09 October 2011

children and chat

Today was a tough day at Junior Church in many ways. I'm always hoping for this kind of atmosphere (which, as this photo shows, we do occasionally have):

photo by stf, faces obscured in accordance with parents' wishes
But today the children's desire seemed to be for something like this:

photo by Eden Keller from Mechanicsburg (used by permission)
Because I'm in ministry training now, I've had to ask other adults week by week to take turns leading. We have agreed to try to keep the rough format the same and to set up the focal shelf each week, but that the lessons in their weeks would be told or read from Bible storybooks (we use the Me Too! Bible stories and the Jesus Storybook Bible (which I learned about from Sheila at Explore and Express)). That (and the fact that we don't use the door person system - again due to lack of training and needing to keep the threshold very low for volunteers) has made it harder for our new children to learn what *I* expect of them, particularly during the lessons.  

I had decided to do the Circle of the Holy Eucharist lesson with them this week, despite not feeling that they were really ready for it yet, because next week we will all be in the big church for Father R's last service with us. It was a mistake. The lesson (or my telling of my version of it) was too long, not engaging enough, too factual, not numinous enough. By the time I was ready to come home I really felt like a failure. 

But on the other hand, as I sat at supper and talked through with Vandriver some of what had gone on today, I realized that the children raised a lot of interesting points and topics today. And thinking over some of my experiences with them over the past several months, it occurs to me that the time we spend chatting is clearly very important to (at least most of) them. 

We always chat for a bit at the beginning of Junior Church, especially if we're waiting for others to arrive. Today we didn't have to wait for anyone, but it felt as though they'd have liked just to carry on talking forever. My trainers told us, Sometimes all you do for the whole session is form the circle. Perhaps I should not have been so fixated on my plan to do the Eucharist lesson. Perhaps what they needed was just to chat!

Afterwards, during the feast, the children's talk included:
  • God writes people's names either in The Book of Life or The Book of Death.
  • One time on The Simpsons Homer had a dream about God.
  • Can we please start eating now? 
    • (We always wait to begin eating until everyone is ready. But today the talk ran away before we'd even had time to thank God for our food!)
  • Why don't we have Junior Church every day?
  • image by Stannered
  • Another time on The Simpsons God's hand came down right next to Homer!
  • No, that was Ned Flanders.
  • We have to have adults here because children can't be left on their own.
  • My mother says I can travel by airplane all by myself when I'm eight.
  • Why aren't you (Storyteller) here every Sunday anymore?
  • You're going to Priest-Classes? We should go with you. 
  • Fr. R is moving house!
  • (a lot of guesses as to where Fr R might be moving to - Borgå, Sweden, Japan, Africa...)
  • + a couple of answers to my leading question of why it is that we [supposedly?] talk more quietly than usual in Junior Church. 
Maybe one conclusion from today's session is that I need to be more clear and firm about the behavior I want to see in Junior Church. But maybe another is that I should bear in mind the Montessori principle of following the child, and carve out more space for chatting? Maybe we need a children's fellowship group! Certainly I can be thankful for that the children find Junior Church a safe environment in which to talk about things religious, and that they appreciate the attention I pay to them. 


  1. Good for you for seeking out the bright side! We all have off days - I think there just have to be some! On those days I'm always glad that atrium is only 2 hours long instead of all day long! :) Be gentle with yourself and get back at it! <3

  2. It IS hard to ditch a lesson that you've prepared but sometimes it IS the God-inspired thing to do. After all the preparation of it might well have been Him preparing us.

    I like the idea of jr church going to priest training with you!

    (And take into account for many of these kids it's rare they get to speak English with a woman other than their mum!)


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