Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. – Dr. Seuss
No one doubts that we have difficult questions to answer in children’s ministry.
How do I handle a child whose parents are getting a divorce? A grandparent who passes away? A DOG that dies?
What do I teach, when? Do we teach chronologically? Do we teach topically?
How do I teach? Do I use puppets? Video? Fog, lights, and lasers?
The questions are endless. The questions are complex. But, like Dr. Seuss says, the answers to these questions may in fact be quite simple.
A few weeks ago, Jenna and I were talking about raising our own kids in faith. We thought back on our own experience with the church. Both of us grew up in families who loved God and sought to serve Jesus with their lives. Those families raised us in the church, every time the church was open: Awana, VBS, Sunday school, church services, and special events.
We are Gen-Xers who still love Jesus. They must have done something right. And they did, but it might not be what you think.
We couldn’t recall what we learned and when we learned it. We might have remembered a scary puppet or three and we definitely could remember the flannel graph boards. But more important than all of that, we remembered people.
Sunday school teachers who loved us unconditionally.
Youth pastors who saw leadership potential in us and invested in our growth.
Congregations who were more like aunts and uncles than just people we went to church with.
Friends who encouraged us to live like we said we believed.
Answers to “who” questions not “what” questions.
In children’s ministry we tend to focus so much on the what’s and how’s of ministry that the who questions get our left over time and attention.
I have a feeling that I still believe in Jesus not because of exactly what I learned but because of the people who lived like Jesus as they taught me about Jesus.
I realize that this sounds dangerous. We have many questions to answer regarding content and curriculum.
The answer might be simpler than you think: Teach kids that Jesus is their Savior. Teach them how to be like Him in a way that’s relevant for them and suits your faith community.
BUT, do all of this in a way that elevates the relationships in a child’s life. Their learning will be exponentially greater if they see faith lived out in the lives of authentic, genuine leaders who love them for who they are.
Yes, we will have complex questions, but the answer might be very simple:
Be with them.
Listen to them.
Help them understand that they are accepted as they come, complete with their hurts and fears and questions.
Walk with them as the Spirit leads them to discover their part in God’s Big Story.