Do you believe in the body of Christ? Somewhat of a ridiculous question to ask those who fully believe in Scripture and the teachings of 1 Corinthians 12. But if the saying ‘we practice what we preach’ is true, then where are all the children? In your ‘body of Christ’ – your congregation – where are all the children? Are they part of the body? Or are they a dismembered limb?
These are challenging questions, and to some, simply offensive, but they need to be asked. I worked in Children’s Ministry for 6 years before the children of my church were part of the ‘main body.’ Too many children had never seen communion or baptism, had never heard a missionary report or a pastoral prayer, had never seen their parents give in tithing, knew not their parents’ songs of worship … in short, ‘adult’ church had no meaning, no context, and no place for them.
Did we believe in the body of Christ? Could be debated.
At the TRANSFORM: Children’s Ministry Conference, we were posed with a variety of questions such as those above, challenging us to give honest answers. Compelling us to admit that though we believe in theory, our practice is not what we preach.
Dr. Scottie May, Assistant Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College, and a long time participant in Children’s Ministry, brought us to the foundation of what we do. This was not a ‘cookie cutter conference’ where we took home a program and attempted to implement a program for 250 children with the 25 that attend. This was a challenge for each Children’s Pastor to consider children in light of the Scriptures; to consider their church’s and their leadership’s view of the child; to consider their programming and whether it left a child worshipping the one true God or mesmerized by their Nickelodeon set-up. As one participant wrote, the most beneficial aspect was “being challenged to think … not given too many answers, just more questions.” And as another wrote, “She [Scottie] really pushed people to think outside the norm and I thought that was great.”
Breakout sessions brought more depth and insight to Scottie’s teachings. She began by stating, “I am not a speaker. I am a teacher and I’m here to teach. So let’s get started!” Children’s pastors were given tools for practicing the spiritual disciplines with children; given scripture and helps for running a Bible-saturated ministry; and given tips from the ‘Little Blue Church’ on how to build a strong and healthy relationship with their local public school. Our eyes were opened to the needs of ‘special needs’ children and their families, and how the church can support them. Our hearts were drawn to sharing God’s story with hurting and abused children. And this is just a sampling.
So where did we (over 50 churches) go from there? Back to church. We went back to our ministries considering, contemplating and wondering why we do what we do. We were given the tools to biblically and philosophically consider our ministry and its purpose and spiritual effectiveness. We were encouraged to dialogue with church leadership to reconsider their perspective on children. In short, we left transformed.
Now some did not go directly back to church. Eleven of us continued our learning in the class, Transformational Teaching in Children’s Ministry, offered by Northwest Baptist Seminary and ACTS Seminaries. We had the privilege of diving even further into the elements and theory of teaching and learning, into the perspectives on children’s ministry, into curriculum development and assessment, into ministry to special needs children and finally into ministry to pre-teen children. The specialists who taught each component brought much wisdom and knowledge and reaffirmed what others had already taught.
And now we continue our learning. In January Northwest/ACTS will offer the class Biblical Philosophy of Children’s Ministry which will delve into a holistic understanding of Children’s Ministry. It will provide context for contemporary ministry, by looking into the history of Christian Education and the Sunday School movement. It will provide a biblical basis for writing objectives, goals and purpose statements for Children’s Ministry. It will teach Children’s Pastors how to write a Philosophy for Children’s Ministry, develop a Ministry Plan, and intricately assess a Children’s Ministry program. The professor, Melodie Bissell (MDV), brings wisdom, knowledge, passion and over 30 years of experience in Children’s Ministry to share with the students.
For more information on Children’s Ministry courses, and the Executive Certificate in Children’s Ministry of which these are a part, go to: www.nbseminary.com/academic-resources/certificates