Children’s Ministry: Teaching Community

I feel like I need to be more intentional about writing and reflecting on various aspects of my ministry – youth and children, for sure, as well as my attempts at connecting more to a women’s community and seeking out social justice/mission. Thankfully, sometimes these overlap (i.e. Our 6th-8th grade class does something called the “Rockathon” every year – a CHPC tradition – where they raise money for an AIDS orphanage in Zimbabwe. I’ve loved working on a “curriculum” for it this year).

So, I’m thinking about the church school classes. I’ll be the first to admit that these age groups are not my forte, but I feel as though I’ve picked up a lot in the last 6 years (not including my time as the Children’s Ministry Pastor at Korean churches during college and seminary – maybe tack on another 5-6 years) from experience, other pastors, parents, books and magazines…lately, blogs, too. Still, although there are so many resources, I think the one thing I’ve learned is necessary is – flexibility…because this is necessary in relationship building in the church especially with children.

During my time at CHPC, I’ve been thinking more and more about how to cultivate community within the classrooms so it’s not just another obligatory activity, but a space where real relationships can happen among children and between the children and teachers. I was struck by Westerhoff’s Will Our Children Have Faith? recommended to me by a pastor at a different church, and luckily on my HOS’s bookshelf. It’s a much older book but hits on a lot of themes still relevant today – namely as a review put it: The issue that “Christian education modeled itself on the curriculum approach of secular schools, thereby relegating religious education for children entirely to Sunday morning classes, and disregarding a variety of other educational contexts and opportunities represented by the family and the community of faith.” I totally agree that the traditional Sunday School model doesn’t work. The intention of the structure is important, but Sunday morning gatherings for children shouldn’t simply just be about regurgitating facts, but creatively living into community with God in their specific season.

What does this mean, practically? I’m still working on it…But, I think some of what we do at youth group like getting kids to share about their lives and doing spiritual activities, and then what we do in worship like hearing God’s story and figuring out where we fit in it may be a start. I grow tired of the gimmicky programs for kids, and long for more depth – simplicity, still, but not surface-y. I think our kids deserve and need more than that stuff…

3 thoughts on “Children’s Ministry: Teaching Community

  • November 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I’ve been challenged by this question too — and it’s become a passionate platform for me as I remind all our members that church isn’t the building or showing up on Sunday morning. As a minister, I don’t get to give you faith. You have to find it — and then, as a parent, you have to share that search with your kids. (And we’re here to help with that encouragement.)

    I found this book really helpful:

    • November 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm

      Thanks Elsa! I like that a lot. I feel like empowering our parents to ultimately be the spiritual teachers/leaders for their children is something that is really important, and unfortunately really lacking in our churches. I hate that Church School is sometimes basically a glorified free babysitting program on Sunday mornings for some of the parents. Something is missing and wrong!

      I do have the Liz Caldwell books, and love them. My hubs tried to do a Bible study on Making a Home for Faith with folks at his church – to garner some conversation and enthusiasm for Sunday School, and no one showed up for two weeks. Very disappointing.

      • November 23, 2010 at 7:53 pm

        Gosh. That’s really frustrating. Have you invited parents to a meeting (perhaps when a children’s even is happening) and asked, what do you want? I find our parents want that. And you only need to have one plant to have them all talking over each other. I’m gearing up for a winter thing on teens and drugs that happened from one of these conversations.

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