Thursday, August 09, 2007

Need Some Help?

Thank you so much for the good feedback I’ve been receiving from some of you, both in the comments section and at my private email. Some time back, a friend wrote in response to my blog entry on seeking help in the classroom. She wrote, “I really, really agree that it's nice to have people helping each other in different tasks, rather than one person taking the whole load on themselves. Most of the time, that's why I say "no" to doing things, because I'd have to be doing "whatever" all by myself, and it just seems too much. So I turn it down. Whereas if I could be working with someone, it would make all the difference. Even just "presence" and "moral support" can help.”

Many children’s ministry leaders would groan at Rhonda’s comments. It’s hard enough finding one teacher for a class, much less two for every class. Some teachers would rebel at having a helper. They feel threatened and intimidated by someone else in the room, especially if it’s another adult. Having a helper is too much work because you can’t fly by the seat of your pants if you have a helper. Instead of throwing a lesson together Sunday morning, you have to plan and provide ways for the helper to actually be a helper. And some people don’t like being helpers, especially if the very competent teacher has nothing for them to do. Why should they be standing around doing nothing?

Our church is holding VBS this week. I am the storyteller in our site rotation styled VBS. I have three different age groups of children coming through my door. For each group, I’ve had to prepare an introduction activity, a story, an application activity and a challenge. Basically three lesson plans for five nights in a row. I knew there was not way I could all this, but everyone, from the directors down, told me I was so good at storytelling, that I was the best one for the job. I still knew there was no way I could do it. I might be a great storyteller but my health is not good enough to handle that kind of punishing schedule.

I made it clear to the planning committee that I was no artist and there was no way I could begin to create the “environment” and backdrops for the story. No problem, they said. We’ll find others to do that. A man volunteered and we discovered Dale had undiscovered artistic ability

My next step was organizing the lessons. Each group travels with “park guides,” volunteers who take the children from station to station. So I got them involved. I gave them copies of the lesson plans and asked them to gather and prepare any materials needed for each of the activities. I gave them the option of leading some of the activities. I also found other people to help me do the dramatic storytelling. Sometimes they performed the skit; other times they pantomimed actions while I told the story. During the sessions, I’ve been the bridge from activity to story to activity.

At one point, I apologized to one of the park guides for “taking over” and asked her if she wanted to lead the next day’s beginning activity. “Are you kidding?” she said. “You do such a good job. You are the one to do it.” I told her that I’m not a good detail person and there was a lot to keep track of, so it meant a great deal to me for her to collect and prepare the materials. She dismissed my praise with a wave of her hand. “And that is absolutely fine with me,” she said.

It took a lot of coordination on my part to involve these different groups of people. But I’m so glad I did. They have relieved me to do what I do best and I know this week has been so smooth because I’ve had that cadre of helpers.

In America, we tend to think independently and give the wrong idea that everything is on our shoulders. I understand in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world, people have a different mindset. They tend to think as a collective, that it’s not one person making the work happen, but the entire team. Perhaps when it comes to children’s ministry, we need to have more of that collective mindset. It might take more work initially, but when we follow the biblical example of working as a cooperative team, we’ll find our children’s programs become far more effective.

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