I was poking around some old draft posts and found this one — I probably wrote it at least two years ago.
I’m on record belittling certain forms of children’s ministry, the forms which are entertainment-based. The ones which focus on keeping the kids busy and out of their parents’ hair while they have their sermon. The ones which are more concerned with the kids having a program than with the kids having spiritual formation. I summed up it up by saying these were only concerned with the kids getting a story, a craft, and a cookie.
You have to admit the formula is familiar. These three elements are of course the basic arsenal of the children’s ministry worker. And, I must grudgingly admit, they’re not inherently wrong.
The story is of course a good item to start with. It’s unfortunate that when people grow up we stop telling them stories. We learn from stories. The Bible is a story, made up of stories. The craft is a little more removed… kids like to do crafts, they like the activity. A good craft or object lesson can also help kids grasp the lesson — at least that’s the theory. It’s also good for kids to do things together, creative things, and in this case, ones which help them internalize the message. The cookie? Well, why not — eating together is good for building relationships; adults still talk better with a cup of coffee in hand. Bearing all these in mind, I’m left with one conclusion: the adult meetings would probably go much better if they made a focused effort to provide a story, a craft, and a cookie.
But something is still missing. Spiritual formation. You can have a story, a craft, and a cookie, but not have spiritual formation. Turns out that good kids’ program and a bad one can have the same ingredients… but guaranteed, the bad one will be missing any directed spiritual formation.
So what does that look like?
Since writing this, for the past six months or so, we’ve been doing a separate kids’ church gathering, and they really enjoy it. They’ve started to pick up the teaching material themselves and take turns leading the meetings with varying amounts of parental assistance in preparing it, depending on their age. They seem to really take to it, and interestingly, it follows somewhat the same model as we use with the adults, it’s just age-adjusted. There isn’t so much a cookie involved though…. we usually end up sharing a meal together, either breakfast or lunch. In many ways, it’s that age-old question about what to do with kids in house churches.