In the summer of 2015, I was given the opportunity to serve my church as the head of the Christian Education department. By the end of the summer, I had learned a lot. Below is a slightly adapted version of the blog post I wrote at the end of that summer. Rereading it has been a great reminder of the lessons that God taught me. I realized that, even though I haven’t returned to children’s ministry in the past couple of years, what I learned about has helped greatly in other areas of ministry.
In the few fleeting months between my graduation from OBU in May and my move to Chicago taking place next week, I had the privilege of interning at my church as the interim Christian Education director.
My job, in a nutshell, was to establish the foundation of a larger, more uniform Christian Education department that would last long after my departure. I worked almost exclusively in children’s ministry, which was a brand new experience for me. I went into this internship not really sure what I was doing, but I learned a lot along the way. Here are five things I learned this summer.
1. Children’s ministry is not my calling.
And that’s okay. God has gifted us all in different ways for different ministries. The first thing I learned this summer through working with children is that working with children is not my gift.
However, that can’t be an excuse for me to avoid working with kids. I may not be as gifted at working with children as other people are, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have a responsibility to ministering to the children in my church. Which brings me to the second thing I learned this summer…
2. Children’s ministry is my calling.
And it’s yours, too.
One of the lessons God taught me from the very beginning was that children are a part of the church. It may be obvious, but it really is something I had to learn.
We like to divide our congregations into smaller groups. There is nothing wrong with that. Children can relate to one another better than they can to adults, so they should be in classes together. However, at least for me, sometimes I forget that, even when we divide ourselves into smaller groups, we are all one body.
And because the children are just as much a part of the body of Christ as everyone else, we are all called to minister to our children just as we are called to minister to our other brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are called to disciple one another. Discipleship is characterized by members of the body of Christ encouraging one another, teaching one another, loving one another, fellowshipping with one another, growing with one another.
Discipleship isn’t a task left to the pastor or the children’s minister. It’s an act in which the entire church must take part. We are all called to minister to one another. To serve one another. And I’ve come to understand over the past few months that this ministry to the body of Christ to which we are called includes everyone, no matter the age.
There are no divisions in the Kingdom of God.
3. Children remember a lot more than I thought they would.
But not necessarily what I want them to remember. My name, for instance.
The week my internship began just happened to be Vacation Bible School. I was assigned to story time, where I played the villain of VBS: a skeptic named Obadiah who, over the course of the week, learned to trust in Jesus.
Now, two months later, the youngest kids still call me Obadiah. I’ve told them time and time again that Obadiah was just a character and my real name is Tyler. But to them I am and always will be Obadiah.
For some reason, that took me by surprise. I don’t know why. Every once in a while, I have songs stuck in my head that I learned when I was a kid in VBS. So why does it shock me that young children can remember my VBS name from just two months ago?
Children are listening, and they remember more than I think they do. Even though they don’t necessarily remember all the lessons that I taught them.
I worked hard on some of the lessons that I planned. I spent many hours this summer scrolling through board after board on Pinterest. But when it comes down to it, I don’t care if they remember their ocean in a bottle. Or their Holy Spirit dove made out of a paper plate.
Looking back, I couldn’t tell you one thing I learned in children’s church. But I remember the teachers. I remember their faces. And their names. I remember the love that they had for me and the other children. I remember that they were there.
And if that’s all that these children remember in a week, or a month, or a year, then that’s all I could ask for. Even if they only remember my name as Obadiah.
I want to be a teacher someday. I’d like to be a Bible professor, training pastors overseas or teaching in a university in the States. This summer, teaching children helped me to learn a lot about teaching in general.
In order to teach the Bible to children, it has to be simplified. As much as I would have loved to teach them about the cultural, historical, and linguistic background of the text, I had to teach to my audience.
But before I started this internship, for some reason I thought simplifying scripture was equivalent to watering it down. The Bible is the vehicle through which the very authority of God is revealed to us. How can I simplify the Bible without sacrificing that authority?
I knew I couldn’t turn the stories in the Bible into cute little stories with happy morals at the end, like don’t lie. Or be good. The message of the Bible was so much deeper than that. How deep could I go?
There is a happy medium. There is a way to make scripture understandable without sacrificing the authority of God which is revealed through scripture. As an aspiring teacher of the Bible, that was a very important lesson for me to learn.
The stories in the Bible are not really about Adam. Or Moses. Or David. Or Peter. Or Paul. They are all pointing to God and his kingdom.
Which is a nice segue into number five.
5. It’s all about God.
This point is probably the simplest of them all, because our lives as Christians are all about God. And yet, this was the easiest for me to forget. As I searched for inspiration for games and crafts, I often got so focused on finding ways to merely entertain the children that I forgot what the point of it all was. But every week, God reminded me that children’s ministry isn’t about keeping the children occupied while their parents are in church. It’s not a babysitting service.
Children’s ministry isn’t even about the children. It’s about God. It’s about worshiping and glorifying his name and teaching others to do the same.