In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:5
It was he who gave some to be … teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
I am a “second career’ type in my ministry. After spending over 20 years as I librarian in both public and academic settings I was providentially thrust into Children’s Ministry. While I gratefully acknowledge God’s call, I have had to spend time reflecting how I, trained in helping others become better researchers, better students and often serving as Readers’ Advisor, could help people in their faith journeys. The words of the Apostle Paul in Romans and Ephesians have framed the answer to my question.
Through out the centuries, teachers have asked their students to read and research certain topics in order to bring a greater understanding. Librarians have long stood by to hand out various tools to individual students to help them along an academic path. In Children’s Ministry, we are not giving individual children tools to walk a faith journey alone, we are called to give children, their parents, and the larger faith community the tools they need to reach the spiritual maturity to which Paul refers to in his letter to the Ephesians. The task of equipping God’s people does, in part fall to the Christian Educators, Sunday School teachers and other volunteers. Christian Educators are given just a tiny portion of a child’s life, one hour once or twice a week (often less than that!). Christian Educators must prepare their nets for all of God’s people. My task is to find compelling ways to reach the young child and her parents, to captivate the ‘tweeners and his parents so that they are excited and engaged in faith development.
Librarians helping students become better as students is another individualized undertaking. In Children’s Ministry, indeed in all ministries, indeed are in community with others. I cannot claim to have the secret to making children and their families become better Christians. Nor do I claim I walk each and every day with righteous integrity. The librarians helping students become better a student is, in some respects, an easier task. Helping children and their families become better Christians is an on going task. Christian Educators cannot perfect a child’s faith foundation. Christian Educators (Sunday School teachers) enrich a child’s faith by teaching children how to pray, by sharing the Good News, by helping kids understand Gods’ love. Christian Educators (parents and the larger faith community) can extend and enrich that learning environment by including children in opportunities where children and families learn and grown together in a safe, fun and inclusive Christ centered environment.
If I continue to draw analogies from my professional life as a librarian to my life as a Christian Educator, my next parallel is Readers’ Advisor. Librarians are usually pretty darn good at finding resources to help them in their jobs as Readers’ Advisor, even if they haven’t read the books they are advising others to read. To say that I find myself wallowing in despair and self-loathing when I dig into the scripture is an understatement. How, oh Lord, will I ever live according to your Word? I believe, help my unbelief. Children are inspired when you are inspired, excited when you are excited. Children and families can teach each other when they are encouraged and equipped to teach each other.
Cheryl Couch-Thomas, Interim Director of Children’s Ministry at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, KS serves as Guest Director for this week.