Guest blogger Lorri Maynard shares with us her vision
for the Children's Ministry and the importance of teaching the next generation.
At Upper Room we’ve been intrigued with the ways of Jesus and what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus in the 21st century. In our children’s ministry, we’ve been charged with creating a forward-thinking vision that engages contemporary culture while teaching children what it means to be genuine followers of Jesus in today’s world. Here are a few conclusions we’ve drawn:
First, the idea of using children’s ministry primarily to market the church as opposed to help children learn how to love God and live in the way of Jesus isn’t sitting well with us. We know that in many places leaders see children’s ministry as a key program for attracting more people into their church. The basic idea is that if the program is so much fun for their kids – think bouncy houses and pony rides – then parents will forgo weekends at ski houses in favor of church. But we think we run into problems when the flourishing of church comes to trump the flourishing of children. Fun, attractive and spiritually nurturing are not mutually exclusive. But in the foreground is the spiritual formation of children and how they become authentic followers of Jesus in this world.
Second, the idea of replacing ministry with program when it comes to children is also not sitting well with us. Programs are about what the children and their parents consume. The better, more attractive and more fun the program, the more children there are. Again, better for the church. But ministry takes the focus off the program and puts it back on the children. Ministry is about serving children, caring for them and forming them into people who can serve one another and the world in the way of Jesus. Obviously, programs and ministry are not mutually exclusive. But in the foreground is the spiritual formation of children and whether they are becoming authentic followers of Jesus in this world.
So, if we aren’t seeing children’s ministry primarily as a marketing tool for the church or focused primarily on programming, then what do we mean by children’s ministry? For us it’s anything and everything we do to serve children as they walk on the spiritual journey. It’s all we do to care for the whole of children’s lives—mind, body, relationships and soul. It’s all of our efforts to help them live in the way of Jesus and all we do to support them on the journey of becoming and being disciples of Jesus. Given this, we use culturally relevant methods that children recognize: media, music, drama and games. (We do hear from children over and over that Sundays are fun.) We practice radical hospitality and ensure that all children are welcome. We engage in theological conversation with children in age-appropriate ways. We take their questions seriously. We link arms with children to work for justice and compassion in the world.
At the Upper Room spiritual formation isn’t just for adults. It’s how we are thinking about children’s ministry and how we are serving children, too.
-Lorri Maynard, Children's Director