The Art of Asking Why…

why-calvin & hobbes

 

At one point in our lives, we were really good at it.  In fact, we were so good at it that it probably drove our parents absolutely crazy!  We used to be so good at asking why…  because we were trying to understand the world around us… but somewhere between ages 3 and adulthood, we’ve lost the art of asking why.  Perhaps it’s because we lacked people who encouraged curiosity and why questions in our lives.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  I get quite few emails and inquiries regarding children’s ministry from my peers… They often want to know what curriculum to use, what events to have, how to have a stellar children’s ministry, if I would come speak at their VBS, or to consult for them.  These are all great questions… however, when I ask them why they do what they do or why they want to change things up, I get two very common answers:  because that’s what we’ve always done or because we’re bored with what we’re doing.  Often times, I take a step back  and ask “why do you do children’s ministry?”  And more often than not, I get a blank stare before they formulate some answer about wanting the kids to know and love God.  Once I probe further and ask “why do YOU do children’s ministry”, I often get “because the church asked me to” or “because I like kids.”  I’m not saying that these are all wrong answers… but I just wish people asked “WHY” more often… Why do we do VBS?  Why do we have Fall Festival?  Why do we have Christmas plays?  Why do we have camps?  If the answer is “because we’ve always done it” or “because they asked me to,” then we really need to go back and have a clear objective about why we do what we do!

Another reason why I’ve been thinking about “WHY” is… I’m often approached by parents and kidmin leaders about the need to change behaviors in kids.  I understand that misbehavior can be frustrating and even maddening.  I usually come back to the “why” of their behavior… because I’m more concerned with the heart and lasting impact.  Kids are smart… they often can figure out how to behave so they don’t get in trouble… but that doesn’t indicate that their hearts have changed at all.  I will be honest–this is NOT an easy process most of the times… Journeying through the “why’s” are often followed by more frustrations and probably more questions than answers in the beginning… but once again, I do wish more people were concerned with the “why’s” of why kids behave the way they do…

So… all this is to say… let’s not quench the curiosity in kids when they’re little… I think “why” is such an important question in life… and at every age and stage in life, we need to be asking more “why” questions!

 

You-Didn’t-Have-To-Type of Experience

In my last post, I admitted my awe and love for everything Disney.  It’s mostly because they give you an experience you don’t want to forget!  Well few months ago, I got to experience something new at Disneyland.  As we were walking back to Main Street, we saw a crowd of people gathered around the Astro Orbiter.  I just assumed that it was just bunch of people walking in massive crowd.  What we came upon was a cast member dressed all in white holding a broom stick.  The head of the broom was all taped up.  My friend told me that he was probably a broom artist.  A broom artist?  What’s that???

When we got closer, I saw that pink and lavender rose petals were on the ground in a specific formation.  There were lots of people trying to take photos.  Once I made my way to the bottom, I saw that the rose petals were swept in the outline of Mickey holding balloons.  It just made everyone “oooh & aaah.”

Seriously Disney?  How do you manage to always come up with new experiences for people?  There will be tons of people who visit Disneyland that will never get to experience broom art.  However, for those that do, I bet they wouldn’t easily forget it.  Disneyland is already deemed the happiest place on earth.  They didn’t have to do another thing on the side to make this place feel better.  But they did… they added another WOW to the experience.  It seems so little, but it really wow-ed people.

My thought that evening… do we offer WOW experiences to our kids and parents that come to our church week after week?  It’s not that we have to do something magical every week… but it’s in the way we interact with kids and parents.  It’s in the way we welcome them.  It’s in the way we talk with them.  It’s in the way we show our love and care to them.  One parent told me that his daughter and son liked our church because we sent them postcards addressed to the kids, and they had never received postcards before.  Are we offering the type of experience that makes parents say “you didn’t have to…” to which we say “we wanted to”?

It’s In the Little Detail…

Image

Confession:  I really tried NOT to like Disney and his empire!  I mean, how much more money could he possibly take from all these families that just wanna have a good family time?  Although I lived about 35 miles away from Disneyland, I didn’t go for about 11 years because Disney was not gonna get MY money!!!  That money afterall can be used for something more useful!

Confession:  Disney this, Disney that… that’s all I kept seeing on facebook and blog posts; that’s all I kept hearing how magical and awesome everything Disney is… I secretly really wanted that magical experience again… so last summer right before Disney hiked up their annual pass cost to pay for Carsland, I broke down and got myself an annual pass.

Confession:  Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth… It’s seriously magical!  I’ve gone to Disneyland and California Adventure (DCA) 15 times in the last 10 months.  Not only am I having a magical time… but I’m learning a lot about what it means to create a magical experience for people.  I jokingly (actually I’m not joking) say that my church should pay for my annual pass because I’m learning so much and I’m doing so much research at Disneyland and DCA.  I’ve been thinking about few of things that I have learned, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it… I’m sure there is more to come…  but this one is one of my favorites!

Confession:  I’m a detailed person… I notice random things that most people don’t notice.  I absolutely FELL in love with this sign!  This sign is actually very easy to miss… You wouldn’t even notice it unless you were by the City Hall by the Entrance.  This is where people come for information, lost & found, etc… I love that this simple sign is from the perspective of a child… Who has ever heard of a lost parent?  Isn’t it always the kid that is lost?  Well, depending on whose perspective you take… “I lost my parents,” that’s what kids say!  Thus, lost parents!!!  I love that Disney pays attention to every little detail that screams “this is a place for kids!”  Disney truly is magical… and be warned that there will be many more posts regarding what I learned from the Disney empire!  I keep saying “Disney is gonna rule the world some day…”  I think I half-mean it!

why I don’t resolve every conflict for kids…

conflict resolutionLast week, I blogged about why I don’t make kids say sorry.  We don’t merely want to teach kids behavior, rather we want them to know how their actions affect other children and help kids grow in their spiritual formation even through conflict.  Similarly, I also don’t come to rescue every child who is upset or having conflict with another child.  Often times, kids are told to “tell the teacher” when conflicts arise with other children.  Of course there are times when an adult needs to step in.  However, what I see too often are kids who haven’t developed the skills to talk through issues with their peers.

For example, we have a big tv with wii hooked up to it on Sundays so kids can play outside of ministry time (we have a lot of kids lingering while their parents fellowship).  It’s there for the kids to play and enjoy!  But the problem is, only so many kids can play at once… and they’re not always good about taking turns.  Inevitably, I always have a child whining and complaining about how their turn was skipped.  I could make everyone get in line and take a number.  I could ask each child what their version of the story is.  Rather, I tell them that they need to figure out a way to make this work amongst themselves.  Our game supplies are a privilege we have through generous donations.  It’s not our right… thus if they can’t figure out how to play together and take turns, then the privilege will be taken away.  I would say, 8 out of 10 conflicts that are brought to my attention are something the children can resolve on their own.  When it’s appropriate, we also take the time to discuss this teachable moment.  We talk about how our faith and obedience to God plays into our decisions of resolving conflict.

The truth is… we do ministry to kids and family because we want to guide them to learn about God and love Him more and more… but when you’re doing life with the kids and families, every day stuff just comes up!  If we’re not applying biblical principles to our every day life stuff, then our ministries become irrelevant!  Thus, ministry isn’t just about our Bible lessons… but it becomes about applying our Bible to every day stuff–including learning conflict resolution skills!

Why I Don’t Make Kids Say Sorry…

Whenever I talk about discipline in my children’s ministry workshops, I share that I don’t ever MAKE kids say sorry.  Of course, I get few “are you crazy?” looks from parents and other children’s workers.  The reason?  Well, consider following scenarios:

  • a boy bites a girl; he says “sorry”; she cries; he hits her again; he says “sorry”; he hits her again; he says “sorry”; etc.
  • a girl hits mom; she says sorry; mom gets upset; the girl yells “but I said SORRY!!!”

What does the word “sorry” mean to the boy and the girl in the above scenario?  What I hear is… “as long as I say sorry, I can do anything I want.”  In both scenarios, the boy and girl are only 2 and 3 years old.  From very young age, our kids are being conditioned to behave in certain ways (what some might consider the social norm).

It never fails.  Every time I’m with a group of children, one child runs up to tell me how another child hurt his/her feelings or one of them will burst into tears.  Conflict among children is normal.  It’s part of growing up and learning how to manage conflict.  Too often, I see adults stepping in, making the offender say “sorry,” making the other child accept the apology (even if it’s insincere), and life goes on as usual.  It may seem the conflict has been managed on the outside… but what did we just teach these kids?  We merely taught behavior… and didn’t get to heart matters.  And we did not teach kids to manage conflict in healthy ways.

When I do have to step in… I ask each child why and how:

  • Why did you do what you did?
  • How did you feel when the other child did that?

We talk… then I proceed to ask “what would you like the other child to do now?”  “What would you like to do?”  “What do you think God thinks about this situation?”

To be honest, it’s not always pretty. Sometimes, all that needs to be said is “sorry,” and we can go on.  Other times, we don’t come to a resolution.  One child may say “I want him to say sorry.” But the other child might refuse to say “sorry.”  But once again, I believe this is part of life… sometimes, apology doesn’t come so easy.  Sometimes, conflict isn’t resolved in 5 minutes even if it’s just over legos.

I believe this is what spiritual formation looks like… when we hit heart matters rather than behavior.  Conflict is a big part of a child’s life… and guiding them to resolve conflict in healthy, Christ-centered ways is helping them to grow spiritually. By the way, I also don’t resolve conflict for kids–that’s another blog in the works!

I couldn’t resist including this awesome apology letter from a child!  I think this sums up exactly what I’m talking about!

Apology Letter from a Child!

How do you measure a child’s faith?

Lately I’ve been engaged in a lot of conversations about what and how we should teach children in the church.  And naturally, these conversations lead to measuring what kids have learned and applied to their lives.  I know that most (hopefully most, if not all) ministers of children know that it’s not about how much information kids know that’s going to change their lives… and yet, for some reason, many seem to be hung up on assessing spiritual growth by how much kids know about God, the Bible, Jesus, the Church, etc…  I really struggle with this concept because I grew up knowing a lot about God and Jesus… I knew bunch of stories from the Bible, and pretty much, I knew almost all the right answers to the questions teachers asked at church… but that had absolutely nothing to do with the condition of my heart and my life.   Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean to minimize the importance of memorizing verses nor knowing Bible stories.  Of course those are important… but where I have trouble is that we often equate knowledge with spiritual maturity in kids… and where I have trouble is the mere fact that we, as kidmin leaders, feel the need to even quantify children’s faith.  Maybe I’m the crazy one here (I often feel like I’m on crazy pills… go figure…), but I think we need to let go of control, be faithful in leading and helping kids love Jesus, allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of these kids, and loosen the grip on trying to measure the faith of children in our ministries.  Once again, please don’t misunderstand me… we need to know where our kids are coming from and their knowledge of what we’re trying to teach… but what I’m saying is that we need to stop equating spiritual growth with head knowledge of the Bible, Church, Jesus, etc…  (forgive me, it’s midnight, and I’m awfully tired… but just need to get this out while it’s in my head…)

I recently heard this story (paraphrased for space-sake):

Dad (talking to his 2 children 7 & 10 years old):  How am I doing as your dad these days?

Kids:  Okay, but sometimes you’re impatient with us… or don’t spend enough time with us…

Dad:  I’m sorry.  I will try to do better.  (Dad write and signs a covenant with the kids… promising to be a more patient dad who spends more quality time with them.  At the end of the covenant, he writes down few practical action plans, and promises to owe them $10 every time he fails in those areas).

7 yr old:  But Dad, isn’t forgiveness enough?  Why do you have to pay us $10 if you break your promise?

Wow… I don’t know about other people’s reaction.. but to me, this is evidence of child’s spiritual growth… She had been taught that we forgive when someone wrongs her just as Jesus forgave all of us… She’s trying to apply this to her life.  She may only be 7 years old, but even 7 year olds like money… but she’s trying to see how what she’s learned about forgiveness fits into her real life… that’s evidence of her learning and applying Biblical truth… and to me, this speaks louder than 20 verses she can recite verbatim or naming all the disciples.

In short, I don’t think we can necessarily measure a child’s faith… but for me, stories of what kids genuinely say and do tells me that they’re learning, loving, and growing in Jesus… (I’m really hoping this is coherent when I re-read it in the morning…)  time for bed…