Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Children's Ministry in a Changing World

Here is an article on the changing realities in the church as it applies to children's ministry. This is a particularly important subject for a number of churches including St. Philip's which relaunched its Sunday School Program a year and a half ago. The article was written by Lee-Ann Matthews, Youth Coordinator at St. Thomas in the Anglican Diocese of Montreal.

I coordinate a church program for kids that just celebrated its fourth anniversary.

In the church, Things are changing quickly and there is a high turn over of children’s ministry leaders. I am proud of the initiative I undertook because I’ve seen it grow. I have consistently fed and watered it, nurtured and prayed for it. At times I have felt unsure, lost, vulnerable, hurt and unequipped, yet continued to apply myself to the task of building a credible program.

We have a core group of 15-20 attendees who range in age from 4-15 years old In a climate of scarcity in the church it is rewarding to reflect on the growing participation of children and youth in my ministry.

It’s satisfying to be able to admit that more often than not, Kids come to church on Sunday mornings.

I am grateful and inspired at this prospect as it is something that some churches are mourning and are looking back longingly at the days where Sunday Schools were filled with eager participants and youth groups were actively serving in church. The days when church was a priority for families. Back when it was “Church before hockey. Church before piano. Church before drama club; church first.”

This is not the case today.

We know that Competition is fierce.

Where does that leave us?

I would argue that we would be best served to accept our diminished status as second fiddle as an opportunity for grace. Not only accept this status gracefully but also with dignity.

We have to respect the changing nature of the family, the increase in divorce rates and the consequences of divorce, a lack of a cohesive value system at home and of course, the emphasis on extra curricular activities in a secular world that is at times both hostile to religion and suspicious of God.

I think that despite popular opinion however, life is nonetheless rich and abundant for kids today. I love how many choices they have and that kids have access to so many dimensions of entertainment, education and information. I love cel phones and video games, texting and snap chat. I love dance music and i tunes and I think our culture offers so many enriching, life enhancing and nourishing opportunities to learn and grow from. It’s a blessing to be alive in the Information Age.

There is so much emphasis on social justice, advocacy for the disenfranchised and a growing interest in the unity of all life as collective whole.

Therefore when kids come to church programs I am flattered that I can add another layer of dimension to their rich lives. I see it as an opportunity to rise to the occasion, to meet them where they are and to provide spiritual nourishment and model what it means to be in a relationship With God.

Kids are smarter than ever! They have more access to knowledge and information than ever before. It’s a privilege that despite the riches of the temporal world, they still want to come hang out once in a while in the church basement community with other curious kids to talk, play games and pray to God.

I sometimes hear about this debate of churches being welcoming, flexible and responsive to new comers versus maintaining a firm stance and being a safe haven for tradition, comfort and a reminder of Gods eternal love.

I think we need to be who we are and serve with eyes open to the world and yet our hearts open to Gods ways. This is Gods world after all. Let’s be firmly rooted in who we are and trust that everything is right on track, despite the things that make us uncomfortable, fearful or that we don’t understand.

We are called to be a light in the world and to serve as a reminder of Gods presence.

Let us build communities of faith that offer flexibility, responsiveness, are both comforting and challenging and begin to allow for healing from the grief of a changing church in order to create spaces that are in sync with today.

Source: F.A.S.T. Children's Ministry

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