A Ministry of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry—Olivet Nazarene University

Children

A Pastor’s Discovery

 

I ran a little experiment over the last six weeks in our church that probably not many people knew about. The experiment was to determine if working with kids in the church was actually a "job" or an opportunity to serve in the name of Jesus. Average churches usually treat ministry to children as secondary to everything else going on at any given time and I just wanted to see if we were an average church.

The first phase of my experiment was to volunteer to lead the children's ministry, Community Kids, on Wednesday nights for six weeks. Normally, I would attend and even lead the study for men on Wednesday nights while the Community Kids Program went on downstairs, in our lower level. Instead, I volunteered to lead the Wednesday Night Kids program as we talked about our "Self-Portrait." We dealt with issues like the fact that God created us in His image. What that means, the way others see us. The way God sees us. How Jesus makes a difference. Etc. You get the point.

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Tags: Children
 

Understanding the Hurt in Saying Good-Bye

I recently read a wonderful book, “The Switching Hour”, by Devon Flesberg.  I must admit that though I knew the book was about divorce, the title intrigued me and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what it meant. Then I began to read it.  

Before I begin to share with you some of the lessons I have learned from this book, I must disclosed that I am the product of divorced parents.  When I was nine years old, my parents divorced, and truth be told, my family divorced.  While the circumstances or details of the divorce are unimportant for this discussion, the divorce affected more than just my parents.  My brother and I were right in the middle of it all.

So, you too, may wonder, “What’s with the title of this book?”  The “switching hour” is the term that has been penned to refer to that moment when life switches from time with one parent to time with the other. What is often forgotten in the midst of divorce is what the children go through each time they make this switch.  As adults, we have convinced ourselves that kids are resilient and they quickly recover from the struggles of divorce, but truth be told, the effects of divorce on a child never end.  That’s right, they NEVER end.

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My Story: A Dream Come True

Once upon a time, in the land of Nagichi, in a tiny little village, lived a little girl, Jezebel. She lived in a small little cottage, on a tiny little hill, with her mother and father. Jezebel’s father helped build cottages and sometimes even castles, so he was not home very often. Although her father worked very hard, he did not make as much money as the other dads in the village. Jezebel always had food to eat and clothes to wear, but never anything nice like the other girls in her village.  Jezebel never cared that she did not have a lot, or that the other girls called her names like Raggedy Anne.

Instead of playing with the other girls, Jezebel loved to spend her time sitting on her father’s lap while he told her stories of the beautiful castles he helped build. She would lean her head up against his chest and try to keep her eyes open while he talked. She found such comfort in him, and knew that he loved her more than all of the stars in the sky and the fish in the sea. She hated when he left because it felt like he was gone forever. When he came home, Jezebel hoped he would change his mind about leaving again and would stay with her or take her with him.

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Tags: Children
 

The More I Learn, the Less I Know

 

The more I learn, the less I know.  This sentiment has been a part of my thoughts during each step of my formal education, and while in fact the statement is not true, the discovery of new information makes me realize how little I know.  I have also recently discovered this cliché to apply to my knowledge regarding the topic of family ministry.  I have been studying the theory and trends associated with family ministry for some time now.  I felt that I had a good grasp of the concepts and acknowledged the variety of groupings of people that we now call “family”.  That is, until my recent trip to East Africa with a group of students from Olivet Nazarene University.  Once again I experienced that the more I learn, the less I seem to know.

My experiences with the wonderful people of Kenya and Tanzania, over the past four years, have caused me to re-evaluate some of my preconceived ideas about family ministry.  If you would be as kind as to humor me for a few minutes, I would like to share with you some of my recent experiences and truths that I believe the Lord is teaching me about family ministry as a result of those experiences.

Let me begin with the most obvious; the people of these countries have taught me what it means to live in community.  I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too.  I know what community looks like.  I don’t have to go to Africa to discover it.  My experiences changed my perspective.

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Family Ministry Reconsidered (part II)

 

 

Welcome back.  Our journey through part I of this article caused us to question our understanding of the word, “family”, and to understand family as both the individual family that is made up of a variety of combinations of people and our local church family.  Both of these understandings of family become vehicles where the faith can be passed down to the next generation.

Before we continue, please allow me to identify the elephant in the room.  In each of our churches we work hard to educate our children and youth to know the Bible and to be good people.  Many of us have committed our lives to teaching the Bible to our kids; and this is good.  However, more often than not, it seems that we get sidetracked in thinking that teaching the Bible and learning the details of the stories is our goal.  Perhaps this has occurred because we have bought into a “school” model that tells us that learning information or data is of ultimate importance. While this may in part be true in our schools, in our churches we desire much more.

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Family Ministry Reconsidered




The buzz word today is “family” ministry. Incorporating the word into the common language of the church has become routine and ordinary.  One can’t talk about ministry without talking about family ministry. The word can be found in magazines, curriculum, college classrooms, and even in ministry titles. I can remember about twelve or so years ago changing my title from Children’s Pastor to Pastor to Families with Children.  I wanted to be on the cutting edge of this new emphasis that recognized ministry to the whole family is much more glamorous than ministry to just children.  I believe my heart was in the right place and my intentions were to try to meet the needs of the entire family while still focusing on the children I had been called to serve.  I suppose it was a good start, but my understanding of what it meant to minister to the family was certainly lacking.  I think the same may be true today when many hear the phrase “family” ministry.

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Too Young to Go to War, Old Enough to Suffer

Do you know a seven-year-old?  What makes her giggle?  What toy tops his Christmas list this year?  Most youngsters engage life with tons of energy, curiosity and delight.  An increasing number, unfortunately, are drained of childhood optimism and vigor.  The culprit?  War!  I'm not talking about the plight of children in Afghanistan or Iraq forced to take up weapons.  American and Canadian children, those in our own backyards, playing soccer and hockey afterschool, and memorizing multiplication tables are the ones suffering from war.   They are children of soldiers.  Writing on November 11, 2010, Remembrance Day (Veterans Day), Jamie Hall of the Edmonton Journal warns that "children of soldiers are among the biggest casualties" 1 of war.

How serious is it? Stacy Bannerman, author of When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind, reports the attempted suicide of a seven-year-old second-grader while his father was deployed to Iraq yet again.2   Suicide?  A seven-year-old?  A rare occurrence to be sure but the precipitating anguish and anxiety are all too common among youngsters in military families.  Data released in May 2010, indicates a significant increase in the number of children of active duty parents using mental health services.  In just five years (2003 - 2008), outpatient mental health visits made by children doubled from one million to two million.3   During the same period, the "total days of inpatient psychiatric care for children of active duty personnel 14 and under increased from 35,000 to 55,000."4 Kids ages 4 to 17 whose parent has deployed seek mental health services at a rate three and a half times  higher than their civilian counterparts.5  Sound serious enough?

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Tags: Children
 

Kids in the Dark

 

I teach a children's ministry class at Olivet where students are required to do interviews with children. This is always an interesting project because we know from developmental theorists that children's verbal skills and vocabulary do not develop as quickly as their ability to understand and experience life. As part of the interview process, my students have children draw pictures of what they think God looks like and their understanding of the word, "church" (we have found that art is a great way for children to express themselves). One set of questions that the students ask include "Does God ever talk to you? Do you ever hear God speak? What does his voice sound like?" While one might expect kids to say they do not hear God talk, the truth is that many respond in the affirmative.

I realize there are a multitude of potential explanations for their responses, but one recurring comment has intrigued me. Many of the children of various ages have said that they hear God talk to them at night when they are in bed.  For five years I have collected student interviews of children of all ages and those who say God talks to them all say it is at night in bed. This has caused me to ask, why?  What is unique about bedtime?  Is there something special about being in bed?  Is there significance to the darkness of night? 

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Children Come.... Third?

 

Children cannot defend themselves.  At church, that is the purpose of the children's pastor.  Most boards are not made up of parents with young children.  If any money is allotted to the children it is usually half as much as is allotted to adults.  Some parents never step foot inside the church.  Only the Director of Children's Ministries fully understands what is going on with the children of the church.  Thus, without the children's pastor, young people have no defender.  If no one else is going to put the kids first, it has to be the children's pastor.  The problem is, this is not what the Bible teaches. 

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The Egocentric Leader

 

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).  I’ve always thought of this verse as a quaint and colloquial depiction of how peaceful life would be during the end times.  Complete enemies would sleep in the same place and adults and children alike live in such harmony that a little kid could lead everyone on earth.  Additionally, I had always thought that children could take on this leadership role because children trust God more and have better faith.  After all, Jesus says his followers ought to have faith like a little child and Christians are to learn this from them.  Who better to set an example of leadership than a small kid?  Well, have you ever seen a child actually lead?

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