Posted by: Mark Nielsen | October 11, 2007

Children’s Ministry: Fake It Till You Make It

I’ve taken on the Wednesday afternoon chapel coordination duties at school this year, and it’s been a surprising success so far.

I don’t know what it’s been like in prior years, because last year the chapel times were on my days off, so I only was present for a couple of special sessions. In general, though, Chapel at Chicago Mennonite Learning Center seems to be like a weekly “family meeting”, a 40-minute assembly in which the little kids love to to sing, the junior high kids mumble their way through, and we all get a bit of news and encouragement, to help create a sense of our being a real faith community.

We have guest speakers now and then, pastors and heads of small faith-based organizations, to talk to the kids about how God is involved in their lives, and wants to be even moreso. (Full disclosure:  I’m supposed to be setting up those visits, but I’m way behind on my phonecalls and e-mails.) But so far, I’ve taken on the “message” portion of chapel at least four times.

I’m not a fool, though. It’s the rare eleven-year-old who actually thinks about or feels God’s love, and lets it really sink in. But the simple fact that we make time for God every week in our school schedule, with kids who may or may not get a relevant or interesting message at church on Sundays, is one of the main reasons that many of our families send their kids to our school.

What’s surprising to me personally is that God has really “shown up” in my first few attempts at delivering a sermon or children’s message. I’m an experienced Sunday school teacher, and comfortable as a public speaker, but what happens in chapel is more than what I’ve experienced before. In those moments when I’m actually out in front of 50+ people this year, and they’re all listening to what I sense God has in mind for them that day, and we’re all having fun and learning and really thinking about scripture in a new way, that’s not something I could ever have done alone. God’s working through me in some small way, and the adults are expressing enough appreciation for me to believe that I’m doing something right. And the expressions and interest in the kids’ faces, or as they volunteer for a brief demonstration, minutes just confirms it.

Sure, I stumble now and then. I have my doubts about whether I’m reaching certain kids, the “tough cases”. But what I have felt and learned by taking on this leadership role is definitely worth the fear and frustration of having to be “on the spot” once a week. Just call me God’s clumsy instrument of grace… grace received, and grace given.


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