The Toronto Children's Ministry Conference was held at Wycliffe College, on the University of Toronto campus, Nov. 3. The event was packed to overflowing, with 369 people in attendance. I was there for the day, and while I can’t comment on every workshop (there were 28 to choose from!), the ones I did attend gave me lots to chew on as I think about the tweens I help lead on Sundays, and as I parent my own two daughters.
“Not everyone is gifted to lead,” said Nicki Straza, whose Raising Young Leaders workshop was my favourite. “But we all have to lead ourselves, and we all have influence.”
Straza’s passion is kids’ ministry and that’s exactly what she does, along with her husband, at Freedom House Church in Brantford, Ont. Her focus on recognizing leadership qualities (and other unique characteristics) in each child, and valuing them for what they bring to the table, plays nicely into Ross Lockhart’s feature story on parenting well. Recognizing the fragile seeds that exist in kids, nurturing competency and agency, encouraging questions, emphasizing practice over perfection, and fostering an environment that values kids’ imperfect contribution are important tasks for the community entrusted with raising the children among them.
“Leadership isn’t so much about skills, but about nurturing relationships and character,” said Straza.
Thinking about how God leads us, and how God chose relationship with us as his primary directive, is a great starting point.
• We need to shift our teaching of kids from a moral focus to a Jesus-loves-you-unconditionally focus. (“Morality is not transformative; following Jesus is transformative.” – Natalie Frisk, The Meeting House)
• Welcoming children is welcoming Christ.
• We are teaching disciples, not babysitting.
• Our worldview is shaped by age 13 (Barna Group), so kids’ ministry is an important and worthwhile task.
• When thinking about outreach, give kids an awareness of others (your world is not like everyone’s world); impress that small acts can make a difference; volunteer together; teach generosity (when kids get gifts, ask them, “Do we assume this is for you to keep? Or can we look for ways that it can bless someone else?”); let justice and compassion permeate your lifestyle; be creative. (Alyssa Esparaz, Compassion Canada)