When I realized it had fallen to me to put together the children’s ministry at church, I’ll admit my first response was trepidation. I’m not sure this is the right place for me, I thought. I mean, yeah, I love children and I think children’s ministry is important, but wow, this feels like a big deal. With some encouragement and affirmation from people who know me well and were sure I would be great at it, I decided to give it a chance. Then we promptly purchased a curriculum that turned out to be a horrible fit for us, stopped meeting at the theater, started meeting in a home, and completely abandoned any notion of children’s ministry for a while as we located and renovated a permanent place to meet.
Now we are settled into our new location and we are ready to get the children’s ministry up and running again. And again, I have an underlying feeling of anxiety. But this time, I am better able to pinpoint what the problem is. As much as I care about children and families, and as much as I love putting together a curriculum that fits into the vision of our children’s ministry, I find it so overwhelming to think of the enormous responsibility involved in teaching children about God. I have heard too many stories of people whose view of God was warped by the teaching they heard as children, and as adults they are still trying to sort it all out. And I am reminded of the scripture that says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways.” Combine that with the idea that “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea,” and yeah, there’s some anxiety there!
I look at myself and see how imperfect I am, and all the ways that I stumble on a regular basis. And I wonder how on earth anyone, much less God himself, could think it’s a good idea for me to teach children about God. I certainly don’t have it all figured out. In many ways I am still learning about who God is and how much he loves me. I’m still sorting out all the different teachings I’ve heard about God in my lifetime. How can I presume to teach children the right things about God? What if I inadvertently cause them to stumble?
But as I thought through this, a couple of things happened.
I realized that no one has a perfect, completely accurate understanding of God. Every last one of us is doing the best we can with the understanding we have of God, and every last one of us is going to get it wrong sometimes. At some point we may all give others an inaccurate view of who God is, not because we are doing it on purpose but because we are human ourselves and we are all still on the journey. Of course that doesn’t mean we can be careless about what we teach others about God, but it does mean that we can have grace for ourselves. God knows that none of us are perfect, and luckily, he is bigger than us and our mistakes. If God was limited by our understanding of him, we’d have no hope at all. I mentioned earlier that I’ve heard so many stories of people whose view of God was warped by teachings they heard as children, but then I realized that most of those people have hung in there and are trying to come to a more accurate understanding of God. Others may be in the process of walking away from damaging teachings they’ve heard, but that doesn’t mean they’re walking away from God himself. Perhaps they are taking the steps they need to take in order to gain a better understanding of who God is.
When I look at the whole situation, it makes a lot of sense for me to be involved in family and children’s ministry; it’s something I really do care about very much. But I have been too afraid to put that passion to use because of my fear that I will mess up. Now I am seeing that it is better to move forward prayerfully and carefully than to let fear stop me from moving at all.
So, children’s ministry, here I come! I'm excited about planning a curriculum and building a family and children's ministry. I love figuring out how to put our vision into action. I'll admit that I feel my strengths lie more in planning and administration than the actual teaching, so for that reason I'm still a little nervous. However, I think it is going to be okay. I definitely do have a heart for families and children, and a desire for the children at our church to learn about God in ways they can understand. I also know that we have an amazing group of volunteers to work with the children. I'm excited to see where things go!