I have been working with kids at our church for about two years now. When I started I told our (then) kid’s leader to throw me in a room and let me go – so she did (thanks Beth). Some Sundays I held babies in the nursery (LOVE babies). Other Sundays I taught art to fourth graders. A few Sundays I did snack time and sang “Clean up, clean up….” with pre-schoolers. Now, for the last year I have been leading Kids Journey at The Hub, which is small Westwinds plant located in Jackson, MI. Every Sunday for the last year I have been teaching Jesus to kids through art, science, stories and music. In the process, they have taught me more about Jesus and myself than I ever thought imaginable.
I love being around kids, and I love volunteering at our church. After doing it for a while, I thought it was kind of selfish not to share some of my stories with others. If you belong to a church, I feel like it is important to share your talents and experiences with others. This intent of this blog is to do that. I am good with kids, and I have a bunch of amazing experience. Jesus didn’t put us all together because he wanted us to be alone, right?
Here are my top three experiences from hanging out with kids in the last two years. I could’ve written dozens, but these came to my heart first.
#3: The worst class ever.
One day, I had the worst class EVER. I had about thirty fourth graders from hell that descended upon me in the art room of chaos. It was supposed to be a lesson about Moses and his family, but it turned into some crazy kids spilling paint and saying mean things to each other. At the end, there was crap everywhere, none of the kids were listening to me, and I never taught a word about Moses. I felt like an utter failure.
I started to clean up the room as one of our pastors walked by. He took one look at me and said, “Are you okay?” Then, I started balling my eyes out. I told him I felt like I sucked. I told him the kids were crazy, and I just cried. He told me I was doing ok. Then, he prayed with me (thanks John).
I told our kid’s leader Terri about my experience, and she told me that I didn’t suck. She told me I was amazing, and that I was doing the best I could (thanks Terri).
Then, the next week, I came back to help. I stood around waiting for Terri to throw me in a room. Terri, being far wiser than I, walked up to me and said, “Are you kidding, go home! You have had enough.”
I learned two important things from the class. First, I learned that in teaching – sometimes you fail. In reality, it wasn’t that bad. No one got hurt, most kids finished their painting, and the kids had a really good time. I just felt like a failure because my perfect plan didn’t go as planned. That is how life is. Sometimes you have these beautiful plans, and then sometimes – it all goes to shit. While you are in it, it feels terrible. However, if you take a minute to look around you quickly realize… life isn’t falling apart, it just feels like it. Second, I learned that my church has some amazing leaders. When I felt like poop, two people were there to tell me I was doing great, and to tell me to sit out when I needed a break.
#2: The worst kid ever.
In one of my first weeks teaching, I met a kid that I really disliked (oh man, I probably shouldn’t admit that). I was frustrated that he didn’t listen, and mad that he broke every rule I had laid out.
After teaching, I called one of my friends and told her about the kid. My friend said, “It is your fault. You have the ability to help that kid, and you didn’t do it.” Face. Slapped. Lesson. Learned. Then, my friend gave me some tips to try the next time I had the kid.
The next time I had the kid, I tried a different approach. Instead of telling him what to do, I gave him options (duh…). When he got bored, I found little tasks for him to do (duh…). I gave him TONS of positive affirmation every step of the way (duh…).
Today, this kid is my favorite (oh man, I probably shouldn’t admit that either). Whenever I teach, I hope he is there. Now, I understand his sense of humor, and I get why he tries to break rules. Now, I understand his brain. Now, when I get to be around him, we are super sassy to each other. When I am explaining rules, we give each other a knowing look. I know he is waiting to try to break every rule. He knows I am waiting to tell him… “Hey…. No……”
The worst kid ever, is now, my favorite kid ever. The longer I help out, I know I will get to meet even more kids like this. I will get to see them grow, evolve, and change. If I am lucky, I will get the chance to understand them.
#1: Jesus. Every time.
Today was a full day of kid’s ministry. I got to hang out with twenty kids. I got to hold a two month old baby and a sixth month old baby. I got to hold three toddlers that were sad or crying: one missed his mom (welp), one missed her friend, and one missed his dad (bahhh). I got to do a science experiment with elementary kids where we played with spit. I got to play Battleship with an awesome kid. I got to do so much cool stuff! Next week, I get to do it all over again.
Every week, I get to be Jesus with these amazing children. Now, I don’t mean that like “I’m God! Listen to me!” (I’m not a surgeon). I mean, I get to hold precious babies, and hold crying toddlers. I get to spend time talking with children about Jesus. I get to see these amazing people grow up. In turn, these children have helped me be a better person.
When I started with kids, I was very impatient and incredibly anal. In two years, my patience has grown tenfold, and I have chilled out a TON. I’m still kind of impatient, and a bit anal – but hey – its about progress not perfection.
I am more patient, because you cannot always rush children. If I rush them, I won’t get to see what they create. If I rush them, I won’t get to hear about what they did this week. If I rush them, they won’t feel cared about.
I am way less controlling, because I’ve learned to let go. One day we were doing a play about the parable of the mustard seed. The kids were supposed to pretend to throw some seeds on the ground while dressed like a farmer and his wife. The old Stephanie would’ve picked out the kids outfits and told them where to stand. The old Stephanie would’ve found some seed prop and told the kids exactly what to do. Instead, I didn’t do either of those things. So, the farmer wore an army outfit and a cowboy hat, and his wife wore a prom dress and a masquerade mask. And instead of seeds, they threw crayons (half of which our now broken). If I had tried to control everything, it would’ve been boring. When I let go of control, the kids came up with something better than I could’ve imagined. And, I’m sure they had more fun in the process.
I have had the chance to be Jesus to dozens of children. I have gotten to be kind, and patient, and loving. In return, I have gotten more back than I have ever given. I am a better person now than I was when I started, and I have children to thank for it.
If you are a Westwinds or Hub person and you want to grow through volunteering, I hope you talk to someone about that. Please talk to me, or Del, or Paul, or Jess (seriously – Jess is AMAZING), or anyone. We love you guys! I hope you find a way to connect with others like I have.
If you don’t have a church at all, but feel called – I hope you find some place that you love as much as I love my church. If you ever want to try out a church, you are always welcome at The Hub or Westwinds.
If you hate church or loath organized religion, I hope you find something in your life that helps you feel loved and fulfilled.
More than anything, if you have something you are good at, I hope you find a way to share it with others. If you have some good experiences, I hope you can tell someone (like maybe me) about it.