Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A continuation of my thoughts of yesterday.

My point is not necessarily that we are wrong in this way of life we've cultivated. Sunday Schools exist, they likely always will. (I've often wondered what they did in the New Testament church....there were no basements to send the kids off to, and if there was another room, then who taught them? Knowing the community spirit, if they did send the kids elsewhere, I'm sure all the parents took turns. Which we dislike nowadays because we want kids to develop a relationship with a Sunday School teacher and you can't do that when they're here one week and not the other. But I think it would have been different in those days--they were more like families) (But again I digress)

Since we generally do accept that it's ok to let others instruct our children in spiritual matters, now begs the question, so then what responsibility should we be taking?

As one who has now been heavily into Children's Ministry for a couple years now, I can say, a heck of alot more than most do.

There's always the exceptions, the ones who are keenly interested in making sure their children are being sensitively and effectively ministered to. And so they're the ones being a part of that ministering. They're the ones taking on the lions share of this mammoth responsibility. But there are many who drop the kids off and rarely give the next hour or two a second thought.

I don't want to sound like a complainer. I'm doing what I'm called to be doing and that's not going to change until the call changes. But Children's Ministry is not like other ministries. We don't expect everyone to take their turn at being on the praise and worship team (after all, if you are benefiting from the singing, you should take your turn at it, right?) because, frankly, we don't want to hear from everyone in the church through a microphone. Many ministries require a specific talent or gifting. And Children's ministries is somewhat similar there...except that as you can read in my previous post, we get so desperate for people to teach that we have to dumb down the requirements to "love God and love kids". We've actually had to issue an ultimatum concerning our children's program; if we don't get 6 teachers by the end of June, there will be no program come September. So far, we've had no-one volunteer to teach for the year and only 2 or 3 who have said they would do a rotating thing "if you were desperate". 2 of those 2 or 3 have already taught with us sometime in the last two years. Oh and one teacher from this year intends to continue, no matter if the rest of the program runs or not. So at least one class of kids might continue getting something on Sunday mornings.

I wonder if any church has tried "co-op Sunday School"? I know that at the wonderful church in Brantford we attended for about 2 years, it was not very long after we started attending--maybe 2-3 months, before a new nursery schedule came out---and we were on it! (I didn't even realize they knew our names!) At that time we had 2 kids in nursery so this wasn't a huge surprise. I was surprised however that no-one had come and actually asked us to be on the rotation. I'll admit, I was slightly annoyed at this. But it seemed a pretty clear and fair concept to me: you use the nursery, you take your turn. Where else in our society do we involve our children in something at no cost to ourselves, and not expect to give back into it in some way? Even Verity's gymnastics, which was far from no cost to us, asked everyone to do some fundraising mid-year.

Even if, ok, you feel completely overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the idea of teaching a class of children (and by class, I mean around 4-6 children. Not 12). There are other things you can do. Allow me to list a few:

  • Substitute teach. Be on our list of people willing to take a class for one Sunday when a teacher is sick.
  • Buy presents: We like to recognize all our kids with a little something on their birthday. How would you like to go on a shopping spree without a single dent in your wallet? You're, right, it does sound like fun! Be our birthday lady/man.
  • Greet children: For 20 minutes every Sunday, you could create lasting and pleasant relationships by simply saying hello. Each child needs to be welcomed and greeted when they arrive for the program. This is a very important foundation for our program--the start of a positive experience at our church. You don't even need to do this every week--we'd be glad to make a rotating schedule.
  • Play an instrument or sing: We have a praise and worship time and normally rely on DVD's and CD's. It's really cool though, when someone can add a live instrument. And we always need singers. Again, this doesn't have to be weekly thing--we regularly rotate groups of kids through as junior p&w leaders, we can do the same for adults. It's important for the kids to see that their program matters--what they are experiencing is not a second-rate service just because they are young. Other adults in the church showing an interest and wanting to be involved will convey worth to the children.
  • Help technically: We attempt to put together an exciting multi-media component....well, it's not really a component, it's really the backbone of our service. From Powerpoint and Easyworship to Youtube and Yahoo video, we are looking to appeal to today's kids. Right now, one person programs this entire 1/2 hour long set-up. He also, with help from one other person, physically sets up our stage, sound and video system, runs the program and tears down afterwards. There are many parts of this that we could import to someone else:
  1. Set up. Come to the children's ministry room and help set up. It takes about 20 minutes before the service.
  2. Tear down. Takes slightly less time.
  3. Create stuff: Videos, scripture presentations, whatever. We are open to creativity.
  4. Fill in: Our tech guy has four kids and they've been known to be ill from time to time. We need people willing to fill in. Spend a Sunday or two observing and learning how our systems work. Then be willing to be on call if by chance he needs to be away on a Sunday.
  • Food: We're thinking of having a snack time in the fall. Having someone coordinate that, buy the food, serve it, clean up, whatever. That would be really great.
  • Miscellaneous talents: Puppetry? Magic tricks? Know a bunch of funny skits or games? Water glass playing? Breakdancing? We want to make our program fun and exciting. You come to us with some miscellaneous talent, skill or idea and we will find a way to use it.
Perhaps you've looked over this list and for whatever reasons, are still convinced you can't be a part. Alright. There is still a way to support us--those you've entrusted to, as we've established, teach your children the incomparable truths of God.
Be in relationship with us. Be our friend! We choose to miss out on the morning service to minister to the children of our church. We miss out on the before and after chit chatting, the general fellowship of being in an adult service, the sense of community that comes from corporate worship.So don't just gather your kids up and head out to the parking lot. Say hello, how did things go today? You're lookin' good, are you over that head cold? And....dare I say it....

Say thank you.

Last year I had one parent send a thank you card and small gift at the end of the year. In my choir work, out of about 35 kids in each choir, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 give me some token in appreciation for teaching their kids music once a week. Or at least an email.
I'm not looking for this. I'm not expecting this. Recognition is not why I do this.
But this year I didn't hear from any parents. Yes, a few other teachers said some words publically or by mass email. But that's different.
As I did last year, I went out and purchased something nice for each teacher and person who had contributed in a significant way to our program. Even at a modest cost per person, it adds up. I was actually a little scared to submit my receipts for these gifts. (Good thing my dad writes the cheques!)
But in working through this anxiety, the thought occurred to me....why am I scared? Do these people not deserve some token of gratitude for their time and sacrifice this year?
Absolutely they do.
And who is grateful to them? Well, yes, me and my mom, who co-directs with me. But who else?
Yes.....the parents.
But who went out and bought the gifts?
Again, I don't begrudge this. I enjoyed it actually. I was really excited about the gift we gave each teacher this year and I think they're all going to enjoy it immensely.
But the point is....not only are myself [and all these teachers] taking responsibility for the spiritual enrichment of these kids, I also took on the job of thanking them....for the families. You see my line of reasoning here?
This past year, we tried to organize a few events beyond the usual weekly program. We did Operation Christmas Child. We did a Christmas play. We had two movie events for missions fundraising--one involving a nice dinner. We did an end of year bbq.
Support our events. If you truly cannot give regular time in some capacity to your children's spiritual education, then show up when something is planned [to add to the Christian education they are already receiving for a short time weekly]. And if you can't come....then at least tell us you're not coming. There's nothing like buying 5 dozen hotdogs and hamburgers and only having 1/2 the expected amount of people show up.

I don't know why being a part of children's ministry is such an issue. I don't know why we don't get people willing to come out and teach the future generation of our churches. Maybe they feel they 'just don't have the gift of teaching'. This may be true. But my usual thoughts when hearing this run along the lines of, if you have kids, you teach. You teach them to drink from a cup, to pee in the toilet, to share their toys, to tie their shoes. Don't kid yourself. If you're a parent, you teach.

Maybe some feel they are too busy.
Need the time in church themselves.
Are involved in another ministry already.

My thoughts again? (and they are, just, my thoughts).

Make time for your children.

Your children need the time in church too.

Your children are your primary ministry.


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