Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Making of Community...

It's Tuesday morning. I'm sitting at my desk having just read through emails and phone messages, getting ready to start another week. The past weekend at church was one of those gifts - I'm sure we can all relate to them. It was a collection of moments when you realize how God is moving in and through things when you weren't sure what was happening.

This past weekend at worship, I was with the preschooler's in class. In the two and a half months that I have been here, this is the first time that I have had to step in and teach - one of our mom's children came down with an ear infection and had to stay home. This class is hysterically funny! Most preschool classes that I have had since 2001 have been boy heavy and we are the opposite here. Two boys and six girls this morning. A light class with four missing on summer vacation.

The curriculum this month has been on Daniel and following after God. (We're currently using Standard Publishing's Heart Shaper curriculum). This week - the ever exciting "Daniel and the Lion's Den." So together we built little "animal" homes, and explained them to each other, played a very loose game of Lion, Lion, Lion (think Duck Duck Goose) with the reminder that 4's don't always remember that you run around the circle - they were weaving in and out and having the best time.

When we were talking and sharing about the story, a comment came from one of the kids about God being faithful. His family has a strong missionary background and they have the great experience of living on a houseboat. He was sharing that every time it rains he doesn't get scared because God was in the boat with him! And Daniel knew the same thing. Okay, he didn't express it exactly that way, but paraphrasing it into adult-speak makes you realize that the philosophy of Christian Educators such as Maria Cavelleti is spot on. Children Caveletti would proprose, have an internal sense and knowing of God that only needs to be given the vocabulary to express. They already know God, they don't need to be convinced. They need to be supported as they find the labels that match their experience.

Sunday afternoon our congregation had a Tailgate Party. BBQ's and grills lined up the parking lot, a small instrumental section played great music and I watched community unfold. We were showing "Cars" that night in the church (on two screens no less!) and so for a children's activity we had a "pit stop" where kids painted small Oriental Trading Company wooden cars and then moved them to the "Show Room" where several High School members voted. One mom and her kids baked and iced dozens of car cookies (I need to get pics up here as soon as a friend has them downloaded) which were out of this world!

I sat back and watched people enjoy themselves, connect with each other. The Chinese Church which rents our space joined us and their kids mingled with ours. Food was shared, laughter heard. Kids ran around and later collapsed in the church exhausted. What I saw this weekend was a picture of a community that is gaining its second wind and getting ready for the next adventure that God is prepping us for.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Do We Do With The Kids?

I strongly believe that community-especially a community of faith needs to incorporate all members. I don't think that many individuals or bodies would argue with that statement. But where we do wind up having differences in opinions, structuring worship opportunities and whatnot is when we delve into the question of how do we incorporate children into worship?

It seems that there have been in the past two or three distinctly different schools of thought with regards to this question.

Group One Provides children with their own Sunday School time which runs concurrently with a worship service. Children are not a part of the larger community. A distinction is made between "adult" and "children's" worship.

Group Two Has children involved and a part of the entire service. Coloring pages, books might be provided in the back, "cry rooms" are available for younger children who need to move about or parents with infants/toddlers. Children are brought along with parents during pivotal moments in the service such as Eucharist/Lord's Supper, prayer etc. Spiritual formation for children occurs at another time outside of the main service.

Group Three Is a hybrid of the first two groups. Children are involved in either the front or back end of the service. Spiritual formation happens for a smaller amount of time than in a traditional Sunday School experience.

I have always had a belief that emphasized the inclusion of children in worship, which I am certain had roots in my body being in a pew each Sunday as a child. As I went to a Christian School, my Sunday School happened Monday - Friday not on the weekends like my friends who went to CCD on Saturdays. I remember being awed by the "largeness" of what I saw and yet really had no clue as to what was happening or its relevance.

When I began to attend a church that I interned at, I was suddenly brought face to face with my hypocrisy regarding this great "idea" that kids should be in worship. At this particular church, children went to Children's Chapel (think Kid's Church) for the first half of the service (through the sermon) and then returned to the main Sanctuary for Eucharist and closing liturgy. "Great!" I thought.

That excitement lasted oh about .03 seconds. The kids came in with a thunderous noise. One set of twins were climbing the pews, running their toy cars along the top of the old wooden seats. Another child was providing a running commentary, others were voicing their displeasure at having to be in church and not on the playground. Meanwhile I was attempting to having a meditative moment with the Creator and these rug rats were interfering in my...

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: "Let the children alone, don't prevent them from coming to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these."

So what do we do with the kids? It is important for our children to know and experience worship within the larger community for a number of reasons, one of the most tangible being the reinforcement that they are a part of a people of faith. And it is true that unless your congregation specifically designs a regular worship service that incorporates family friendly aspects into it there will be a struggle for children's focus and attention. If we are not providing or expecting parents to return during the week for their children's religious education, when do we provide it if the kids are in service? Especially when statistics show that many families do not stay or participate in a Sunday School hour and then worship.

Here's a thought I'd like to throw out. Perhaps we're looking at the question backwards. We might be dealing with the question of how we include children in worship when what we might need to be considering is a redefinition of what worship is - within the context of community and specifically within the context of teaching our children to be worshippers.

I've recently handed over a copy of Teaching Children Authentic Worship to an individual in our church who shared with me their passion to teach our children how to worship. While this conversation in the larger context had to do with the possibility of resurrecting a children's choir which we haven't had in many years, it was the perfect opportunity to share some ideas on how we can go about fostering a spirit of worship in our children which includes opportunities such as a choir, Communion Sunday WoW Experiences and time in service weekly.

I'm going to be rereading the book over the next few weeks and will attempt to turn out key chapter points, posting them here before the end of August. Until then - I'm looking forward to hearing/reading your thoughts regarding this question.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's been a busy few weeks. I will have been a part of this new community for 2 months on the 15th and they have been incredibly blessed.

VBS has been grinding out since before I came aboard. We have two of the most talented and gifted women chairing it this year. So far we're pushing close to 100 children with a good portion coming from the community. I'm heading up the preschool program and have 6 adults and a couple of youth coming in to help with the action. This past weekend we had our large "donation/borrow" wall hanging up with all the items we hope would be donated so our costs will be reduced. As of Sunday afternoon when I left church we had all but 16 slips responded to. Posters are being painted, bigger donated items are coming in. Creekside Community Church and St. Joan of Arc have graciously offered to share props and sets with us. You see - THIS is how the Body should be working together!

TAILGATE Next Sunday night we're having a tailgating party complete with a screening of Disney's Cars. Children's Ministries is setting up a painting table where kids can paint a wooden car and then enter it into a mini "car show" where they will all get ribbons. People are very excited about it and we're expecting a great turn out of families.

SUMMER SUNDAYS Summer continues to crank out - we're completely covered for the summer staff and met the goal that I had set of having the last space filled by then end of June! June 27 was the day that I penciled in the final person.

FALL PLANS It's July and I am well into planning for the Fall. Thankfully the individuals who were watching over the fort prior to my arrival left an incredibly detailed calendar of what they hoped they would do for the year and when to start things. I'm taking a look at the calendar and trying to see how everything will fit together. In the meantime, I'm already getting individuals signed up for Fall teaching spots. Our new Parent Round Table will be meeting on August 26th for the first time and I am praying that we'll get a wonderful response from individuals specifically with regards to the curriculum review group. There's an entire post coming later this week in regards to curriculum....

WEBSITE I've never worked on content in a website before, and recently took a stab at the very basic forms of WYSIWYG web update. You can check it out at www.srpc.org look for the children's ministries pages. There's much more that I want to do with regards to the pages - really redesign the entire look of them but that will take an incredible amount of time and some talented IT people to make it happen. But for right now, the pages are updated and added to and I am receiving some great feedback already on the look which proves that people do look at church websites! I've begun posting the class summaries as well on the page - updating them weekly so parents can encourage friends to check out what we're teaching and also possibly refer back to it for conversations during the week.

MISSIONS My heart is being drawn to helping the children this coming year connect with the world around them. This community is incredibly missions focused and that is a blessing in disguise. This summer we are having missionaries visit our classes and share with the kids about life in their parts of the world through games, stories, slides and food. Our next missionary family is coming this Sunday to share. Our offerings for children's ministries are abysmal, so this coming Fall we're kicking off a year long project to raise money for animals through Macedonian Outreach and also Heifer Project. I'm knocking around how we can incorporate Old MacDonald's Farm or better yet Noah's Ark (Acts of Random Kindness) from Evan Almighty to get kids involved. If anyone has some ideas of song's we can parody for either (especially Noah) I'd love to hear from you especially if you have lyrics!

On the personal side of things - the townhouse is coming together nicely! Boxes are getting unpacked with all the kitchen stuff and I'm getting to know the area. This past weekend Diva was washed at the new Pet Food Express which opened up and when I asked the Manager about Dog Parks nearby she came back with two pages of local dog parks. Checked out one this past weekend, will go to another later this week. Diva is enjoying the idea of a dog park, she's never really been to one before so it is a new thing.

The 4th of July my roomie and I went to the Danville Parade. It is a BIG thing out here. Tradition is you set out your chairs the night before after 6 p.m. We got there at 8 and found most of the streets were already lined up with chairs and I mean lined up! Roped off, duct taped to the cement, rows and rows of chairs I think it would be easy to say there were at least 200-300 set up already. We set ours up and believe it or not they were there the next day! Yep I do live in Mayberry again. I thought Manhattan Beach was the only Mayberry but I was wrong. The parade was cute and loooong. I did manage to get a little brown which for me really means I'm a darker shade of white than previously with more freckles. And that was with sunscreen. This weekend is the Shakespeare Festival.

Well got to get back to work - the All Star Game is on at 5 p.m. and I must be home to watch the action from our very own AT&T Park!