Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Kid U Conference

Evan and I just spent the past couple days in Columbus at Grove City CoN at the Kid U conference sponsored by Kidology. I have to say for the price and the distance it was well worth the money. Evan even said that in some ways he found it more valuable than CPC. It is a good length (Fri pm and Sat am-afternoon). They had a fairly good mix of visionary and practical information.

The speakers placed a heavy emphasis both avoiding burnout and family ministry. Both of these topics have been near to our hearts lately, so it is good to hear that this is what others in the field are talking about as well. BTW, get ready for family ministry because it is redefining not only how pastors view their role (vocational expectations, placing the responsibility for children's spiritual lives back into the hands of parents, etc.) but also how we view the church in general.

My main comments however, stems from a conversation Evan and I had with a NCPA (Nazarene Children's Pastor's Association) board member and the upcoming Ignite! conference in Kansas City. I had posted a rant just a few days ago regarding my disappointment with what I felt was yet another lazy attempt by the CoN to "resource" its local ministers. My rant as follows: "OK, I know this is a little off subject, but I just read the info on the NCPA (Nazarene Children's Pastors Association) conference in October and I think the problem of Naz white flight [HQ moving to Lenexa] continues because of all-around general laziness (theological, ethical and otherwise). There's so much that could be said right now, but essentially, why would I pay over $200 in conference fees alone to hear what is going on in Lenexa, Kansas in children's ministry? Ohio, perhaps? Oklahoma . . . really? Something is actually going on there???Incredibly (or not) three of the four speakers for the conference hail right from the KC area. (No hotel or travel?) But please tell me that there are other people -- yes, even Nazarenes -- who have as much to offer as these people who could use a wee bit more street cred right now (besides the fact that they or their spouse have been affiliated with HQ in the past) . . . I mean, who cares if they're "Wesleyan" at this point. Anyway, I bring this up because it seems to further support your suggestion of insulation, us vs. them mentality, i.e. running for the hills that is apparently paralyzing the denomination. We are simply more willing to pay the price for mediocrity than do whatever it takes to be citizens of the Kingdom of God here on earth -- even if it means losing ourselves in the process. All for today. Sorry, it's 1:45 a.m. ET which I think makes it even more irritating. Disclaimer: Evan told me to go ahead and post this. Of course, he was asleep when he gave me his blessing. I'll have nothing to do with it tomorrow."

So then, my conversation with said board member at KidU was very enlightening. What she explained to be the purpose of this conference was far different from the promotional material posted on the website. As she stated it, some members of the board asked themselves, what is the best thing about us (the NCPA group) getting together each year (which they do 2 x a year)? They came to the conclusion that the opportunities that they had for sharing experiences and ideas with one another, encouraging colleagues in specific situations, and general networking were the most valuable things they did during their time together. They wanted to give this opportunity to others not serving directly on the board. But the only way this basically voluntary group could do this was through HQ involvement Sunday School/children's ministry. Hence K.C.. Hence speakers speaking gratis. Understood.

NCPA, from my limited understanding of its history has been one of the few recognized voices advocating for children's ministry in the CoN. They are doing what they can. I appreciate that. I don't know that Evan will be able to attend this conference, but I hope it is able to fulfill the expectations set out by the NCPA. This is an effort by children's pastors to do what the denomination seems to be reticent to do from within. But considering the church almost disbanded children's ministries on a denominational level at one point, I suppose it's better than nothing.


Eric said...

OK...I think I got all that, but I want to shift gears and ask your opinion. How do I as a "senior pastor" be a pastor to the children. Bear with me just a minute.

1) we have children's church (which you know I do not favor) so I cannot worship with our children

2) I am expected to be the adult pastor on Sunday and Wednesday nights. I have asked to have Wed lay led so I can minister with the kids. But that won't fly. My job is to stand up front and talk only to adults.

3) I am expected to be in adult SS so no kids there either. I suppose this would be the easiest one for me to get out of, but I see it as the least beneficial option. a team in children's ministry how do I be a pastor to all my people, not just the adults?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a pastor, but I would hope there would be sometime that you could spend with the children. I would hope that your lay people would want you to have that opportunity. We make every effort to bring our children upstairs to hear the pastor's sermon at once a month and on special ocassions. Sometimes the pastor has had a children's sermon during some part of the Sunday evening service. We even let our children take the offering and play the offeratory. It grieves me to think that there are not more intergenerational things happening in our churches. Children are very much a part of the church NOW--not in the future. If we don't minister to them now they won't be here later. I hear your heart but it sounds like your adults need a lot of education and passion for children.

Evan and Julia said...

I appreciate your frustration, Eric. This is a slow process for communities that have bought into the idea that people can only learn among their peers. However, one thing that was talked about at the KidU conference that might provide a good starting point for your situation is doing specific family events. That could mean anything from a movie or game night at the church, a bowling night, a church-wide treasure hunt (my home church does this every year), to a family oriented Easter egg hunt, or a advent wreath making night (remember from St. Paul's?). You are simply trying to reintroduce the whole family back into the life of the church.
Some things to remember about these events:
1) Don't schedule too many events and overload already full schedules. They need to be meaningful and worthwhile for the family to participate.
2)Put the responsiblity for the spiritual lives of children back in the hands of parents. Resource your families instead of trying to do everything yourself (challenge them to family devotions at home and provide materials to that end, teach them about talking to their own children about spiritual things, etc.)
3)Emphasize these events are not children's events (i.e. free child care). The whole family is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Hope this helps as a place to start with family ministry. Evan might have some other things to add.

Tom Felder said...

Julia, wow...what a range of emotions and feelings about ignite. The board member you talked to was right. The core intent is to provide a place for mutual learning and sharing of ideas. However, there are some people who still learn better and/or feel more comfortable with traditional workshops. And, yes, everything about this conference was done to save money - for NCPA. Obviously, it's fairly costly to attend, but I hope well worth it. Actually, since I don't have a children's position with an expense account, I can't afford to attend. But, I hope it succeeds. (By the way, we miss you candid discussions.)

Eric, Hope all is going well. Don't try to push to boundaries too soon. Get an idea of where you want to go and take every available opportunity to move in that direction. Take baby steps. Suggest that every fifth Sunday is family Sunday and include the kids in worship. Let the kids sing or something - parents will support that. Use those times to teach and do family ministry.

You didn't mention Sunday night. Do you have a Sunday night service? If so, you might begin to mold that into a family service.

Hang in there. Tom F.

Evan and Julia said...

Slow and easy, slow and easy. Say it a hundred times and then say it a hundred more. I don't mean do nothing, I mean do it slowly.

First begin to light fires under parents. I've told my parents and pastor now that I dream of a time when someone asks me how many kids I lead to Christ in a month, I say, "None. But parents are leading thier kids to Christ left and right!" Family ministry is about the church recognizing that its place is to model holy relationship for families. The spiritual leadership for children belongs to parents, but for too long they have abdicated that responsibility to the church. It is our job to give it back to parents. We equip, train, encourage, shepherd, but then give it back.

Whenever I have a problem with a kid in CC or Wed nights, I take it back to the parent and say, "I just wanted to let you know that little Sammy was a bit disrespectful in church today, speaking out of turn [or whatever, but put a behavior to the judgement!]. Now, I know that you wouldn't like him behaving this way and wouldn't let him do this at home. How do you handle Sammy when he does this at home? (Or how do you deal with this behavior from Sammy?) I ask because I want to try it here at church in order to support what you do at home." I've just done three things, I've acknowledged a parents responsibility and encouraged them at the same time (that's the part where I say that I know they wouldn't want Sammy to . . . ). I've also put the responsibility back in their hands (What do you do at home?) And I've said let's do this together (so I can support what you do at home).

Subtlety is the way to start it. Let your board come up with the idea of a family ministry. Suggest something, and when people see it's a great idea and/or success, give it away. Say, "I know and if Rick hadn't brought it up in board meeting two months ago, we never would've tried it!" Begin doing things with the family in mind. Like Julia said, start with big events.

Whatever you do, take your time. There's no rush. I know you, you want to be a Eugene Peterson, long-term sort of pastor anyway, don't you? So you've got time.

Start preaching about the importance of children. I use Josiah a lot. Remind them that God wasn't born an adult. He was born a baby, wrapped in strips of cloth, and laid in a trough out of which cows eat. Matthew talks about how God reveals the mysteries of his Kingdom to children, not to the wise. Then, suggest a worship service lead by children. Then, you have an excuse to teach the kids what worship is for a while before they do it.

Evan and Julia said...

Well, Tom, you know me ;). This is the problem with writing things like this down. When you state your opinion, then you find out more information, you have to acknowledge your understanding of the facts and your opinion has changed. A lot of words just to stay honest and I’m not sure anyone really cares anyway.

You did say, “. . . everything about this conference was done to save money - for NCPA,” is interesting since the KidU conference Evan and I just attended cost (for both of us), cost around half of what it would cost Evan to go to ignite! alone. Is this another instance where Nazarenes could take their cue from someone besides other Nazarene’s in providing a stewardly (new word?) yet worthwhile event? Just wondering, since you do work in stewardship. ;)

Tom Felder said...

Basically, it comes down to the fact that NCPA has no money. they have a few bucks from a few souls who pay dues just for the sake of supporting the organization, but not enough to make any real difference on something like this. Like I said, the partnership with SSM was an attempt to save money. Unfortunately, it jacked up the cost on the other end more than was intended. Hopefully, the board will find some creative ways to continue ignite and lower the cost at the same time. There, I have done my duty as an ex-chair.