Jesus and the Goldfish

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Here are the things my children know for sure about Sunday School:

1. When in doubt, the answer is Jesus, and
2. There will be goldfish.

Now Rule #1 is for sure a good bedrock principle for life (although less so in High School Science class). But it’s Rule #2 that has me scratching my head today: why is it that snacks are an unquestioned necessity in every children’s church program?


Our church service, being very western and organized, runs for exactly one hour. In the main sanctuary, the minutes of singing, greeting, announcements (always with the announcements… But I get it, they are central to our community life), the sermon… All carefully timed to fit into sixty minutes. The children’s programs have a schedule too: minutes of free play, clean up, circle time, bible story, craft and SNACK.

Now don’t get me wrong: my kids LOVE the snack! But I’m still wondering: Why? Why the snack? We can all last for 60 minutes without needing to eat. Children’s church is not a public school program where we know that for some kids, the calories they get on the campus are sometimes the only calories they get in a day. Rather, I would venture that for almost all the kids in our church, the goldfish consumed during Sunday school programs are competing for space with the lunch their parents will attempt to feed them within two hours of leaving church.

So why the snack?

I can think of three reasons:
1. The kids like eating.
2. It is something to do, and easily takes up 10 minutes of a program. When I occasionally sub teaching classes, I am always grateful for the 10 minute hiatus for munching…. But I could easily fill those minutes with play or singing too, if that were the norm. We’re just USED to making snack one of the non-negotiables of our kids program.
3. We are modeling and nurturing the idea of table fellowship: eating and talking together is something believers have done for centuries, and even young ‘uns get to participate in that aspect of Christian community.

Now that I think about it, #3 is a fairly persuasive argument in favor of keeping those horrible little goldfish crackers as a central part of our kids program. It can be a vehicle for conversation and community around a table, and it is also training for the horrible little crackers most of us will gratefully receive for communion for the remainder of our adult lives.

Community-building and communion-training could be great arguments in favor of keeping snack time. But if we’re serving snacks just because it’s always been done, because it’s expected, because it fills the time… Then I vote we ditch the goldfish, and cast our nets a little wider for inspiration.

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4 thoughts on “Jesus and the Goldfish”

  1. In all our years of children’s ministry, we’ve tried to avoid having a programmed snack time. that’s tough when you’re subbing for another teacher, but easier when it’s your own class.

    On announcements in church, I see them as discussing the business of the family of God, and therefore as much an opportunity to worship as is the singing or preaching or prayer time. A person up front should never apologize that announcements are taking too long, just as one should not apologize for prayer time. If a leader is taking too long to pray, that’s one thing; and if announcements are taking an overlong time, then there are things being announced that should be left unsaid. But there is every reason to include announcements in corporate worship just as there is prayer, preaching and singing.


  2. Who gives 600,000 African children fatal Malaria each year? “When in doubt, the answer is Jesus”.

    Jesus kills 600,000 African children fatal Malaria each year. What a jerk!


    1. Being an African kid myself, I’m fairly sure the answer to that one is “the mosquito” 🙂 but, “who knows the EXACT number of children bitten by Mosquitos each year?”… Well, that one must be Jesus.

  3. In these days of electronics plaguing many of our social interactions and invading what used to be the fairly exclusive community activity of eating together, I’d say #3 there is increasing in importance. That, and my 2-year old learned some things over goldfish that he doesn’t do (very well, anyway) at home – like sitting to eat his food, clearing his space…

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