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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family of Faith, Part Deux

I started to get nervous when I randomly checked the stats on my blog and saw that "Family of Faith" was relatively off the chart. Then, I had a conversation that made me a bit more nervous. Now, I'm back to clarify... specifically regarding my own opinion on children's ministries.

I shared that I've read a lot of books that run the gamut... "Parenting in the Pew," "Teaching Kids Authentic Worship," "Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions," and "Family Driven Faith" are a few that come to mind. I also shared that I fall somewhere in the middle. I can see that both points of view on children's ministry have some validity. Here is specifically what I mean by that.

Children's ministries are awesome, wonderful places for children to learn alongside their peers, have focused attention and activity at their own level, and have tons of fun at church! I know, because I sure did (both as a child, and as a children's ministry teacher)!

On the other hand, I can also see how parents of children in a children's ministry may forget to teach their kids Bible stories and other truths or follow up on what they learned in class because they know that the Sunday School teacher is doing it. I know, because I saw it (both as a parent and as a children's ministry teacher).

Now, I am not saying that either of the above statements in favor of or against children's ministry is true 100% of the time. Of course it isn't! My struggle is what to do with MY child, as is every parent's struggle.

So let me back up a few years. I had the absolute pleasure and joy of serving as a Sunday School teacher to 2- and 3-year-olds for a few years. I ADORED those children. I loved them like they were my own. I spent hours planning my time with them, wanting it to be the most wonderful, enjoyable experience of their week... and more than anything, wanting them to learn to love Jesus! I genuinely believe this is the heart of almost every single one of the people who lay down their own agendas to sacrifice and love on little children who are not their own. I also know that they love parents! They are honored to give parents a break and an opportunity to go learn and enjoy time with other adults. They know that many parents haven't been able to do that all week long, and they love to be the people to get to come in and love on your children so that you can have a conversation with a real grown-up without someone tugging your clothes off, running away, or begging you for snacks. The teachers and people in children's ministries (and all ministries, for that matter) are there because they WANT to be there. Nobody made them do it. They LOVE to do it. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the case at my church. I have no reservations about any of the people in my children's classes. I KNOW they love children. I KNOW they love Jesus. I KNOW their heart is for all the children who set foot in their doors to learn to love Jesus as well. That's it. End of story.

So, because of all that, I do ask my son every single week if he wants to go to his class. If he changes his mind, he is more than welcome to go. As I said before, the one thought keeping things as they are for us is just that I want my son to love church. For now, he loves being with us at church. I have an internal struggle with this issue every week. I ask if he wants to go to his class. He says no. I think, "Is that okay? Should I make him go to his class? Should I let him stay with me? What am I teaching him? WWJD ;) ? and on and on..." I have no idea if I'm doing the right thing, but for now it feels "more right" than forcing him into a class where he'd rather not go. I know he feels more connected with us and with some older children who are not in his class. They are the church we go home with. They are the church we spend the day with and hang out with during the week. That's totally okay with me. I know he's connected with us and with other believers, so that's okay.

The Wednesday night class is meeting a need for us right now, and for a few other families as well. It is allowing us to learn with our children. It is not to take the place of children's ministry or compete with it in any way (part of the reason it is on Wednesday nights). It is a supplement. I remember that when I was teaching the 2s and 3s, there were these little take-home lessons for parents, and that it was actually really helpful for the next week's lesson if the parents had done the homework with the kids. As a teacher and someone who loved these children, OF COURSE I wanted their parents to do the homework with them. OF COURSE I wanted parents to teach their kids the Bible stories again and again. I loved them, and I wanted them to learn about Jesus every single day of their lives. I would've taught them every single day if I could, but that really was their parents' job. I am sure most people in children's ministry feel the same way. So, that is the middle for me. That's the hole that family ministry fills. Family ministries don't have to meet in church buildings, of course, but it has given us additional accountability to actually "do our homework" when we know that we'll be face to face with other parents and children who may or may not have done theirs! It's also really encouraging to see other families interacting, how they learn and play together, how we adults can learn FROM children, how discipline works in other families, how the roles of family members play out. It is just like any other ministry in that way. Sometimes we need to be with other women because we can talk, learn, and do "women things." Sometimes we need to be with other couples because we can talk, learn, and do "couple things." .... And sometimes, we need to be with other families because we can talk, learn, and do "family things."

Anyway, that's where I'm at for now. Again, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing on Sunday mornings. My gut says this is the right answer for now, and I'm not one to go against my momma instincts. They've served me well so far, so I will continue to go with that. However, I am open to any wisdom you other moms have to offer if you see something that I'm missing.

Finally, for the sake of saying it, if you read my first blog and took it to mean that I am against children's ministries or that the people who serve in children's ministry are anything less than wonderful, sacrificial, loving people, please accept my humblest apology and understand that was not at all my intention. God has just laid this "new (old) thing" of family ministry on my heart very strongly, and as we should all passionately pursue that which God lays before us, I will be passionately pursuing this. I hope that makes sense. ;)

So, thank you to those who taught my Sunday school classes growing up.

Thank you to the children's pastor who passionately encouraged my growth and spurred me on to greater faith. You genuinely molded my faith more than almost any person I can remember growing up.

Thank you to my parents for allowing me to learn both from them and from others.

Thank you to the people who have taught my son, both in formal children's ministry and in regular life.

Thank you to the people who will someday teach my children. I know you will love them as your own and encourage them to passionately pursue our God.

Thank you to the people who serve the children in my church. I know it is often a thankless job, but I also know that your reward is the little faces who smile up at you and learn at your feet. You are appreciated.

If you want the blessing of serving children at my church, I've heard there are some openings. ;)

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