Tuesday, August 18, 2009

in a tangle over membership

Sunday morning service included the welcoming of 6 new members at church. This included a family of 5 from the Philipines and made for an exciting service.

On the way home my children floored me. “Dad, are we church members? We listened to what you said (by way of introduction). You talked about membership as belonging, and membership as participation. So we can be members. Right?”

As baptists, we have a number of rites of “theological” passage: membership, baptism and communion. Historically, they are not generally reserved for children. But looking at my kids, I’m suddenly not actually saw why not. If my kids participate and feel they belong, why can’t they be members?

Help me with theology of children and faith development folks.

For more on membership:

Posted by steve at 11:53 PM


  1. Some related questions in this discussion, in a Baptist context, are:

    When are kids “old enough” to be baptised?
    What do we expect/allow our kids to contribute to the life of the church?
    If baptism confers authomatic membership, can 13 year olds who are baptised, become members with voting rights?

    And finally, who is included when we dedicate a baby? When I have performed dedications, I always address the kids, reminding them that they have an important role in showing Jesus to younger children by the way that they welcome them. I ask them to stand, along with the adults, in an act of commitment.

    Comment by kerry — August 19, 2009 @ 2:04 am

  2. My kids are now 15 and 17 and the best advise I ever received on this subject was, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I also am Baptist and understand the church polity that goes with membership, but, when my kids were ready to come to God I let them and membership came with that. I never wanted to be guilty of telling them not to come to God. Hope that helps.

    Comment by Russ — August 19, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  3. I have a similar one Steve – Daddy why can’t we receive communion at church like we share our meals at home? – I can quote all the why’s and where-fores, the theology and the doctrine, but at the end of the day… taking the premiss that our children come from God (knitted in the womb etc)- having children was a 180 degree turn on this one for me – is membership of the body of Christ implicit until we as adults damage that relationship for them and have to then help them back to it?

    Comment by Nigel — August 19, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  4. First, you can be a regular contributing member of the church without voting rights the same as you can be a active citizen of our country with ideas about politics without voting in our elections. Some things just come with age eg. drinking age, voting, marriage.
    You can be part of a group of people without being a member. Your daughters contributions and involvement are just as validated but membership like the other things mentioned above in the Baptist churches is reserved for adults. This is due to the nature of voting etc.
    Hope that makes sense – understand the feeling though! I had the issue when I was young on when was the right age for me to be baptised, I never had an urge to become a member though, wasn’t as interested in the voting side of things!

    Comment by Karen — August 20, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  5. This is a question I also wrestle with Steve and formed the substance of Danelle’s and my lunch conversation the other day – sadly it was McDs… but anyway…

    I can certainly affirm the validity of a child’s faith, baptism, membership and ability to take communion, but I do think that as well as participation and belonging there is ‘responsibility’ and that some of the responsibility associated with the way churches function may be more than is fair to place on a child.

    Legal process means children can’t vote until they are 18 and that is the case in most churches i have been a part of (although they can be members). I guess the age is arbitrary but the question of how much a child can process and deal with is critical. Some 18 year olds are obviously not able to make good decisions either.

    Perhaps if we removed voting from our decision making – or made it the absolute last resort – then children could fully participate all the way thru to the vote – if it were appropriate. I am concerned about exposing kids to the seedier side of church life and damaging their innocence before time.

    Just some random reflections

    Comment by Andrew Hamilton — August 20, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

  6. Andrew,

    ta for your input.

    your last paragraph is interesting. it focuses on the -ve side of church meetings, and there are many! but there are also outstanding moments in church meetings, and so kids surely should be able to appreciate those.

    i wonder if having kids there could actually encourage better behaviour from adults!


    Comment by steve — August 21, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  7. ah… recent experience showing 🙂

    Comment by Andrew Hamilton — August 21, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

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