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In Love with Being in Love with God

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by susan_d_p)

My first years as a children’s pastor, I was part of a denomination that put a high value on emotional experiences with God. It was the same denomination I grew up in. I remember going to camps and retreats and knowing that “God moved” if there were a lot of people at the altar crying. When I became the one in charge of our district camp, I toned down the emotionality of things and even dared to have a different perspective on certain denominational distinctives. From some reactions I got, you’d think I was denying the deity of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think emotional experiences are wrong. I think they have their place. In fact, I think that some emotional experiences with God are a part of a vital and dynamic relationship with God. I take issue when the “experience” of God trumps an ongoing relational awareness of God regardless of experiences.

I think Scot McKnight states it rather well in this Out of Ur post a couple of weeks ago. It is entitled “Spritual Eroticism.” Here is a quote from the post:

“Friends of mine today worry about consumerization or commoditization in the church. I offer a slightly different analysis of what might be the same thing: for many, Sunday services have become the experience of courtly love. Some folks love church, and what they mean by ‘loving church’ is that they love the experience they get when they go to church. They prefer to attend churches that foster the titillation of courtly-love worship and courtly-love fellowship and courtly-love feelings.”

McKnight goes on to say that some people are more in love with experiencing God than they are God himself.

So what do we do when we introduce kids and families (and anyone else for that matter) to God? Do we completely strip experience out? I don’t think so. How do we, then, teach and show by example a healthy view of expereince? Again, I think McKnight says it well,

“Those who know the Beloved and desire nothing but the glory of that Beloved may well know the experience, but they are so enthralled with the Face of the Beloved they forget where they are and dwell in the presence of God with but one thought: God deserves praise, God is worthy of praise.”

One thing that we do with the kids at church is remind them that worshipping God is simply “paying attention only to God.” (I took that definition from Teaching Kids Authentic Worship by Kathleen Chapman.) We try and focus everything back on God. When we worship, it’s about focusing on God. When we pray, it’s about talking to God. When we sing, it’s about singing to God. We try and help kids to realize that in order to best follow God, there is one thing we need to know “love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”

How do you teach kids in your family and church how to love God more than the experience?

If you are from a more experiential church, how do you help kids realize that a relationship with God is not dependent on the experiences?

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