I’m pretty sure I’m going to get myself in trouble and perhaps alienate myself from some prominent Children’s Ministry leaders, but there are some things I wish every children’s ministry leader knew – especially those in smaller churches.
I’ve never been a puppet guy, and I certainly don’t promote things like flannelgraph in our ministry as a great way to reach kids…there are better ways, in my opinion. But here’s what I know…
It’s not about the puppets…or the flannelgraph!
Working with many churches (including many overseas), I have seen the limited resources some have available, and I know how desperately they are trying to reach kids with limited experience & “know how”. It breaks my heart to see Children’s Ministry leaders sarcastically diminish such tools. To me that is arrogant, short-sighted and small.
Reaching kids is not primarily about having the right physical tools, it’s primarily about having:
- a vision to reach kids (personal or corporate)
- a heart to build relationships
- an ability to communicate effectively
It’s not about the puppets!
I have seen a woman with these 3 attributes captivate a group of preschoolers with a flannelgraph story. I have seen a skilled puppeteer with these attributes captivate & engage a group of elementary kids. Is this my preferred method of teaching? Of course not, but that doesn’t always make it irrelevant. And it certainly doesn’t make it
something worth criticizing with blanket statements when we are completely unaware of that person’s access to resources or ability to do more.
As Children’s Ministry leaders, I would encourage all of us to consider these thoughts when it comes to how we present to the kids:
- Focus first & foremost on the 3 attributes mentioned above. If you or your team don’t have the vision, heart or ability, it really doesn’t matter what tool you use to try and reach kids!
- Maximize the resources you have available. If puppets & flannelgraph are truly the best you can do, then use them to their full extent. But don’t limit yourself – create a goal to learn & invest in better tools as your resource pool and ability grow.
- Don’t ever feel you must apologize for a lack of resources. Don’t use it as an excuse for a lack of excellence, nor become complacent with where you are, but don’t apologize, either. I have seen amazing works God is doing in kids ministry in the collapsing stone church in the Phillipines, in a bare bones building in Africa and in poor churches in the US. What God has provided for you right now is enough!
Finally, if you are a Children’s Ministry leader, especially one with any kind of a voice beyond your own congregation, I ask you to consider your words and the context in which they will be received. Whether it is specific to puppets & flannelgraph or criticism in another context, please be careful how you speak, and remember . . .