Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is Segregation Always Wrong?

Today's post is actually me thinking out loud, as it were, not sharing insights or giving a challenge.

I grew up in church, as did my spouse.  At the time, it was expected that children be separated from their parents and taught in children's classes.  That may seem innocuous enough, but even infants were expected to be dropped off at the nursery so they would not disrupt the teaching of God's Word.

Furthermore, in my church, once children reached middle school, we were separated further into same-sex classes.  Keep in mind, this was a small church of maybe 100-150 in attendance, so that's a lot of teachers needed!

During my childhood, I just accepted the age-divided classes.  After all, grown-up church was boring.  But even as a kid, I recoiled at the rewards-based system in place for the children's programs, and at the competition of boys versus girls or class against class.  If Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep (I reasoned), why are the sheep trying to one-up each other or fighting to earn the Shepherd's favor?

Now, as an adult and a parent, part of me is horrified at the thought of turning over my children to semi-strangers teaching them who-knows-what about God and the Bible.  For instance, my 5 year old was explaining to me her teacher's definition of what sin is: "If your mommy or daddy asks you do do something and you don't do it, that's sin."

My mind boggled for a moment.  I mean, what if some poor kid is being sexually abused?  The church teacher is (inadvertently, I'm certain) telling this child s/he has to accept being violated!  Regardless, that's not even an accurate definition of sin.  It would be more correct to explain to a child that sin is, quite literally, "missing the mark."  I completely understand simplifying a concept for children, but I'm also painfully aware young children are extremely literal and place a lot of weight on what perceived authorities tell them.

On the other hand, an adult-oriented church service or class is not necessarily an appropriate place for children, either.  Topics such as child sacrifice or genocide are recorded in the Bible, and the mention could be a catalyst for anxiety-based nightmares or worse, a fear of God, the Bible, and church.

As a result, I'm frustrated and questioning.  Is segregation ever a good thing?  Should the Church be practicing age-based segregation when we are called to unity?  Is there a practical alternative or middle ground somewhere between complete age-based segregation and complete inclusion?

These are difficult questions, which I'm sure, do not have easy answers.