Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How Do You Train?

Have you ever found yourself struggling to hang a picture or do some sort of trivial job around the house without the right tools at hand? It never seems to fail that I'm missing the right size nail, or discover I don't have the Phillips screwdriver when I need one at home. I'm prepping to finally decorate my new bedroom and decided to pull all the things that I need together in advance. It's making the jobs like hanging drapes so much easier! Imagine only drilling a hole once, because you actually had the right materials from the beginning.

I've been reading with great interest the forum on Kidology.org about how people involve teens/older students and adults in training for ministry. It's been terrific hearing how many different ways there are to provide individuals with the right tools for the job. One of the things that I thought about Children's Ministry before I became involved in it is that you get thrown into the proverbial lion's den with little training, a hunk of meat and 12 hungry lions all licking their lips! My impression came from the fact that in most of the churches that I have worked at there has been little training provided and even less encouragement. I've personally struggled with how to bring people up to speed with training or adding tools to their toolboxes. I'm still looking for ways that work with a group of volunteers whose lives are perpetually behind the wheel of a car, don't like to come out after dark and are beyond busy. What do you do to encourage this segment of your teachers?

Meanwhile, I also have a group of excited, dedicated young people in Middle School and High School. We started a new training group for them called Teens in Training or T-N-T. This group meets monthly to work on a new skills (this quarter it is on telling stories "Teaching Like Jesus") The goal is that this group will be learning and practicing their story telling skills through the Spring, and then will have a large role in our summer Children's Church services. Each month the kids will have one story to "practice" telling in front of the others using different techniques such as props, voice inflections, pictures, media and whatever other ideas pop into their little creative minds.

We're meeting tomorrow and I am excited to see what the response is from the kids - they are excited to be a part of the group and my goal is to pour into them now so that they will continue to grow in their gifts and ministry experience.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Bethlehem Village Pictures

Here are some pictures from our "Bethlehem Village" rotational event on December 23rd for Sunday School. Given our very tight budget ($250.00 total), I was amazed at what we were able to do using several donations of baskets, cans and cans of spray paint and some creativity!

Vision and Mission Statement Part Four

Theory into Practice

The above philosophy with regards to Ministry to Children is thoughtful yet without a solid backbone it fulfills no real purpose.

Current Practice/Goals 2007-2008 Academic School Year
This initial year in Children’s Ministries will be spent on these primary goals:

Relationship Building
Building strong relationships amongst Leaders, Staff and Session

Identifying key leaders in Children’s Ministries

Identifying potential leaders for Children’s Ministries

Building relationships with children and families on a first name basis

Building a means by which parents are able to communicate needs/desires with Children’s Ministries

Exploration into core values and beliefs of SRPC in general and Children’s Ministries in particular.

Identification of primary core values for Children’s Ministries

Creation of branding which reflects initial core values

Begin use of branding and phrases “under the radar” to build familiarity

Implement first tier of branding (intermediate logo and visuals, letterhead, currently @ branding, color branding for newsletter, web design etc.

Review of Spiritual Formation Program
Walk through one year of life at SRPC, noting key events, registration and ministry involvement

Review curriculum(s) for current ease of use, theological concepts, “in agreement” with core values and mission/vision of SRPC

Identification of key “rite of passage” opportunities already in place. Enriching these opportunities and building in a communication of “why” these are important experiences in the life of a child/family and in the life of the corporate body

Identify outreach targets (new families, geographical location(s)) of high concentration demographics, values of demographics

Observe current outreach methodology and make suggestions for future use

Research successful/potentially successful outreach opportunities for community (sports, VBS, holiday functions, educational opportunities, activities etc.)

Create “in house” outreach opportunities for children and families (Coat donations, holiday experiences, missionary experiences)

Creation of newsletter to be used for information and outreach to community

Recruiting/Restructuring of Ministry
Observation and conversations on what is working within Children’s Ministries with regards to recruiting, parent participation.

Beginning to form conversations around future growth, and creating an initial implementation plan for growth

Communicating with larger congregation about opportunities to participate in ministry both in class and outside of service. Use of profiles, newsletters, email etc. to communicate excitement rather than “need.”

Vision and Mission Statement Part Three

Learning Jesus

Building a loving relationship between the young child and Jesus is a natural desire of SRPC’s parents. Yet as a recent listening process uncovered, parents struggle with how to nurture their child’s burgeoning spirituality. Parental dialogue brought up personal and family struggles such as the lack of resources to answer their children’s spiritual questions, attempting to personally answer the same theological questions that they find their children asking. For several, their childhood did not include any or an erratic religious exposure causing the parent(s) to feel inadequate in providing spiritual guidance to their children in the area of Scripture. It is not uncommon to hear the response “my children know more about the Bible than I do” when listening to SRPC parents.

There are several themes within the context of Children’s Ministries with regards to whose responsibility it is to train and nurture of a faith community’s children. One can find ministries which hold the belief that it is the responsibility of those skilled in theology to impart the truths of Scripture and Doctrine to the young child, a second holds that Scripture firmly mandates that it is the sole duty of parents to administer spiritual training thus not holding any formal spiritual training for children. SRPC Kids mission is to assist parents in their God-given task to guide their children in developing and nurturing their growing spirituality.

Spiritual Formation vs. Sunday School

The paradigm of the traditional Sunday School experience is currently under revision in the field of ministry to children. Educators such as Sofia Cavelleti and Jerome Berryman have revisited the standard model of Christian Education. In their work, they have come to an understanding of the catechesis or spiritual formation of children that includes the following key points:

All individuals are “hard wired” to know God. Children have yet to have their instinctive knowledge of God tarnished, thus they hold an innate understanding and appreciation of the mystery and awe of God found through the internalization of Scripture.

Rather than the model of the adult as teacher to children, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to impart wisdom and understanding to Scripture. This does not equate to a form of spiritual anarchy but rather a recognition that the child and God are in a constant internal conversation. Those who are blessed with the privilege of working with children are entrusted as a facilitator of this conversation within a worship experience.

Play is the work of the child. It is through the interaction of repetitive action, scripture and objects that a child discovers truths and concepts.

Children are now a part of the digital age. Their world is fast paced, noisy and image laden. What they lack is the opportunity to quiet themselves to hear what the Spirit is speaking.

It is curious to consider how one can integrate the idea of a classical catechetical model which nurtures the reflective nature of spiritual formation and the young child with the technological age in which children reside. This question is one of the primary reflections which SRPC Kids will focus on over next period. With parent input and participation, it is hoped that the following goals will be accomplished which will enhance SRPC Kids ability to nurture the spiritual formation of our children.

Reviewing and providing feedback regarding currently used curriculum; making suggestions as to possibilities of new curriculum direction.

Creating key “rites of passage” within Children’s Ministries which include Infant baptism/dedication, “first” participation in the Lord’s Supper, Third Grade Bible, blessing and acknowledgement of transition from Children’s Ministry into Student Ministry by the entire faith community.

Development of resources for parents to enrich their opportunities for spiritual formation such as web site development, communication of weekly themes for each grade/age level.

In addition, SRPC Kids is committed to reframing the spiritual vocabulary connected with our ministry to children.

Recognizing that to truly minister to children, ministry should occur within the context of families.

The concept of Sunday School no longer is applicable to the true goal of faith communities ministry to children and families, thus introducing the concept of spiritual formation both defines and communicates the role and mission of this ministry.

The child’s act of worship continues after dismissal from the larger community worship thus signifying a departure from the classical educational model found in a large majority of churches.

Vision and Mission Statement Part Two

Loving Jesus

The message and teachings of Jesus stress the concept of a spirituality founded not within an individual but within the larger Kingdom of God. Like the proverbial stone’s ripple as it is thrown into a body of water, our lives and our actions as followers of Christ stretch out into the larger world community. SRPC Kids continues to foster within our children the ethos of our own community to love Jesus, love other and love our world.

Loving each other: Reinforcing the believe that each of us are created as unique individuals possessing the image of God within, SRPC Kids holds to a foundational belief that all children are respected for the uniqueness they possess. This respect for the child translates into creating an environment where children’s needs are embraced.

To the extent possible, children’s physical, developmental and emotional needs are incorporated into the regular classroom setting. Ministry staff is provided resources needed to incorporate the child into their community.

Children are provided opportunity to respect individuals and encouraged to support and develop friendships.

Loving Jesus: As an understanding of living out the message of the gospel in our daily lives grows, children come to develop a sensitivity to how they also can influence and effect positive change in the lives of their families, peers and their culture.

Loving the world: Creating opportunities for Children’s Ministry to directly impact the community around them through projects such as Blue Star Moms, projects that impact inner city ministries such as City Impact and City Team Oakland.

Vision and Mission Statement Part One

I have finally completed my first draft/version of the Vision and Mission statement for Children's Ministry. I've placed it here to share with you some of the broader thoughts and reflections that I have with regards to the ministry to children in general, and its future ramifications.

Ministry Principle Verse:

So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.
Luke 2:52 (New Living Translation)


Children are a work in progress, possessing a natural curiosity and desire to understand the world about them. Their discovery of the world leads to an acknowledgement of a great Designer/Creator God. Within a Christian context, this acknowledgement of God also includes an introduction to Jesus, the one “who holds all creation together” (Col. 1:17).

The primary goal of childhood is to discover, gain and appropriate the tools necessary for a healthy maturity. Self-care skills lead to eventual autonomy. Cognitive development prepares the way for gaining knowledge. Emotional nurturing provides the foundation upon which healthy socialization will continue throughout one’s life. While the pages of Scripture are dark as to the exact nature of Jesus’ childhood, Luke makes a point to acknowledge that Jesus himself appeared to meet and exceed these key developmental milestones. The result was a person who understood his purpose and destiny. It is the goal that this ministry to children would also allow children an opportunity to acknowledge they are the imago Dei-ones created in the image of their Creator, gifted with talents and skills both natural and spiritual which will bring glory to God.

Therefore, the Children’s Ministry of San Ramon Presbyterian Church’s mission and vision can be encapsulated in the following statement: Living, loving and learning in Jesus.

Living in Jesus

Children as Members of the Church

On the other hand, children derive some benefit from their baptism, when, being ingrafted into the body of the church, they are made an object of greater interest to the other members. Then when they have grown up, they are thereby strongly urged to an earnest desire of serving God, who has received them as sons by the formal symbol of adoption, before, from nonage, they were able to recognize him as their Father.

Institutes 4.16.9

The introduction of the young child to the Church local begins with the practice of baptism and/or dedication. While paedobaptism is a topic of some debate amongst reformed traditions, Scripture provides a firm foundation for the practice of baptizing infants/young children found in the illustration of circumcision as a symbol of the covenant between God and humanity. Circumcision in this aspect is a means by which grace and mercy is extended to the child by the covenant entered into by the parents until such a time as the child acknowledges this covenant for themselves. Whether a family chooses to initiate a child into the life of the household of faith by baptism or dedication, the act of presenting and committing a child to God in front of the community illustrates an important concept, the young child is an active member of the faith community possessing gifts and talents to both learn and serve the community and the Kingdom of God at large.

The belief of children as members ultimately defines how a ministry to children is achieved. For a child to thoroughly understand their current and eventual role in the local faith community and the Body of Christ at large, exposure and acceptance of children at gatherings must be emphasized. A child learns of the importance of worship not by having it explained but by experiencing the act of worship itself. Therefore SRPC Kids places a high priority upon the inclusion of children within a variety of worship contexts – both corporate and developmentally unique to the young child. Exposure of children to “body life” provides natural moments of understanding more fully their own relationship with God. This exposure to corporate worship moments include (but are not limited) to:

Baptisms and Dedications of infants and children

Participation in corporate worship both through music, prayer and ministry

Participation in sacramental life of the body (Baptism and Lord’s Supper when appropriate)

Ministering to the local faith community through service to the local body and the local community (offering of music, dance, leading in corporate prayer, assisting in ministry tasks such as greeting, collection of offering, participation in Building Bridges service events)

Age appropriate worship experiences such as Wonders of Worship

Baptisms and Dedications
Children will be encouraged to gather in front for dedications and baptisms of infants and children, allowing them to become better acquainted with the symbols and practices of the experience. Exposure to experiences such as these allow a child to develop within themselves an appreciation of their own spiritual journey, while exposing them to key rites of passages of the spiritual journey.

Corporate Worship
The ability to worship both in music and movement is an important part of child development. It is through the use of all senses that a deeper connection to the mystery and wonder of God develops. Children are encouraged to worship God as they feel comfortable during the worship service. Their time in the larger community communicates a message that they are a part of the church now not just when they are older.

Sacramental Participation
Participation in the sacramental life of the church connects a child to the fact that they are welcomed and hold an important role in the faith community. Exposure to sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper provide a means by which children experience the fullness of discipleship. As a child begins to understand and desire to participate in sacraments, all means should be made to instruct, encourage and involve the young child in this aspect of their faith development.

SRPC Kids will offer to both parents and children opportunities to come together specifically for instruction in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. For children presented in dedication, opportunities for formal baptism instruction will begin in the Spring of their third grade year; for instruction in the Lord’s Supper, opportunities for instruction will begin in their fourth grade year, with the goal of all fifth graders participating in the Lord’s Supper by Spring of their fifth grade year as a “spiritual rite of passage.”

Ministering to the local community
SRPC Kids is committed to developing within the young child an acknowledgement of one’s developing natural and spiritual gifts. Opportunities to contribute to a worship experience include presenting music and dance for worship, leading in the reading of Scripture and corporate prayer, serving within the service as appropriate. This provides children with a sense of importance as well as reminding the larger community of the ability of children to minister to adults.

Age Appropriate Worship Experiences
SRPC Kids is fortunate to have creative and enthusiastic adults who are committed to providing children with their own opportunities for corporate worship on a monthly basis. This allows the young child to be ministered to in a larger group setting while building within them an understanding of the importance and excitement of worship.