Tell us about Children’s Church and how it is integral to the life of our congregation at Metro.
In my experience growing up and serving in the church, I got the impression that ministries involving children usually were overlooked or seen as less important, because they were “just kids”—they wouldn’t be able to tell how prepared you were nor would they appreciate the details, so what ends up happening is these ministries would turn into more of a glorified babysitting session. Parents would drop their kids off, teachers were given little training, and the children would probably have fun, but what would they really walk away with?
Over the years, through serving in different ministries and understanding more of how the human heart (at any age) works and truly needs the Gospel, my view on educating children in the church has changed. I would dare to say that Children’s Church is one of the most important ministries at Metro. Our children are young and in a season of their lives when they are most impressionable and moldable. They are sinners just like you and me, and they are just starting to shape their understanding of God, the world, and themselves. Therefore, it is critical for us as a church to invest in them. And not just the teachers and volunteers, but all members of the church. Children bring such joy to our congregation, but they also remind us of how we are called to be like them—helpless in our sin and totally dependent on our Father. It really is amazing to see how much the children at Metro have grown in the few short years since our inception, and we need to remember that although they are our littlest members, they are an important part of our church body.
As an educator overseeing fellow educators, what has been your greatest challenge as well as your greatest joy as you all strive to help children walk together and learn about and experience the Gospel?
I would say that when you’re teaching children about the Gospel, the hardest thing is to do just that—making sure that every lesson, activity, and story connects back to THE story. The danger in teaching young children about the Bible is that many tend to over-simplify the truths of the Gospel or water it down until there is no Gospel at all! What the children are left with is a list of do’s and don’ts, but they are clueless on where they get the power to change. They are learning a lot about the law but not much about grace. It’s much easier and oftentimes more common to teach a lesson on, let’s say, David and Goliath with a moral lesson of “Be courageous like David so you can face your fears.” But where is Jesus in that story? How much more powerful would it be to show the children that Jesus was the greater David—that He, like David, came in weakness to ultimately deliver us not from a giant, but from Death itself by dying in our place? Sometimes, at the end of a lesson when I connect the story we just read to the story of the cross, a child will exclaim, “You always teach the same thing!” That’s when I know I’m probably doing something right!
The greatest joy by far when you’re shepherding children is when you see a child make a breakthrough and you know that the seeds that were planted are starting to grow. Change is slow, and sometimes you wonder if they are learning anything at all! But when a four-year old boy confesses a sin that happened earlier in the week and tells you that his heart is not clean, or when a six-year old asks for prayer because he is afraid of an operation he has to undergo, or when you get a call from a parent because her daughter is asking so many questions about God, those are the moments when my heart is about to burst with thankfulness.
What is one thing about your fellow Children’s Church educators and volunteers that you would like the rest of our Metro community to know about?
I’m very fortunate to be able to work with a team of teachers and volunteers who not only have a sincere heart to serve children, but they are dedicated to making the Gospel come to life in a way that is age-appropriate. Each Sunday they prepare lessons, activities, and crafts that reinforce the key truths for that week and, as a parent, I know that my children will be in good hands. The children love their teachers, but what I appreciate most about my team is not the different gifts they bring to the ministry, or the sacrifices they make each week, but their commitment to the values of our church. When a team is aligned in its values, everything else seems to fall in place. Even though we are all broken in so many ways, it is so encouraging to see everyone serving in different capacities (including but not just Children’s Church), building deeper relationships with others in the congregation, and growing in faith. When we meet as a group, we always start off sharing how we are doing and how the Lord is challenging us, breaking us, and renewing us through what His Son has done on the cross. It is only after we are reminded of our sinfulness and desperate need for the Gospel in our own lives that we are able to brainstorm ways to make that very same Gospel come alive in the children’s lives.
Can you describe for us how parents stay connected to what’s happening in Children’s Church?
I remember as a kid, the only way my parents would know what went on in Sunday School is if they asked me (which was rare) and if I responded to their question (which was even more rare). And of course, there was always the Sunday School craft that would get thrown to the back of the car and eventually find its way to the trash. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there was little communication between the church and parents on what was actually taking place each Sunday. As a child, God and all those wonderful Bible teachings were things that I learned about just on Sundays, which led to the beginnings of a compartmentalized faith that so many Christians struggle with as adults. It is so critical for parents to understand their role as instruments in the Spirit’s ongoing work in their children’s hearts. Children’s Church is here to partner with parents and walk alongside their families, but it is dangerous to assume that the church will take care of the spiritual growth of a child while the parents focus on the rest. One of my goals as Director is to make the connection between church and home stronger, and there are several ways that we do that. We want to see children go home and dialogue with their parents about what they’ve learned, parents reinforcing the key truths of the lessons, and families singing praise songs together and memorizing Scripture together. We want to see the Gospel central to life, not just Sunday service.
How has leading Children’s Church been shaping your own understanding and experience of the Gospel in your own life?
Working with the children, teachers, parents, and staff at Metro has been a blessing in several ways. First, it keeps me connected to the life of the church. When I was first approached to lead this ministry, my immediate reaction as a new mother was, “There’s no way I will have the time nor energy to do this!” But I’m so glad I said yes because being in this role challenges my desire for comfort and the self-absorption that I tend to slip into (a common struggle among young parents). It forces me to consider the Gospel and how it calls me to love and think of others outside my family and myself. It reminds me of the importance of community, and that I need others in my life constantly throughout this life-long journey of faith.
Second, my role as an educator in Children’s Church has made me reevaluate the ways I [will] teach, train, and instill Gospel character into my own children. As a recovering Pharisee, I grew up pretty well behaved and struggled with believing that I can earn God’s favor by being “good.” Many times, I live my life as my own Savior, depending very heavily on my own knowledge and skills rather than leaning on Jesus as my strength, my joy, my all. As a parent, I need to check myself often to make sure I’m not trying to “produce” perfect children, but that I am pointing them to the only One who was ever perfect, the One who took on their imperfection and gives them the power to change, from the inside-out. It’s humbling to realize that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change my children’s hearts. Could I force my son to be well behaved with a stern look? Sure—but only God can create lasting, genuine transformation. And the only way that I could be used by God as an agent of change in my children’s lives is to come to grips with the fact that I am just like them. I am independent, self-sufficient, selfish, and strong-willed. I throw (internal) tantrums when I don’t get my way. I disobey my Father and run the other way when he calls my name. Thankfully, the Gospel applies to us all—it is simple enough for a child to understand, yet its implications are so deep that I will look to it again and again.