Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Monday, June 15, 2015

God keeps His promises

As our family travels around to different churches playing with The King's Strings or in speaking engagements, I always take time to peek around the children's ministry. As an outsider, is it inviting? Is it easy to find? Do I feel welcome? Are my children enthusiastically accepted into their classrooms? Do I feel safe leaving them with people who are strangers to me? Are they in secure areas? What will they be taught? Will they be taught Biblical truths? And more recently, Is there a place for my special needs child? Having a vital children's ministry that teaches all children Biblical truths, at all ages, and in a safe environment are issues that have been important to me for a long time.

I was once asked to help a church update their children's ministry. It was a time when churches were just starting to realize that the old model of Sunday School, with children sitting around a table for an hour, and where they were given free reign to roam as they pleased where anyone could come and go, was no longer going to work in a world where parents were more concerned with safety in what they deemed a more dangerous society and where children were used to being entertained in bigger and bolder ways.

I was provided a team of women from the requesting church and I added a children's pastor from a local church. I had watched him and his church's ministry team as they recently remodeled what was already a state-of-the-art children's ministry so that it could be more secure and safe for the children, and more appealing to newcomers needing to know that their children would be protected by these the volunteers who were strangers to them.

He met us at the church one day and inch-by-inch we went over the available space and current practices. He gave sound advice for securing the children's ministry areas, for implementing safety practices, for making play areas safer, and for updating curriculum so that it was Biblically sound yet would engage the minds of a new generation, particularly those children who may be new to church.

We created a proposal and prepared to take it to the church board but before we got there, word started to get out. One day I received a three page letter from a woman in the church. She didn't just oppose the plan, she believed it was the exact opposite of what should be found in a church. She believed the proposed safety measures would make the children's ministry look too much like a daycare and that there was no place for that in her church. She took issue with the curriculum, particularly the fact that we would be introducing monthly Bible verses, stories, and themes for children from age 2 through 6th grade. She insisted that toddlers were too young and that it was asking too much of the teachers. She saw no need for change in a church where, as she saw it, everyone knew everyone and sign-in and sign-out procedures were unnecessary. Her words were hurtful and clearly meant to stop the changes that she saw coming. A few days later, I received a phone call from a friend who attended the church. She was angry because she heard that in the proposed plan, children under the age of 12 would no longer be allowed to volunteer as teachers or helpers and this would mean that her daughter would have to discontinue serving for a few years until she was old enough under the new plan. She also opposed the changes.

I listened to both of these women, and spoke with each of them separately. I explained that the new safety proposals were meant for the safety of all children, but in particular, to make any new families feel safe and comfortable. And while established families might chaff at what they deemed "daycare standards", these measures would help visitors, who didn't know the ministry volunteers, feel safer in leaving their children. I also explained child development and that it was appropriate to present Bible stories and truths to very young children. But my hopes to create awareness and a partnership within the parents of the church was off to a bad start; they knew what they did and did not want, and to them, the familiar was perfect, change was not.

Things didn't go any better with the church board. The woman who wrote me the hurtful letter had a sister on the church board. Whether or not they had discussed their opinions ahead of time, I will never know. But I do know that this woman was the most out-spoken in that meeting. She agreed with the views I had already heard from the parents that contacted me and believed that changes didn't need to be made to rooms, safety measures, or curriculum or teaching practices, at one point looking me straight in the eye and condescendingly told me, "Two year olds can't learn."

I realized I had a choice to make. I had been asked to help create something that it was clear the church was not ready to implement. As I've often told my children, when faced with opposition, you need to prayerfully consider whether God wants you to a.) Stand your ground and continue to push for something that might take much, time, energy, and emotional strength or b.) Recognize that your job was to introduce something and then to walk away.  Our family had a vacation coming up and I spent much of that time in prayer, in Bible reading, in talking with The Good Doctor, and in tears but at the end of the trip I knew what I was supposed to do. I told the church that I was not the person to lead their team. Their team disbanded and for several more years, their children's ministry remained just as it had always been.

I appreciate our church's ministry to children. It's not perfect (and as they say, if you find the perfect church, don't go there because it will immediately become imperfect), but I know that my children are safe and that what I teach at home is strengthened on Sunday mornings. And yes, even my 2 year old is learning.

Yesterday afternoon, when Isaac picked Victor up from his class, he carried him through the hallways looking for me. Victor has a habit of putting his hands on both sides of someone's face, turning the face to look right at him when he wants to say something important. As Isaac walked, Victor did this to him and then pronounced, "God keeps His promises," and then he was done. Sure enough, the accompanying paper told us that that was the theme of the morning. And Victor got it. My 2 year old got it. Don't think 2 year olds can learn? Have you ever heard a 2 year old say please or thank you? He doesn't fully grasp the concept of gratitude but learning to be respectful with his words is a first step. In the same way, Victor doesn't fully grasp God's goodness but speaking the truth in "God keeps His promises" is a first step in hiding God's word in his heart. And at this point in his life, he couldn't possibly understand how true this has already been for his own life. But we know. And his words to Isaac, "God keeps His promises," were possibly more for us than for him.

Many, many heartfelt thanks to the preschool director and kids' pastor who get it; who know that teaching our littlest ones is just as important as any other ministry.

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