Gathering Three: Phil Vischer on Family in Chicago
Notes: In Chicago, we are uniquely positioned to guide Christian kids into culture-shaping work.
- Christianity in Chicago doesn’t have a Southern accent. Christianity isn’t a cultural expectation here. It isn’t just “the culture.” For seven years I worked downtown in video production and advertising, and I didn’t know any other Christians in that world. I was in “the world.” This was key for VeggieTales, being able to speak to audiences of non-Christians and Christians.
- In Nashville, Atlanta, or Dallas, it is just assumed that everyone is a Christian. In New York and San Francisco, is it assumed that NO ONE is. Chicago is a unique big city. There are many, many Christians in Chicago, but it is not an assumption. It isn’t the dominant world view. We are outsiders, but outsiders in such significant numbers that we can really have an impact.
- The advantage of this over the south is that Christianity here doesn’t become “inbred.” It is never “assumed.” The advantage over the northeast or the northwest is that we have sufficient numbers to actually be a factor in the culture. In Chicago, perhaps more than any other major urban area, Christianity can interact with secular culture in a truly meaningful way.
- There is so much talent in Chicago. The ability is there for us to raise creative kids and send them into culture-shaping work without having to move to San Francisco or Hollywood (where being a Christian is much harder because there are few Christians).
How should this affect our children’s ministry programs?
- We can help children see that God’s world is big and diverse.
- Chicago is a big doorway to pop culture.
- Expose children to the economic and cultural diversity of our area. We need soup kitchens, poetry, art, and music. Expose kids to ALL OF THEM. The arts communicate God’s truth to many people more effectively than exposition. Paint a vision for your kids to respond to human longings both physical and spiritual. Very little speaks to our world spiritually more than music, film, theater, art, etc.
- Empower children to respond to the brokenness they see in the city by creating art to bring God’s light to the city.
How can we help families grow spiritually strong children?
- Give parents a vision for exposing their children to the diversity, art, and brokenness of the city.
- Equip. Redouble our commitment to teaching the faith, and helping parents teach their children faith. That’s why I’ve spent four years producing the comprehensive “What’s in the Bible?” series, with DVDs for families to use at home and curriculum for churches.
- Engage. Empower parents to engage the city. Be “city literate” – city aware. Not just of the museums and Navy Pier, though. Take kids into the neighborhoods. Learn about the condition of the city, then find ways to pitch in. Partner with city ministries.
- Are you equipped to teach children about God in the Chicago museums and Shedd Aquariam? We should be prepared to teach them about God in places like these.
- Don’t shy away from the culture here. Run towards it!
Questions for groups:
- What are the cultural expectations that you run into in your city culture? What about your church culture?
- How are you uniquely positioned to fight for or press against those expectations for the sake of children?
- Phil talked about helping children see that God’s world is big and diverse. What are some ways your ministry is doing that right now?
- Francis Chan wrote, “Fear has a way of channeling our thought process.” Do any fears exist for you or for your ministry context that preclude you from exposing kids to diversity (both cultural, economic, and artistic)? What are they? If your church has overcome these fears in the past, how did you do it? What did you learn in the process?
- How should your ministry to children and families be shaped by the city and culture you minister in?
- Idea: Equipping parents with information to take their kids to museums or other places and talk about the inclusion or absence of the Bible and Jesus. ex: The Christian Visitors Guide to Chicago
- Creating space and platforms within our communities for questions to be raised about things like dinosaurs and other things we find while going places in Chicago. Give them a card and ask for their feedback.
- Finding ways to show children the need for spiritual growth outside of the one-hour a week on Sundays.
- Idea: Ask children to draw God. You will be amazed by what they draw to show how they think and what they think about God.
- We need an opportunity to have conversations about these things with God. Not all parents get to spend this time with their kids. Is there a way that I can set something up, such as lunch once a month, where they can ask me these questions and I can help?
- Resource: Children Can You Hear Me? Questions that children would like to ask.
- Idea: Instead of creating early activities for kidmin services, just leaving out paper and crayons for coloring.
Closing Worship Time