This was a final piece I wrote for A Brewed Life before my pregnancy break began. It’s a summary of a new initiative we implemented in our weekly kids ministry at my local church in the fall of 2015. I’m sharing it at the close of this ministry season as a seed thought for fellow pastors and children’s leaders for the fall. As you debrief from a busy year of serving kids, take a break first and then write a few notes that will guide your fall planning. Perhaps this idea will help!
The longer I serve in Children’s ministry the more clearly I am able to define what I like to call my “non-negotiables”. These are essentially the beliefs or practices that I refuse to sacrifice; I refuse to let go of no matter the pressure of those around me or popular trends in my field. These things can’t be lost or traded. I’ve been, perhaps for a couple of years, wrestling with the tension between the apparent gain of contemporary outreach children’s programs and the obvious loss of traditional Sunday School programs that, I’ve been told and have come to believe, defined and shaped the Biblical foundation of the children of our provinces’ religious history.
One quick walk through of any outreach program today will undoubtedly leave any Christian stunned and overwhelmed at the obvious Biblical illiteracy in our children. Indeed we are reaping the harvest of a post-Christian society when prayer, Bible reading and Christian spiritual development are no longer first and foremost in our schools or even our homes. But hear me! I refuse to dwell there or dwell on how dreadful the world has become. I offer instead that I choose to be one of a generation who will study our world and it’s changes, and then fight with ferocity to see us regain a fresh, new healthy spirituality for our children.
Part of that fight is clearly defining those things most worth fighting for as it relates to ministry to children in the church context. There are only so many hours to each day, only so many teachable moments for a Children’s pastor, and with those limitations in mind, I must find the most valuable beliefs or practices and efficiently, strategically and effectively teach them.
I came to realize while serving one Sunday in our morning children’s program that while we taught scripture, and in fact promoted memory verses in all of our programs, I had not effectively put structures in place so that children would in fact follow through with learning their verses, reciting them publicly and therein hiding the Word of God in their hearts. We were so close. We had the belief in its importance; we were teaching it but it wasn’t sticking. So close and yet so far away.
As with many of my honest God moments, I was watching YouTube during our summer season. I was flicking through short videos of Phil Vischer’s series Buck Denver asks What’s in the Bible when a small segment with the Sunday School Lady came on. She was describing the Pentateuch. It occurred to me while listening to the relatively irritating voice of a grey haired elderly puppet that we needed a Memory Verse Lady. A small light went on- spiritual or vegetable, I don’t know.
Here’s what my mind processed:
Biblical memorization is pivotally important to the spiritual development of our children.
With a program that reaches approximately 90-100 kids each week, and an already stretched thin group of amazing small group leaders, there is no way to organize and maintain the information of students and their work in an effective and efficient way.
I need someone specific who’s only job is to listen to kids, record their successes with Biblical memory and organize a clear reward system that will adequately motivate and encourage the involvement and participation of our children.
We need a Memory Verse Lady (or gentlemen… I’m not sexist!)!
So I set to work with that end goal in mind.
I needed someone organized to handle so much information. Someone dedicated who would be consistent every week in being available for the kids.Someone warm and kind that would endear children to themselves and offer grace for their struggling. Hmmm… I went looking and found just the person tucked away in pew ten on the right side of our church. She agreed and I got really excited about the potential.
I equipped her with the names of the children in our program, a list of all the memory verses for the semester and the basic plan. We would send home memory verses with the kids each week – as we had always done – but would ensure kids knew that this time we were looking for response. On our first night of the program during the memory verse component of the lesson I introduced the memory verse lady and explained that the following week, and every week subsequent, she would have a booth in our church foyer. Kids would go to her as they came in, recite their memory verses, and she would award them a bible buck that they could use later in the year for small prizes in our Bible Bucks store.
We prepared that we might be months getting kids and parents on board with this new idea. We set up the booth the next week with fancy colours, a flashy sign and even stickers as instant rewards. And we waited when the doors opened that night. We were shocked when 32 kids knew their memory verses! 0 to 32 in one week! Wow – isn’t that exciting! What potential one little change made for our kids. I felt like we laid 32 bricks in the spiritual foundation that night and we were, and still are, excited to keep laying bricks til Kingdom come.
So, why share this story? Certainly not to brag. I could write pages about the things I’ve tried that have failed – maybe that will be next weeks’ post. What I’m hoping to offer my fellow pastors is this – a method that large children’s ministries can use to emphasize and implement Biblical memorization into their hectic and sometimes overwhelming programs. I’ve served in many children’s programs of varying sizes in varying communities over my short years. Each one had unique needs and assets that allowed for intentional training of children. I hadn’t, however, any experience in a program of this size and I’ve been learning the hard way how to accomplish some of these important things on this level. It’s taking some time and a lot of creativity, but it’s so worth it. My hope is that by sharing my ideas, some of you awesome superhero kids leaders can skip the frustration I’ve been working through and get right to the good stuff of loving and serving kids, and effectively and efficiently building strong spiritual foundations in their young and hope filled lives.
Let’s keep at it team!
How are you creatively implementing a memory verse program in your children’s ministry?
What are some of the challenges you’re facing in your children’s ministry – large or small? Perhaps it’s something we can tackle together!
Share your thoughts below!