What We Value
Age-diversity within a faith-family is a gift to everyone! According to a research study by the Fuller Youth Institute, a top predictor of whether a child or teen continues in the faith in adulthood is the number of spiritual friendships she or he has with non-related adults. Jesus himself points to children as models for faith and trust.
While this curriculum is designed for a child-friendly setting, the format of each lesson encourages the children and facilitators to approach the text together as learners, question-askers, and recipients of God's grace. Facilitating a lesson means learning in a different setting than the sermon, but both children and adult leaders are still encouraged to engage with God and learn from the Bible. A shortened lesson time (a flexible 25-40 minutes) encourages faith families to worship together for music, prayers, and communion.
The Kingdom of God includes people from all over the world, so it makes sense that the resources we use to introduce children to the Scriptures and traditions of the church are also rich with diversity.
Although the average Christian in the world today is a sub-Saharan African woman, and the average overseas missionary is Korean, the majority of children's curriculums are still published in the United States and created with primarily white, middle-class churches in mind. We see this through the many images of Jesus as white and anecdotes that relate primarily to upper or middle class American families. The global church is often only recognized in the context of outreach. For children who are racial minorities in the USA, it's exciting to see pictures of Jesus with skin colors or physical features that look like their own. For children from families who are experiencing poverty, it is important to recognize that they are valued, contributing members of church families. For all children, it's important that resources recognize that "Christian" is not synonymous with "white, middle-class, American".
Worship with Children lessons are focused primariliy on studying Bible passages. However, supplemental material and resources aim to introduce cultural diversity through images collected from religious art created around the world, connect children with their own cultural background through reflective questioning, and foster conversations about the global church. Because guiding questions help children make their own daily-life connections to their own context, the curriculum is appropriate for children coming from a variety of family, socio-economic, and cultural contexts.
Equipping volunteers for classroom success is arguably the most difficult part of children's ministry. When I began directing children's ministries a helpful friend pointed out that I had effectively transitioned from the role of teacher to principal. With our monthly rotation system, this meant I needed to fill 200+ volunteer hours each month, and make sure over 60 volunteers each week were ready to show up with a lesson prepared!
When I could assure leaders that they only needed to devote 20-minutes to preparation and didn't need to bring any supplies, recruitment got a bit easier. When I started including the "why" of each step of teaching and a few variations to account for preferred teaching styles, many teachers said they became more confident in their leadership abilities.
In a classroom with a strong curriculum and effective rhythm, leading can be both low-stress and highly effective. This curriculum is designed to let the worship space and the lesson structure lead the expectations of the children and in turn serve as the consistent guides of the learning and worship experience. The leaders become facilitators, and the act of guiding children becomes a source of spiritual formation. A rotation of volunteer leaders no longer feels like a weakness, but an opportunity to allow children to worship alongside a variety of adults in their church family!