From the Rev. Brent Was
I’ve been thinking a lot about our children’s ministry lately. What is going on there? Why is there so much growth? Why do those children look so happy?
If there were a single answer we could write a book and save the Church. I want to share a few reflections on it, because we are on to something and it could really shape the future of this parish.
The starting point of everything we do here with our children is the children. Revolutionary! This is the great gift that Tina Heidrick brings us as the leader of this ministry. A guiding principal of one of the major schools of home schooling is that you follow the children’s lead. Discern their interests, needs, gifts and limitations, and put the education in that path. If you can harness the natural learning momentum that every child has, they will pull the train themselves because they want to learn. They want to grow. They want to be in relationship with each other, with those teaching them, and most importantly, with God.
Tina, with the able assistance of Hilary, Aria, and the wonderful classroom volunteers follow the children. And where are the children leading us? Community. I think that the center of gravity of our children’s programs are that the children love to be together. It is a vital and vibrant circle of friends. And it is an open circle, meaning that our children are very good at welcoming others into that circle. I have never seen such inclusivity amongst children (and rarely among adults). Not perfect, but they are coming from a lot of different kinds of families with a lot of different experiences of the world and the peals of laughter as the run around the back of the church (and the absence of much tweeny drama) attests to how well it usually goes.
Families, children, are hungry for positive, wholesome community. That has been formed by following the children’s lead, by sending monthly newsletters addressed to each child at home (always an exciting day at our post office box), by sending birthday cards, by giving parents a break and relying on non-parents as volunteers, by special seasonal programs and liturgies like the brilliant Ash Wednesday service.
If children are hungry for wholesome community, they are starving for wholesome community with a purpose. That we offer, too. The cloud of relationships is an end, and a means to an end. Educationally, there are three goals we have.
- First, is to cultivate the naturally occurring relationship that all children have with God. Jesus is very clear about this fact. We emphasize that God is not just found in church, but in every minute of every day of their lives. And we work on ways to keep that in front of them: prayer, religious practice, grace before meal times, being reverent here at church.
- Second, is to teach them the Christian story. Scripture, the Church, seasons and the Mass, saints and songs. Christianity is a heritage and it is being passed on. Godly Play is especially good at this.
- Finally, our goal is to help form moral human beings in this complicated world. Relationship is the best teacher. Well, truly, love is. From our lectionary this week we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Our children are loved, and are asked to love each other, and love is the very perfect teacher.
Our children are hungry for this. Our world is starving for this. All of our futures depend on it.
So that is what I think we are on to. Why is it blossoming right now? My guess is critical mass. No one wants to teach, be in, or leave their child in a classroom with one other student. How gloomy is that! But three or four, or nine or ten smiling, lively faces with smiling and lively teachers and it becomes a place that anyone would want to be, and the children do! (And reports are that the kids are dragging their parents to church!) I know in our family, after a late Egan night or the weeds in the garden calling on a gorgeous spring day, Windy can never skip church because the girls wouldn’t have it.
That is my take on the state of our children’s ministry. It is very good and if we are able to direct our resources, it can grow into something simply amazing!