These Three Abide: The Three “Things” That Shape Our Children’s Ministry
The supply closet is crammed full of essentials: blue painters tape (so we don’t damage walls with our artwork!), curriculum, simple costumes, boom-whackers, and Legos. Can you imagine doing Children’s Ministry without any of these things?!
All of these things enhance our educational ministry, but what has shaped our Children’s Ministry most are “things” that don’t fit in a closet or sit on a shelf. You can’t buy them on Amazon or at a yard sale. Two of the three, in fact, are completely free, if you are willing to do a little work.
Three “things” that shape our Children’s Ministry:
Building Relationships: Community is a big deal in the Bible (think clusters of grapes, flocks of sheep, thousands of people at an impromptu picnic, the church as a body with all sorts of parts working together), and it is a big deal to us! When our youth visit home-bound members or nursing homes; when our youngest kids are paired with some of our oldest members around the table on Wednesday nights; when our adults adopt students as their prayer partners for the school year; or when the entire church takes an hour to explore a parable together, we have the opportunity to get to know each other. Those relationships open the door to learning from each other. We truly believe the old saying that faith is “more caught than taught,” so we pour lots of energy into building relationships.
The Community Garden: Four years ago, we broke ground on a community garden several blocks from our church. The purpose was to build relationships with our neighbors, especially those in the public housing complex across the street. Soon we discovered that the Garden is equally important to our Children’s Ministry. The parables of the four soils, the weed and wheat, or the treasure buried in a field; Proverbs’ wisdom on the hard-working ant or the Psalmist’s affirmation of God’s care for the birds and flowers; Old Testament laws about gleaning and harvest; the story of creation itself: all of that, it turns out, is best taught right in the Garden. The Garden is more than just a great place to hold VBS. Clean-up days give us the opportunity to work together to care for God’s creation, and our annual cookout (dubbed “The Feast” by our neighbors) is a tangible reminder of God’s Kingdom.
Symbols of our Faith: Some churches seek to build a bridge to children’s lives by bringing “the world” into the church. They create programs that mirror what you find in popular culture, with a sort of “Jesus” twist. We do the opposite. We use the language and symbols of the church to help us connect with our children. This means that Advent and Lent are a big deal—and Easter is the biggest deal of all! It means that we talk about, play, and create the symbols that remind us of Jesus’ life. Our new readers learn the words which are likely to show up in the Worship Bulletin, and we regularly have lessons about the elements of worship and faith (including “field trips” to important places like the choir loft and pulpit!). From an early age, we are teaching them that the rhythms of church life are joyful, meaningful, and lively; and we pray that this will stick with them throughout their lives.
Written by: Rev. Jennifer Newell
Jennifer Newell is the pastor of First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Tennessee, and a member of Tennessee-Georgia Presbytery. She and her family share their home with one very fluffy cat and one very fluffy hamster, which makes her truly grateful for her vacuum cleaner.