Growing up, I loved going to McDonald’s. I loved the play area, the Happy Meals and the Happy Meal toy. In other words, I wanted the “Mickey D’s” experience because I knew it would be fun, I would get fed and I would leave with something. Shouldn’t the church be the same way?
Jelani Lewis on ministrytodaymag.com
via Children’s Ministry Magazine July/August 2011 pg. 22
Along with my current job assignment (children’s pastor @ Hayward Wesleyan), I will be joining the Spiritual Formation Department of The Wesleyan Church on their Children’s Ministry Leadership Team. Rev. Colleen Derr (former Children’s Ministry Director @ SFD) just recently accepted a teaching position @ Wesley Seminary and resigned leaving a vacancy that was filled with a field staff rather than a full time person (for the next year).
You can view the bios here, but I’ve stepped in as the Connections Coordinator and Team Leader, along with two other really neat people who serve as Resource and Training Coordinators. I’ll know more this weekend as I head to Indianapolis, IN to meet with the other staff more specifically what this new venture entails. I’m really intrigued and delighted to serve, resource and advance children’s ministry as an important means of discipleship in our churches and in the kingdom of God.
This looks to be a fun ride!
There’s no way to avoid this simple fact: death happens
And, when it does, we often struggle with how to approach talking to our kids about the subject.
Recently, in our community, a young mom passed away suddenly – leaving behind her husband and two children, a 1st and a 5th grader. In other parts of the country, recent tornadoes have devastated communities and left hundreds of families grieving the loss of loved ones. Across an ocean from us, Japan is still reeling from one of the largest earthquake/tsunami combinations many of us will see in our lifetime – with a death toll that has surpassed 10,000 lives lost.
In the midst of dealing with death, our children often approach us looking for answers. At the same time, we’re faced with the daunting task of balancing our own grief with guiding our kids through the process. Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind as I guide families tackling important questions surrounding death and mourning.
The question I’ve been asked the most in my years of ministering to families and communities who are grieving is whether or not a child should attend the funeral of someone outside of the family. When answering this question, it’s good to think about where a child is developmentally. As parents, we often project our emotions and desires on our children – for better or for worse. If one of my closest friends lost a family member, I would want to be there for that person to provide a sense of community in mourning. My four year old son, however, wouldn’t provide that same sense of community for a peer – children’s friendships are different than adult friendships and parents often lose sight of that during times of emotional crisis.
I encourage families to talk openly about the grieving process, but forcing a young child to attend a memorial service might cause more harm than good. However, if a child wants to attend a service with their parents, I see that as an opportunity for a family to share the grieving process together. I discourage families from having their younger children sit amongst peers – again, they aren’t looking to each other for support – adults are most often viewed as their protectors/comfort. Peers rarely operate in this role for young children.
The most important thing I try to tell families during the grieving process is that children need to know that they aren’t alone. Parents don’t have to have everything “figured out” in order to give children a sense of safety and comfort.
I have found the following online articles helpful in shaping my conversations with parents talking to their children about death:
One of the best articles I’ve read on natural disasters and our response as Christians was written by my Senior Pastor and friend, Jim Miller
Children’s Ministry magazine provides more than just information on the subject, they actually provide suggestions for how to talk with kids about death
iVillage gives an in depth answer to the question “Should my child attend a funeral?”
The most useful article I’ve ever read on the subject is from hospicenet.org
If you don’t want to click through right now because you don’t have time, I encourage you to at least read their summary of how children mourn, based on age and developmental stage. (below)
Characteristics of Age Groups (to be used only as a general guide)
Infants – 2 Years Old:
- Will sense a loss
- Will pick up on grief of a parent or caretaker
- May change eating, sleeping, toilet habits.
2-6 Years Old:
- Family is center of child’s world
- Confident family will care for her needs
- Plays grown-ups, imitates adults.
- Functions on a day-to-day basis.
- No understanding of time or death
- Cannot imagine life without mum or dad
- Picks up on nonverbal communication.
- Thinks dead people continue to do things (eat, drink, go to the bathroom), but only in the sky.
- Thinks if you walk on the grave the person feels it.
- Magical thinking
- you wish it, it happens (bring the dead back or wishing someone was dead)
- Death brings confusion, guilt [magically thought someone dead]
- Tendency to connect things which are not related.
6-9 Years Old:
- Personifies death: A person, monster who takes you away
- Sometimes a violent thing.
- Still has magical thinking, yet begins to see death as final, but outside the realm of the child’s realistic mind.
- Fails to accept that death will happen to them – or to anyone (although begins to suspect that it will).
- Fears that death is something contagious.
- Confusion of wording [soul/sole, dead body, live soul].
- Develops an interest in the causes of death (violence, old age, sickness).
9-12 Year Old:
- May see death as punishment for poor behavior.
- Develops morality – strong sense of good and bad behavior.
- Still some magical thinking.
- Needs reassurance that wishes do not kill.
- Begins an interest in biological factors of death.
- Theorizes: People die to make room for new people.
- Asks more about “what happened”
- Concerns about ritual, burying
- Questions relationship changes caused by death, life changes.
- Worries about who provides and cares for them.
- May regress to an earlier stage
- Interested in spiritual aspects of death.
- Views death as inevitable, universal, irreversible.
- Cognitive skills developed
- Thinks like an adult
- Questions meaning of life if it ends in death
- Sees aging process leading to death
- Sees self as invincible – it will not happen to me.
- Sees death as a natural enemy
- Need for adult guidance (grief process, coping skills).
- Needs someone to listen; to talk with.
- May feel guilt, anger, even some responsibility for death that occurred.
- Not sure how to handle own emotions [public and private].
via West Coast CM
Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, consists of people born around the late-1970’s to the early 2000’s. MTV, for better or worse, is known for its culturally relevant or astute programming, targeted, almost precisely, at its intended demographic. “MTV made a decision at its point of inception to never grow old with the audience but to reinvent periodically for each ‘generation next’.”
An article featured in FastCompany.com, highlights the insights MTV has learned about the Millennial Generation. They discuss “two tectonic forces”:
Recalibration of the nuclear family
A century of “parent-centered” nuclear family has steadily been under-going a paradigm shift, and may have just passed the tipping point. The nucleus of the family has been moving towards the child, and Millennials look like the first generation raised in that new nuclear family structure. No longer the hierarchical structure with authoritarian parent “leadership,” the new family is flattened to a democracy, with collective (if not kid-driven) decision-making process. Parents are more like best friends, life coaches, or as we at MTV call them “peer-ents.
No longer is it necessary to “rebel against” authoritarian parents to individuate, engage in acts of self-expression, or push at the boundaries. As one youth psychologist we work with pointed out, “Parents don’t say you can’t go to the party, they create safe spaces to consume alcohol, they say Can I pick you up afterwards?, Here’s money for a taxi.”
Self-expression, having your voice heard, following your own path–these are all values that are positively encouraged in modern parenting styles. Why rebel when you simply need to explain your behavior in terms of “my experiment in self discovery.”
The “You Demand It,” push button, everything free, always on culture of technology and the Internet has amplified much of the “social coding” of the way Millennials were parented. And as many commentators have already pointed out, the revolution will be tweeted. The power is in the hands of a million anonymous hands, and can be wielded apparently consequence free, in real time, with the click of a mouse.
It’s easy, I think, for us that our outside (or maybe a little bit inside) the Millennial Generation, to be critical of the ways things are. How many of us bemoan the widespread, rampant use of technology (i.e. texting) among young people today? And we say things like: If only they knew what real work was, right? Or, why don’t parents “parent” their children instead of letting the kids run the family?
Now I’m not saying (nor do I think MTV or other generational auditors) that technology and kid-centered families are inherently bad. It’s just a cultural snapshot of what I like to call, “the way things are.” Older generations like the Baby Boomers or others have quite different characteristics based on the cultural surroundings that shaped them. The Millennials have particular surroundings that older generations did not (i.e. the internet, cell phones, etc).
So my thoughts are this: it is good to know how (and why) families tend to interact these days, and it is good to know the influence and use of technology as well. Why? Because then we as the church, the community of God’s people, can help and assist families to instruct and guide their children in the wise use of technology. Technology without ethics is not wise. Kid-centered families, or “peer-ents”, is not a bad thing unless kids are not getting any kind of instruction in how to become wise and responsible adults eventually. If parents are merely acting as peers to their children, then they may not be getting the wise instruction they need to be responsible adults that are able to hold down a job or care for a future family.
When I read articles that provide insight into cultural snapshots, I am always asking the question: “In light of the way things are, how do we wisely teach and train, disciple and lead our children and our own lives, to look like the ways of God and the principles of his kingdom?”
Not a simple question, eh? No… because it’s always changing, especially in our lightning-fast culture now!
King David decides to count his troops, realizes that was a bad decision (after the fact), has to choose one of three punishments, and buys the porch (threshold) where the plague stopped.
Interestingly, the “porch” that David bought became the sight where King Solomon placed the Temple.
Thank you so much for coming to church this weekend. It was a thrill to see you and your entire family worshipping with the rest of your church family. I know that you had to get up earlier than you might have preferred, fought to get kids ready in their “church clothes”, swigged down some coffee quickly, and rushed to be with us on Sunday. For that I am greatly appreciative!
However, I noticed something interesting this week. You didn’t arrive until 30 minutes after church started, and our services are only 60 minutes long. This can be problematic, which I’m sure you understand. Let me say that being late isn’t the issue, it’s the consistently being late that is a greater concern. We all have “those Sundays” when everything that could go wrong does, and you get to church much later than anticipated. I’m speaking more towards being late every…single…weekend. Please know that you are communicating the wrong message to your child, those that work with your child, and all the other children attending each weekend.
I can hear it now, “What are you talking about? This isn’t really any of your business!” And I agree, but please let me ask you to consider what message you might be sending by being late every weekend.
- First, you’re asking your kid to play major catch-up. // If the service is 60 minutes long, and you arrive to drop off the kid after the first 30 minutes, then they have probably already missed the following: Praise and Worship, Introduction of Bottom Line elements, Bible Story, and many times your arrival corresponds with the most intense and most serious time of the entire morning. That’s right, by being late your kid has missed everything the kids consider “the good stuff”. In Kid’s ministry things move fast, and we put a premium on quickly moving from one thing to the next. We’re always teaching our bottom line; but by missing the first 30 minutes your child will have difficulty grasping and internalizing the message.
- Second, it’s a distraction. // This is the one that I feel the worst about bothering you about. Apologies as I step on your well-intentioned toes, but here I go… When you arrive 30 minutes late to a 4 year old class, it means the teacher has to stop what they’re doing to check-in your kid. That might mean stopping the lesson right in the middle of a teaching time, when they’ve already worked hard to capture the gnat-like attention of a class of 4 year olds. It’s quite simply a major distraction to everyone already in the classroom. It’s also a major distraction to your own child. There are some major embarrassment and separation issues related to dropping off a child into an environment that isn’t prepped for drop-off and check-in time. It’s hard on your own child in a way that I know you would never intend.
- Third, it’s less than the best. // Everyone wants what’s best for your child. Everyone on my team at the church wants your child to have the most positive experience possible on a Sunday morning, and I have no doubt that you want the best as well. When your child arrives late to church, it’s quite simply giving them less than what is best. My team at the church has planned every minute of our time with your child to help illustrate God’s redemptive plan and His love for your children. Let us have as much of this time as possible!
So you may be asking, “What can I do to help this not be a problem?” That’s a great question, and here are some solutions.
- If you’re running late, then wait until the next service starts and give your kid the 100% experience at the upcoming later service. Of course, this only applies if your church has more than one service, and if you were trying to get to the early service.
- If you’re running late, apologize to the people trying to get your child situated into the environment quickly. A kind word does wonders for a teacher that has to deal with distraction you’ve created. The fact is that being late happens to all of us, but recognize the burden it is on those leading the classrooms. Just apologize, and act like it matters.
- If you’re running late, then promise yourself and your family that this will be the last time. Work hard to be on-time, if for no other reason that because it’s best for your kids. That’s reason enough isn’t it?
Thanks for bringing your kids to us each weekend, and know that we love, love, love having them with us. It’s a thrill to minister to all the different parts of your family, and you are to be commended for the intentional effort you make every week to worship as a family.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Children’s Pastor
Thank you for coming to church…last month. Where ya been? I love seeing you and your family, but it’s been a while. Don’t lie about how much you attend, because nowadays I can track your kids attendance pretty easy with all the sophisticated software solutions out there. I’m sure your schedule has been really busy lately, and you feel like you’re having to choose to say no to some things. And I’m sure that it’s easy to say no to church attendance. I mean really, you can always go next week, right? I know that there are weeks that there really are conflicts; soccer tournaments, out-of-town trips, and the occassional sick times. But in all honesty and with as much sincerity as I can muster, what do you have going on a Sunday morning that takes priority over worship?
Let me be your cheerleader for a moment: You can get here to church more regularly! You can get there, I know you can! And I’d like to encourage you to make it more of a priority. But why should you?
- The Bible Says So. // That is always a great fall-back, huh? Seriously, you should read some of what Hebrews, Romans, and James says about the matter. It’s important to be in church, period. The church was and is a part of God’s great Rescue Plan to introduce Jesus to the world. It also exists to helps us grow, learn, and give to a community of people all seeking the same things. You knew I’d say this one, right?
- You need to establish good habits with your kid early on. // I’ve rarely met a person that attends church once-a-month that would say that they want their children to grow up and NOT attend church. It’s quite simple really, if you want your kids to grow up and be a part of a community of believers (church), it’s in your best interest to attend one yourself. Make it a priority for your family, and your kids will learn that it’s a vital part of their walk with God.
- Without regular attendance you miss the mentoring and relationship benefit of Children’s Ministry. // This same principle applies to every area of the church, but let’s talk about your kids for right now. One of the best benefits of taking your kid to a thriving ministry for Children is that they get to know other kids learning about God’s Best for their lives, and the adult leaders leading these areas. If you attend inconsistently, you are greatly diminishing the chance for one of our fantastic Small Group Leaders or Classroom Teachers to make an impact on your child’s life. Trust me, it’s so important that your kid hear the same things you tell them coming from a different voice.
It’s obvious, in that you sometimes attend, that you do indeed value what church means in your life, and what it can mean to your kids as you are walking this journey of parenting them. Now it’s time to make it more of a priority, and start getting involved. It starts with being here consistently, then we can happily start finding places for you to serve in this wonderful family called “The Body of Christ.”
Your Friendly Neighborhood Children’s Pastor
…uses engaging photos and footage to demonstrate the valuable lessons kids learn at his Tinkering School. When given tools, materials and guidance, these young imaginations run wild and creative problem-solving takes over to build unique boats, bridges and even a rollercoaster!
I came across this music video a couple of months ago and have been playing/listening to it in the background before and after ministry events. It’s a really catchy tune and I love that it is a verse! I haven’t looked in to what else they offer, but this would be a neat way to connect memorizing Scripture with worship time. It would also be great music to have in the home as well!
Seeds Family Worship website
Young David does what King Saul is supposed to do: fight Goliath, defend Israel. Instead, Saul depends on David to fight for what is right. And David does so with courage and conviction. David would not let Goliath get away with cursing God and His people.
And the compare and contrast saga between Saul and David begins.
Read 1 Samuel 17:1-58Vodpod videos no longer available.
Found in 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Found in 1 Samuel 13:23 – 14:52
Below are 2 videos: the first is from this past Sunday and the second is from 3 years ago when we did this story.Vodpod videos no longer available.