Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Why Don't Lutherans Like Babies?
What has changed in 30 years or more? Lutherans have stopped having babies. In part this is because of the aging of the people in the pews but it is also due to the fact that Lutheran families capable of having children are having fewer children and many are having none at all. Now some of you green people will think this is a good thing. I think it is a terrible thing. The chief reason Lutherans are not having babies is selfish -- we want to conserve and consume our resources for ourselves. We no longer see children simply as blessings and gifts but more as burdens and responsibilities that accompany these blessings. We complain about kids not being still during worship and we have come to believe that it would be better if children were not seen as well as not heard.
In the run up to Lutheran Book of Worship/Lutheran Worship hymnals, much was made of the baptismal rite and whether it should presume infant baptism with option for adult baptism or presume adult baptism with option for infant baptism. LBW opted for the presumption of adult baptism with option for infant. LW opted for infant baptism with option for adult. While there was and is much to discuss in this, the very occasion for this debate was the growing realization that the number of Lutherans having babies was already going down, down, down.
In the more than 30 years I have been a Pastor I have noticed a shift in priorities in congregations. Parochial schools are diminishing in size and even closing. Preschools and day care facilities run by Lutheran congregations are filled with children from non-Lutheran homes and these things tend to be run as businesses to make money more than ministries to children and their families. Where once it was assumed that any budget request or fund raiser for a child or youth program would be accepted and successful, some are complaining about the cost of children's and youth work in the congregation. Even the National Youth Gathering dropped about 25% from over 30,000 in attendance to about 24,000. Which brings up point two.
We as Lutherans are not doing a very good job of retaining the babies we do have. Obviously this is directed more at the families of these children than the children themselves, but, the point is that we are misplacing large numbers of these children. They are not around by the time catechism comes along and those confirmed are dropping out as well. Look at any Sunday school roster in any Lutheran congregation and you see names of children who are never there or seldom there. Their parents know how to make commitments (to programs for children and youth sports, dance, music, etc.) but they are not making that commitment to the Church. This is not just their problem. It is OUR problem. What are we doing wrong that these Lutheran parents are thinking that sports or other youth programs are better for their kids than church, catechism, and Sunday school? What are we doing wrong that these Lutheran parents are thinking they are good parents while failing at the job of raising their children IN the faith?
I am reminded of Jesus' words that he who is faithful in little will be given much to be faithful over... and that he who is not faithful in the little will have even the little he has taken from him... Is it because we are not being faithful that Lutheran families are on average almost childless? Is it because we are not being faithful that we are losing so many of these babies before they become children, and losing these children before they become youth, and losing these youth before they become teens?
You tell me... what are we doing right and what are we doing wrong?