Establishing a new generation: Parents take an active role to teach, bring up their kids in faith
Posted by Laura Rendall | Published May 8, 2017
At the end of a long day, David and Beth spend a few relaxing moments reading. A plate with one cookie left sits between their chairs. As David reaches out to take the last cookie, Beth looks indignant. She opens her mouth to protest, but then the scene freezes! Two new characters walk onto the stage: the Devil and God’s Word. Pretending to be inside Beth’s head, they argue back and forth about how Beth should respond to David. God’s Word wins the day and Beth politely asks “I was really looking forward to that last cookie, would you mind sharing with me?” David looks angry, but the scene freezes again. This time the Devil and God’s word argue inside David’s head (“Who does she think she is?”, “Whoa now, God tells us to love others”). In the end, God’s Word wins again and David generously says “Sure, Beth. I’d be happy to share it with you.” With that, and to the delight of the young audience watching, the Devil melts to the floor with a dramatic “Arrrrggghh!”
The actors in this skit were members of Bloomington Heights Church: Bob and Becky Shuka, playing the Devil and the Word of God respectively, and David and Beth Dear. Their skit was a part of the regular, purposeful, and creative program for teaching children and building up families within their church.
Since Bloomington Heights was planted, the parents have put many hours of time and thought into the work of teaching their children on Sunday nights. What has evolved is characteristic of a large family - it’s anything but neat and tidy. But what they are doing is proving to be effective with their kids.
Almost every Sunday evening, one of the families in Bloomington Heights comes prepared with a lesson for the children. The lessons are creative and fun, and anything but monotonous. “We try to change things up over time so it doesn’t get stale,” says Bob. They have done a variety of things over the years, including skits, songs, crafts, memory projects, and PowerPoint presentations. Sometimes the adults will turn the tables and teach a concept to the children and then ask them to come up with a creative way to communicate it, like a skit or piece of artwork.
A lot of planning goes into these weekly children’s lessons. The adults often take time during church to throw out new ideas or make plans for next week. And at least once a quarter they sit down to discuss their plans in detail. They talk about the direction they want the lessons to go, results they’ve seen, and things that need to be changed. “We take time to talk as parents about our ideas and desires so we’re on the same page,” explains Becky.
The parents don’t merely want to teach important principles. They also want the children to feel like players in the church family. To further this aim, the adults also make an effort to include the children in other pieces of church life, like the Lord’s Supper. When the church takes the bread and the cup, David Dear often calls on the children to explain the meaning behind the symbols. Sometimes one of the kids is invited to pray. Singing time is another time when they are included. A while ago, they made drums out of coffee cans, so the kids could keep rhythm during music time. Now Gabe Searles, who leads music, will often take time to explain songs to the kids and teach them the song’s rhythm.
It's not only the children who benefit; their lessons are often aimed at the adults as well. The children's lesson is often tied into something the entire church is learning about. One example of this is the series of lessons they designed around the Lord’s Prayer. Every week for the children’s lesson they discussed a different section of the prayer. The kids then worked on memorizing it. The end goal wasn’t just for the kids to learn another memory verse: it was for the whole church to understand the Lord’s Prayer and to be able to say it together.
Of course, when you’re working with kids, anything can happen. At times, even well-planned lessons can end up being a flop. “We don’t make more of it than what it is,” Bob says. “We don’t get uptight about how the lesson went.” Sometimes things go unexpectedly awry, but the Bloomington Heights adults are able to take it in stride and turn catastrophe into hilarious family time.
Family time: learning God’s principles together to produce an effective and thriving church community. That’s what Bloomington Heights Church is working to achieve, benefitting and strengthening their families as they work together to become established around God’s Word.