This is the first of posts by the staff of St. John. You too are invited to write a blog about faith and life. If you are interested contact Pastor David.
When I was growing up in the late ‘70’s, a new phrase was born. “Latchkey kids” was the term used to describe all those neighborhood children who wore their house key around their neck. After school was dismissed, many of my classmates walked home, unlocked their front door, dumped their backpack in the hall, maybe grabbed some Pringles, and turned on the TV for some late afternoon cartoon nirvana. I was so jealous of these kids. When my mom was not able to be home after school, I had to go to Mrs. Carlson’s house where I sat on the plastic covered couch and watched Mikey, her youngest, pick his nose.
Now the reason these kids had their house key around their neck was because both parents worked and no one was able to be home after school. In reality, some of these kids might have enjoyed their Pringles/Tom and Jerry induced bliss. Many dreaded going home. The house was empty. There were strange noises. TV gets boring. No one asked how your day was, or pestered you to do homework. Now, the latchkey phenomena ushered in all sorts of social commentary about a generation of youngsters growing up without parent supervision for a significant amount of time each day. I don’t know that I observed a huge behavioral difference between myself - whose mother was home almost every afternoon – and my friends who wore their key around their neck. We all had our ups and downs. One thing I could count on, however, was this: when I opened that door after school, my mother would yell my name and ask me how I was doing.
These days, in our congregations, we bemoan the absence of a certain generation. Adults in their 20’s and 30’s increasingly indicate that “the church” is not relevant or meaningful to them. We commission study after study and write book upon book trying to figure out how “we” failed them – not enough small groups, no rock bands, making them memorize things – these are just a few theories floated for the way the church did not move fast enough to keep pace with the times. I beg to differ. I believe the reason we see fewer attendees in these age brackets is because their parents did not bring them to church – church became, for all intents and purposes, the empty house after school and these kids did not have any keys. In an effort to make up for the missed moments during the week, parents crammed as many “fun” activities into the weekend – sports, trips, shopping, movies. Church did not fit into that plan.
I am going to break this cycle with my children. My children will become children of the potluck. They will wear their fork and spoon around their neck. While I believe worship is an integral part of faith life, it is also important to know that the lady who sits in the pew next to you also makes the best pumpkin pie. And she wants to give you five pieces. Bible study is good. Knowing that “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub” is also acceptable to the Lord, is good as well. When kids know they can walk into the Fellowship Hall and someone is going to yell their name and ask them how they are doing…well this is proof that Jesus does, indeed, love them. My children may decide, as adults, to not be a part of a faith community. However, they will base this decision on the lived experience of a place where they were welcomed and loved and taught and known. The keys to the kingdom will always hang around their neck.