I'm very interested to hear everyone's thoughts on this month's topic of children's ministry, so I thought I'd share a few of mine in hopes to get things rolling.
Let me preface by saying that I am not a children's pastor and I have very limited experience in children's ministry. I am interested in this topic because 1) I'm a youth pastor, so I'm next in line to speak into these kids' lives, 2) I have small children and I care deeply about what they are being taught and 3) one of my best friends is a children's pastor. For those reasons, I allow myself to spend hours upon hours wondering, analyzing, questioning and proposing (if only to myself) changes that could be made.
I think I began by asking myself, what is it that I want my children to learn? The length of my list was overwhelming, but after I narrowed things down, I realized that my list basically consisted of all the things that I'm trying to learn for myself, i.e. wisdom, character, integrity, awareness, stewardship, etc.
Then I asked, how can we best teach them these things? I was suddenly struck by the realization that my children already possess many of the characteristics that I am trying to re-install in myself: curiosity, wonder, awarness, enthusiasm, love of life, compassion, sensitivity, gentleness, creativity, generosity, imagination, etc. Certainly these things take time to mature, but the seeds are already there and growing.
So, perhaps rather than trying to teach children, we would do better to nurture what is already inate in them. Perhaps we could learn to see the value of those characteristics, thereby teaching the children to also value them. Maybe we need only to present them with things that are good, beautiful, noble, lovely, brilliant and true, and then allow them to respond.
I am sorry to say that I don't have many practical ideas for how to go about this. I haven't been able to see first-hand any really creative, effective children's ministries. I like the idea of presenting the Bible as the narrative of one story rather than hundreds of individual unrelated stories or verses. Grasping the narrative of the Bible has proved far more beneficial to me than knowing facts and dates and being able to quote memory verses which was the emphasis of the children's ministry of my childhood.Something that I do with my own children is simply read a passage from the Bible and allow them to tell me how it speaks to them without my prodding or leading. Sometimes they say nothing at all, and I think that's okay. Other days they say things that are completely off the wall. Sometimes they get exactly what I think they should get. But I want them to trust their own ability to comprehend and interpret and not feel that they have to rely on outside interpretation to understand.
Those are a few of my thoughts at the moment. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's ideas.
posted by kara at 12:52:00 PM |


At January 3, 2008 at 2:54 PM, Blogger russell

I'm not a parent yet, so I don't have anything empirical to offer, but...
I really believe in the power of the narrative. I think we will do well to tell our children God's stories. I guess it seems so common-sense, and I don't know how to go really deep in a practical sense... but I want my children to know God's story


At January 3, 2008 at 4:45 PM, Blogger kidinspiration

The tough thing with Children's Ministry is the hour/hour and a half maybe two that we get with kids each week. If this is the only spiritual input they get then it is much harder to develop anything at all... (not impossible, just harder).

CM is ideally a partnership between parent and pastor.

So on weekends I really want to give kids something experiential.

You are exactly right about nurturing what is already there and teaching the bible as narrative not rule book.

David Wakerley


At January 3, 2008 at 6:07 PM, Blogger russell

As one employed full-time in youth ministry, I empathize with your comment about the weekly hour-and-a-half. Makes one fess up that the solution lies not in programming. I can't imagine how intimidating it must be for those enlightened parents who do realize that spiritual rearing is primarily their responsibility, not the church's. Tangent: Over vacation, I worked my way through Mark DeVries' Family-Based Youth Ministry, and emerged quite refreshed. A must-read for any ministry practicioner who longs to serve children and youth not by putting on cool programs but by facilitating profound spiritual relationships. Playing "discipleship matchmaker" if you will, both in the child's immediate family but also in the extended family of their loving congregation.


At January 4, 2008 at 2:00 PM, Anonymous Jenn

I loved your thoughts on this topic, Kara. I am not a children's pastor and only have the past experience of being a parent on a schedule to help in the room. Recently, our family has been assisting with a smaller church (my husband and I have both been brought up in a large church) and my children have blossomed in their new environment. From my perspective, there are a few things that have aided them in this. The pastor of the church engages my children from the moment they step in the door. My 4 yr old loves to get their early so she can help Pastor Mary. The teachers are consistent. At our "home" church, there are teams of 2-3 workers that are on schedule every 4 weeks. My children have always had a hard time going into classes in which they don't know the teachers (or barely recognize them). For Christmas, part of the service included the children and conversations about caring for others, taking care of those who don't have what we have, etc. The children worked at home towards saving up enough money to send over to South Africa a rooster and chickens. My kids were so excited to do jobs around the house so they could put money in their cups to share on Sundays. This type of focus really complemented what we are instilling at home. I agree that nurturing what is already seeds within them would help them grow roots. I also think that making them active participants would foster all of the characteristics you've listed. I'm not sure on the exact "hows" to do that but I believe that children learn what they do.


At January 5, 2008 at 4:33 PM, Anonymous sonja

You might find the series that Margie is doing at Emerging Kids interesting. She is reviewing a book called Children Matter. She's going through it chapter by chapter and there are some really good nuggets in there ...


At January 17, 2008 at 12:24 AM, Anonymous Vivian

To be honest, I really would like more churches try a family style of worship. That is to say, kids in laps or perhaps in a next door room, learning through play and through watching adults worship and study and learn together. I have tried large churches, and small, who had entire curriculums for every age right down to 2 years old. In the end, my own heart and parenting style with my toddler made my feel like the "backyard church" of early Christians was likely an amazing way to do "children's ministry"- it certainly did a better job raising a generation of Jesus-followers than we seem to have been doing in the past 50 years! I minored in religion at a christian college and took a couple courses related to children's ministry, but the style I'm talking about just seems so much more holistic. So, I don't know, that's my two sense!


At January 18, 2008 at 5:54 PM, Blogger Mrs. Wimberly

I am in a small group (church) that is trying to be missional. We have more children that adults and have 4 groups of classes each week. We have really enjoyed the program The Way of the Child by Companions in Christ. It has helped our school age kids really think about their relationship with Christ. It has encouraged the kids to learn how to communicate with God at their own personal level. It was a lot of work to set up. We do have a rotation of different teachers each week every month but the kids I think enjoy the various teachers. It encourages community, global thinking, prayer, journaling and reading and pondering God's word through stations. We did however cut out one station "gazing" because it just did not see to fit our church group.

We also regularly do missional activities in our communities and always include the kids: Ronald McDonald House- staying and serving food, clothing drive for a homeless men's shelter and visiting a elderly retirement home often- singing carols, helping deliver meals on wheels, making crafts and playing Bingo with them.

We had VBS the last 2 summers but did more missional VBS programs where the crafts were not made for us, but for others and then we went and delivered them. (They were Under Construction by Smyth and Helwys- A Habitat for Humanity VBS and A Heart for Mission by the same company: we visited an retirement home to take things we made for them.)

This summer I want to change the idea of VBS. Instead of asking kids to come and hope they grasp the idea of missional work, I have some ideas in the working. I was thinking we would find a place locally that is in need and plan to have our VBS surround that. We would plan the Bible story and verse around the need. We would meet large group, do songs around that theme of need and learn about the Bible story. Then we would learn about the place in need and how we can help. Then we would split into age appropriate groups to make a craft that we would later will deliver to our group in need and of course have a snack of some sort. After that time the VBS would move to the group in need's location to put into practice what we had learned that morning. Our VBS doesn't last 5 days (too much). Only 3 days and that seems to be enough.

A church not far from our community does a really cool way of teaching children. I am needing to go observe it to gleam from it more. They create a theme based on a passage and implement in the same passage and verses over a 4-5 week period. They have different teachers come in to communicate the passage and how it applies to them. Each teacher is skilled in a particular area: music, art, storytelling and kinestic (I am guessing) and communicates this story and passage in their talent. For example if you were focusing on the story of the Good Samartian the teacher who is skilled in art would help the kids communicate this story through art, the skilled teacher in music would help them communicate this story in music and the storyteller would help them communicate the story in a theatric way. IT SOUND AWESOME!!

I would really recommend the book Postmodern Children's Ministry by Ivy Beckwith. It is one of the most powerful books I have read that communicates the changes in our children in 2008 and how that affects our churches and Children's Ministry.


At January 18, 2008 at 6:00 PM, Blogger Mrs. Wimberly

I just thought of one more thing. I love some of the books on relevant.com. I have thought it might be a good idea to have a book study for our older kids based on one of the books at that site. I think the concepts are practical and real and are about things our kids face. I am a teacher and LOVE when I see kids digging deeper into books and having book clubs. My only concerns are the appropriateness of books and making sure the Bible is the source of learning.