After more than a year as Children’s Ministry Coordinator, I sometimes find myself feeling awfully unprepared to lead this ministry at St. Thomas. I think back to the conversation that I had with the rector who hired me when I voiced my concerns about some of the skills I felt I lacked to do a good job with the program. He said (paraphrasing), “Do what you do. We’ve got people who can do the teaching.”
Well, that was all good for the first half of the 2021-2022 Christian Formation year. We were humming along—the younger age group of children enthusiastically participating in Godly Play led by their gifted, experienced storyteller and the older children immersing themselves in the Love First curriculum that was introduced this year. At the end of 2021, the Love First lead teacher moved when her husband changed jobs. Soon, I found myself trying to fill her shoes—a retired educator with Sunday School teaching experience.
Trying to Fill Those Shoes
While trying to fill those shoes, I have learned a few things and gained a greater appreciation for others. I am SO thankful for all teachers and the patience they have. I don’t know how they teach and maintain some sanity every day because the tween angst feels insurmountable some days. What happened to those cute, sweet kids in their Boocharist costumes when I first started coming to St. Thomas?
Some days, it was hard to keep the discussion on the topic. Other days, it was hard to even get them to talk enough to have a discussion. I reminded them they are in God’s House and we should all strive to be godlier, and it felt like it fell on deaf ears.
The Lent Craft Project
These challenges made me unsure how our multi-week Lent craft project of creating a children’s version of Stations of the Cross was going to pan out. Would we be able to create all fourteen Stations? Would we have artwork that would respect the solemnity of the Stations? Or would we have random drawings with no relevance to Jesus’ last day on earth?
We started the project on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Some part of my preceding Saturday was spent taking care of the last thing needed for the project—cutting out templates to facilitate a consistent format amongst the different Stations—and preparing for the Children’s Chapel sermon. The Gospel was Luke 15:11-32, the story of the Prodigal Son. I reviewed the recommended discussion points and did not stress too much about it since I felt it would be a fairly easy discussion to have with the Children’s Chapel participants.
Sunday arrived. The teacher and the class reviewed and discussed the stations. Then it was my turn to start the art portion by explaining the desired format of the drawings and how we planned to display the artwork in the hallway of Hiers Hall during Holy Week. The children each picked a Station that spoke to him/her, took the sample drawing from the discussion, and started working.
God’s Unwavering Love for Us
The positive energy in the room started translating to the children’s papers. One child chose to draw with a charcoal pencil. Most chose to use oil pastels. Some were having fun blending the pastel colors. Others were just simply enjoying using a different art medium.
Soon, the different interpretations of Jesus’ journey were becoming recognizable on the papers and so were the children’s individual personalities and interests. As a child finished, the teacher and I helped them place their drawing in the black paperboard mat frame, preparing it for display. The children seemed excited to have their artwork showcased.
As is most Sundays when there is Sunday School, I scurried off to the 10:30 am worship service to lead Children’s Chapel. The children were active participants in the discussion of the day’s gospel, and I left St. Thomas that day feeling almost giddy. On my drive home, I reflected on the morning at church. I was proud of the students—they do care and listen to the adults some of the time.
Is this how the father in the Prodigal Son felt? Was this the unwavering love of a parent—both the human type and the Almighty—when their child comes back “home” after going wayward?
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.Luke 15:32, NIV
Yes, that Sunday was a great reminder to me of God’s unwavering love for each of us, no matter our present circumstances.
Vacation Bible School Is Here!
We are again reminded of that love as the St. Thomas Children’s Ministry embarks on our largest event of the year—Vacation Bible School. It takes a village of time, talent, and treasure to pull it off. The volunteers will undoubtedly feel exhausted at some point or annoyed by the excess chatter or activity, but I believe that we are all committed to helping the children that come through the doors of St. Thomas develop their relationship with God, as noted in Proverbs 22:6.
When we hear those young voices repeating the daily themes or belting out the VBS songs they learned during our week together, we will know that the prodigal sons and daughters are Home.
Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.Proverbs 22:6, NIV