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Christian Methodist Episcopal

Department of Christian Education

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Children Ministry

Formation + Nurture + Leadership = Mission

Our children are our most precious assets.  Our goal is to teach children to be disciples.    Jesus said to his disciples, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14, NIV)

Bishop Henry C. Bunton in his forward to the Junior Catechism developed by the Department of Christian Education wrote the following:  “…To be sure, our forebearers were dedicated to the progress of the African American family and community, and especially to the nurture of and development of their children.  They demonstrated their dedication by making sure their children were brought up in the church…Parents and those responsible for discipling the children took time to teach them how to pray, recite Bible verses and memorize the many exciting Bible stories and their significant to everyday human living.  The church took seriously its responsibility to teach children about God, what it means to be a Christian, the importance of living Godly lives, and what church membership is all about.”

Bishop Bunton recognized the importance of Christian nurture for our children.  Sunday School only begins the process of forming and discipling our children in the faith.  It is not enough just to involve our children in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School.  Those responsible for Christian Education in the local church must understand Spiritual Formation and Christian nurture as the means to which our children begin their faith journey.  We cannot stress enough that it begins in the cradle.
Far too often today churches tend to group children and youth all in the same category.  Children (ages 0 – 11) have different needs than youth.  They have different learning styles and comprehend at a different level than adolescents.  They relate to stories and need to be able to visualize and imagine the meaning of the lives of the characters found in the biblical stories.

Research reveals that children begin to develop their cognitive skills at a much earlier age than previously understood. Those responsible for the nurture of the children at the local church level have an awesome responsibility.  Again we must stress that this is where formation begins.  We believe that Spiritual formation and Christian nurture begins at birth.  When children are taught the meaning and importance of discipleship at an early age, they grow into mature disciples who teach and disciple others in the faith.

Our local churches must become compassionate child care centers that focus on spiritual enrichment and Christian upbringing.  No child should be left behind, whether they be born into the membership of the church or whether they reside on the fringes of the larger church community.
 
What does this mean?  It means that we must create sacred spaces within our congregations where children are welcomed.  We must do the difficult work of seeking our passionate, responsible and credible children workers who have a love for children.  Yes we must do the background checks and although these persons are volunteers we must hold them accountable to  highest standards as they are entrusted with the formation and nurture of our most precious assets.

It means that those responsible for Christian education seek out and use age and theologically appropriate resources that assist in their faith development.  (resources recommended by the Department of Christian Education.)

It means that Children’s workers must be mature Christians who continue to be formed and shaped in the life of Jesus Christ.  These workers must participate in ongoing training and learning as they seek to teach the children and serve as Christian mentors and role models.

It means that we must find appropriate space for children to learn and worship.  It means that we must recognize that children are a vital part of the worship community and have gifts to offer to the worship experience. 

It means that nurseries need to be put in place for the small children of our young adults in order for them to participate in the life of the church.  These nurseries need to be funded and staffed by the Church.  Persons who work in the nursery need to be trained and equipped to care for the children. 
We saved the children for last for this reason.  Much is required in teaching the faith to the little ones.  When we fail to teach those who have been entrusted to our care, we are held accountable for their actions or non-actions. 

The late Dr. William R. Johnson, Jr., former General Secretary of Christian Education stated in Developing the Educational Ministry of the Local Church, that “much of the ministry with children is simply a matter of surrounding the child with love.”  He goes on to say that everything we do we are “called to be persons to whom God may reveal His seeking love for each child.”  He refers to this as the informal ministry of affirmation, which is the fundamental form of the Christian Education.
Children are most definitely involved in “Doing a New Thing in Christian Education.”  They provide the thrust for the work we are called to do.  They keep us charged up and excited about this ministry of Christian education because it is for their generation and the generations to come that we fulfill the Great Commission, “to go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NRSV)

Rev. Lisa Butler of Dallas, Texas has been appointed as the Interim Connectional Children’s Director for the Department of Christian Education.  She can be contacted by email at x2alb@aol.com.

The Annual Children’s Sabbath Manual developed and created by the Children’s Defense Fund is an excellent resource for those who work with Children.  The Children’s Sabbath can be celebrated anytime during the church year and modified for each local church’s use.

Also don’t forget about the Children’s Ministry Manual developed by the Department of Christian Education.

Another great resource for children’s small groups is The Way of The Child produced by Companions in Christ, Upper Room Books.  This resource contains Leader’s Guide along with eight modules to guide in helping children experience God. 

An excellent ministry project for youth during Youth and Young Adult week is to involve them in reading and/or storytelling to the children.  Prior to the celebration of Youth and Young Adult Week, youth leaders can engage youth in creating and developing a Children’s Bible Study or they can come up with creative ideas for engaging the children during Children’s Hour or Children’s Church during the week.  Let them take on leadership in developing activities for children around discipleship.
 
An activity could be as simple as engaging the children in coloring images that relate to Seasons of the Church Year.

As always with any on-line resources, please be sure to get approval and concurrence from the Pastor before using any resource.  It is also always recommended that your plans and activities be discussed with the Director of Christian Education.  Please check copyright laws and permission of use statements.  If you are uncertain about use of any resources, please check with us at the Department of Christian Education. 

Another great resource that we recommend in conjunction with ministry to children as well is youth is
edited by Mary Elizabeth Moore, Almeda M. Wright

Editors Mary Elizabeth Moore and Almeda M. Wright address the harsh, challenging, and delicate realities of children and youth—who live as spiritual beings within a beautiful yet destructive world. Providing a practical theological analysis of the spiritual yearnings, expressions, and challenges of children and youth in a world of rapid change, dislocation, violence, and competing loyalties, Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World provides readers with a purposeful conversation on this important topic.