Anyone who has taken a science class has probably learned about the steps of the scientific method: -Ask a question
-Do background research
-Construct a hypothesis
-Test with an experiment
While we don’t think of applying this to the church, it functions as a good method as we seek to move forward in Redevelopment. When the leadership teams met for our retreat in January, we discussed how to move forward in a changing world. Though things that we have done in the past may have been wildly successful, they may not have the same success in a different cultural context. We began brainstorming new and different ways to address our congregations concerns. While we do our best to think things through before doing them, sometimes we need to try something to see how it will work or if modifications are needed. In our Redevelopment Covenant, among the responsibilities of the congregation includes “Change existing ministries and practices in order to live out God’s dream more fully.” I think this includes the idea of trying experiments as we go. In my year here, I have engaged in several different experiments around our children’s ministry. We all agree that children are an important part of our community and, when a child is baptized, we promise as a community to support their families in praying and in teaching. While many people have memories of an active youth group that met weekly, large summer VBS programs and weekly children’s Sunday School classes, we have seen that this is not what is currently working for Risen Lord, both from the number of participants as well as the number of volunteers. This past fall, we experimented with offering a children’s Sunday School class at the same time as the Sunday adult Bible study. After several months, we found that we did not have consistent numbers, and the few who came on a regular basis were of such an age difference that it was hard to have one class that was meaningful, nor did we have adults who would volunteer to serve as an assistant. In consultation with those who would attend the class, I decided that this was not the best way to teach our children - but we still need to teach our children. To kick off Advent, we had a multi-generation learning time with various stations and crafts to teach about the purpose of Advent. It was well attended with people across generations. It also was an opportunity for members to bring grandchildren and participate with them. This has made me wonder if this is a better model for teaching our children than a traditional Sunday School model. In order to test this, I am planning a multi-generational learning event about Holy Communion for Sunday, April 7. Look for more information to come. I will be looking for a few adults to commit to helping coordinate and lead this event as well as many other adults to come and learn alongside our kids. While we do not have a huge group of children for a flashy youth program, we have many adults who can deeply love and care for the children we do have. We have also been experimenting with offering an activity for the children during worship at the time of the sermon. Many of our families would like to have their children in worship with them, but we also acknowledge that it is hard to concentrate when you are caring for wiggly children. While the worship activity seems to be loved by the children, we do not have adults who will sign up to lead this. With only a couple adults who do this on a regular basis, we are asking them to regularly miss out on their time in worship or learning during the sermon. During the season of Lent, I would like us to try an experiment. We will have a corner of the sanctuary set up with a small table and chairs as well as pillows, coloring sheets and other quiet activities. This space will also kids to be present in worship and to participate as they are able, but also to have a space to stretch out or do a quiet activity. This will also allow all of the adults to remain in worship as we kick of each week of the Journey in worship. As we try this experiment: -Know that it won’t be perfect from the very beginning. We will all need to learn how the space works and how to help children participate
-Know that this is not the final format. To try this experiment, I used items that we already had in the church. They don’t completely match, yet they are sufficient for us to try this. We may find other items that the kids would enjoy or want to add to this on their own.
-We are all responsible to raise the children in the church. If the kids are getting loud, feel free to sit with them in the space and help them. If the kids don’t know what is going on in worship, feel free to show them in the bulletin. Many of you have been in worship with your children when they were young and have some good ideas of how to help them participate. Many of you also remember how hard it is to be a parent. We all are part of building a web of faith around the children we have been blessed with. Just as a cord of a single strand is easily broken, children that are only connected to the faith through a parent or a pastor don’t always stay part of the church or develop a vibrant faith. The more faithful adults who surround a child increase their connection to the church, giving them many role models and many people who care. I encourage you to learn names, shower our kids with love and have some patience as we experiment with the best way to help our kids worship with us and teach them about our faith in Jesus Christ. In the abiding hope of the Risen Lord, Pastor Lecia