidity of growth (if it is possible in Oz to get fast growth at all).

    MD has a different strategy entirely. He sends very young men out with almost no training to plant churches. They're the key leaders, so the people under them will often be even less inculcated in the Christian faith. He is aiming for fast growth and doesn't want training the workers to slow down their being put on the front lines.

    So, unsurprisingly to this Anglican, he's constantly reinventing the Prayer Book and Book of Homilies in modern garb. He seeks quality control by producing something centrally that does the ministry elsewhere. It was that or not have quality control, or slow down the expansion. There's only so many 'solutions' to this problem one can opt for.

    MD's approach here has to be understood in light of his commitment to get people doing ministry and leading first, and them picking up training later. The two are linked.

  9. MB on MD is VG. Thanks Mark.

    I'd add that I heard him a bit different on a couple of things - 'age appropriate lectures', for instance, being something that he was working to avoid. Nor do I think he was suggesting that the 2 yr olds would lead the singing - it doesn't seem to necessitate that each group is split by age the whole time. Could easily have 12 yr old singers, say.

    But. Yikes - let's aspire to identify the campus pastors, because we really don't think there's any chance that any of them might grow up and go minister in a church that isn't tied to Mars Hill in some way!

    More worrying was the new Bible. Not the kids Bible, but the Doctrine book that will circumscribe everything that's taught. So that some kids will do each of the 13 topics, if they're equally weighted...from age 2 to 18...17x4 = 68 times. Sure, I'm being literal, but still. I remember doing bushrangers every second year in primary school, and thinking that dumb even then.

    Here's hoping the detail works out well.

  10. "But. Yikes - let's aspire to identify the campus pastors, because we really don't think there's any chance that any of them might grow up and go minister in a church that isn't tied to Mars Hill in some way!"

    I'd had a similar thought - he seems to be talking up a lot about what Mars Hill can get out of this problem, not God's people as a whole.

    I also don't like his assumption that if the kids do all this ministry stuff in 'Mars Hill Kids' that they will easily and willing transfer into the same roles when they join the adult 'Mars Hill'. The Mars Hill Kids stuff sounds like it will have a fairly different culture which may make the transfer seem daunting to some kids. Also if there is a stage where the teenagers have to switch, they might find it an easy time to switch churches or drop out of church altogether.

  11. It's like a kind of franchising - when he spoke of 'quality assurance'. I understand the concern for that, but it seems to just doubt the competence of local leadership (which, if his discipleship is in order, should be reliable, surely?)
    It just doesn't seem organic - that is, it appears to try and implement onto groups rather than build up from within the groups. I suppose, though, I'm not so inclined towards the multi-site church approach in the first place.

    I wrote recently about issues relating to children's ministry and I do think it's something that needs thinking about. That the teaching runs parallel to the adult teaching is a very good thing - nothing wrong with age appropriate teaching, but I wouldn't like to see a kind of parallel church created, but see kids encouraged to be a part of the church body.