Who is the Man Behind the Mask?
Allow me to travel back in time, a few blogs anyway, to Portland Oregon where we visited Shiloh Hills Fellowship. (see post and photo gallery) Spokane held a few surprises for us. Besides the amazing hospitality shown to us, I was glad to get to meet a great children’s pastor. Our original purpose in visiting Spokane was to meet Danile Bigler, a gifted young man who has impressed me (and many others) with his contributions to Kidology.org
A Young Man with a Heart for Preschoolers.
Daniel proved to be a fascinating young man with many talents and passions that could lead him in many directions… though I’m encouraging him to be a children’s pastor, one of his many possibilities. But whatever he does, he will have a great impact on the Kingdom, I’m sure. I was very glad, however, to find out that he is working as an intern for a fantastic children’s pastor at Shiloh Hills Fellowship.
Daniel is at home with kids…
Pastor Rick Haffner, (often called by his kids Rick “Havefunner”) has over thirty years of children’s ministry service, having served both in the church and public school as teacher and principal, and often at the same time. He has a wife named Janet and three kids, two are already in college, and a third about to leave. His BA is in Pastor Care and his Masters is in Education and Administration.
We spent a good deal of time talked about how he trains his volunteers. He has a great orientation he uses called, “L.U.V. P.L.E.A.S.E.” (As I share this here, please do not copy for your ministry without getting permission from Pastor Rick first.)
L – Learning Target: Each lesson should have a target – ONE THING you are trying to teach the students. Some teachers fall into a pattern of just going through a lesson and never really identifying the target, the one thing they are trying hit home.
U – Understanding: What is the one thing they are going to be able to DO as a result of this lesson? You need to link the learning to life – head knowledge is not enough. They don’t truly understand, until it changes their life in some way.
V – Value for Life: Answer the question, “Why teach this?” There are principles running through Scripture that we need to apply to life. What principle is there in this lesson that will apply to TODAY and into the lifestyle of tomorrow?
P – Plan and Preparation: What you will do, when, how long, supplies needed, ect. How will you capture their interest in the lesson.
L – Lesson Time Line / Design: This is where you write it out, and organize the details.
E – Extra Enrichment: What do you have planned for the kids who get things done more quickly, to keep them interested and learning – or for when you finish earlier than you thought (or the adults go over!)
A – Adapt for slower learner: How do you adapt for the other end of the spectrum, kids who aren’t as fast, or can’t do all the activities, how to you make sure they are still able to learn the main point and apply it to their lives.
S – Scripture: Seems obvious, but is often forgotten or neglected. Kids need to be IN the Bible, reading Scripture, and memorizing it. The lesson needs to be seen as coming from God’s Word, not just a lesson book or from the teacher. Rick would encourage you to make sure most (if not all) the posters and signs used to decorate classrooms and hallways have scripture on them. Teach with your notes in your Bible so the students see you looking into the Bible for direction.
E – Encouragement and Evaluation: Evaluate how the lesson went, how well the kids learned. Ask yourself what ‘Evidence’ is there that the kids really learned.
One great things they do, is that a week after their midweek program ends, all the volunteers come back to the next week, without the kids, to evaluate how the year went over a dinner. Then they make decisions to apply the lessons learned to the next year. Rick gave many examples of changes they have made, even some that were not so new. He said to be willing to let some ministry ideas flip-flop over the years. For example, he said one year they may suggest changing something to improve it, and the next year want to change it back to the way it was the year before. Instead of reminding of all the reasons it was changed, be willing to let it go back and forth, since both ways have their advantages and disadvantages. Not only will people see their ideas being applied, but in the end, either way is ok, and it is better to allow people to see their input used, than to discount their input in the pursuit of a ‘perfect’ solution.
Partnering with Parents
I was most grateful to talk to Pastor Rick about his thoughts and ideas on how the church can better partner with parents. He has done some reading of John Piper, and visited Bethlehem Baptist because of their focus on family ministry, and said that Piper’s contention is that children’s ministry is not effective until it is equipping parents.
At Shiloh Hills Fellowship their efforts include trying to shift the focus from ‘children’s ministry’ to ‘family ministry’ including training parents, not only in ‘parenting’ but in equipping their kids spiritually. Like many churches, they do parent/child events, but they also do some parent/child bible studies and prayer meetings.
At Shiloh, also, the Kid’s Church lesson is the same topic as the sermon in the adult service. Not only is here is a take home with discussion questions and Internet discussion of the topic, but they actually have a Parent/Child Sunday School Class where the topic is the previous weeks sermon, and discussion of how the families discussed it / lived it, in the past week.
Pastor Rick said that the transition from ‘drop off model’ to involving parents in the process is not an easy transition. One of the complications is choosing which parents do you partner with – in that there are those who don’t want any involvement at church, and on the other end of the spectrum, those who ultra control and get upset at the slightest variation from what they think you should do. Finding a balance that will include the most parents is a challenge. It is a shame that there are some parents who don’t even see the significance of their role in developing their kids spiritual foundation, and then there are those that are so controlling and sheltering that their kids miss out on many positive influences and opportunities. While you will never get ‘all’ the parents involved, Rick said that most parents desire to be more involved with their kids spiritual development, but just feel ill-equipped or not confident that they know what to do.
Pastor Rick said that he has learned that rather than try to guilt parents into involvement, or mandate their involvement, instead it is better to first identify where did our own passion for reaching and reaching kids come from and then to seek to transplant that passion, with its foundation, to the parents. Then they see the significant and value of intentionally building into the spiritual development of their children, they will want to be more proactive, and as a result we catch the vision that we are a team – parents and church working together. While unfortunately, some parents tend to either dump their kids off on the children’s ministry, or (a smaller percentage) isolate their kids from the children’s ministry, the majority will welcome a partnering relationship once they can see what it looks like in tangible ways.
One tidbit on the trip that was nice, was when I asked a 6th grade girl named Jamie what she liked the most about Shiloh Hills. As we sat off to the side soaked after the Wednesday Night Flight School Water Night, her answer surprised me. I assumed she’d say “Flight School” but instead she said Sunday School. So I asked her what made Sunday School so cool, and her answer was, “My teachers take us on trips.” Once again, the proof is there – it is not programs and draw and keep kids, it is relationships. Interesting that her favorite thing is ‘Sunday School’ put when pressed for details, the details were outside-the-classroom experiences, and yet, Sunday School is the favorite. As I’ve said a thousand times – kids expect adults in the classroom, they DON’T expect connections outside of class, and those who connect with kids outside of class, end up with the most effect classrooms.
The future of Children’s Ministry?
I asked Pastor Rick what he sees as any trends in the future of children’s ministry. Rick is fascinated by the trends in how our world is going global. He sees a potential for mission trips, once reserved for college or high school students, to become an opportunity for children’s ministry on the mission field. I have wondered for a few years if any churches have taken kids on mission trips either cross-culturally in their own community, or overseas. I’d love to hear of any kids on the mission field stories in the Kidology forum. Visit: Kids in Missions?
Another sage I visited with,
but he was unmoving.