What the Amish Taught Me About Leading Children
That is how you correctly pronounce the town of a Lancaster Pennsylvania. And that's where I spent two days with almost 20 leaders and volunteers from our Skykidz ministry. At Skyline, we use a teaching curriculum in our children's ministries called Orange. And each year, Orange has a conference that they bring around the country to help equip church leaders and volunteers in teaching and loving and showing Jesus to the children they are in contact with.
I know what some of you may be thinking. Why is the music director talking about a children's conference? The answer is pretty simple. One reason is that my wife, Justine leads the Little Steps & Handprints classes. She has gone to the conference multiple times before and asked if I'd ever want to check it out, to see a little into her world on a Sunday. And to see all the creative things she does with her kids. The other reason is that I wanted to go on a road trip. Maybe I'd meet a few Amish people. (I didn't. Bummer, I know.) It's as honest and as simple as that.
So on Sunday October 23rd, we all packed into our cars and made our way to Lancaster, PA. What happened over the next two days is something I'm still thinking about today and will continue to dissect for a while.
Like most conferences, the stage was set up with amazing props and displays. Which almost immediately caught my eye as a creative. What kept my attention were the speakers. Each one of them brought a unique thought and personality to the stage. There were conversations about letting a child know how much they are loved and valued. There were stories about being a constant figure in a kids life - even when they get to the age when they don't want you there.
Throughout this entire time, two things kept popping up in my head. One was that I looked next to me - at all of the leaders and volunteers of Skykidz. I was so humbled and proud of them. That I was even in the same room as them. I thought of all the time and energy that goes into each of their classes. How they are so intentional with each and every child. They truly are the heroes of the church. My other thought was about one of my mentors. I grew up in a church out of Paramus, NJ. I had a small group of friends while I was there. And I had the most amazing mentor and Youth Pastor. He poured his whole life into us. He gave up his time, energy, money, anything - to listen and love us. I truly believe that I would not be the man I am today if it wasn't for my former youth leader. I definitely would not be in church, let alone serving the way that I do. He saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. And he always pointed me back to Jesus. I called my old youth pastor this past week. We spoke as if we hadn't missed a beat after all these years. And he's still just as consistent as ever.
That was my huge take away from Orange. Consistency. Showing up. Listening. Creating a safe place for a child. And always being there to point them back to Jesus.
Here's a quick history breakdown of this picture: Ericka, our Skykidz Director taught and trained Justine when she was in middle school. Justine then went on to become a small group leader for our Clubhouse class - where she taught almost every person in this picture when they were in 1st - 5th grade. Today, over 10 years later, Justine is the Little Steps & Handprints director (ages 18 months - 3 years old) while the rest of these young men and women are small group leaders in her classes teaching our kids. By the way, they're all under 20 years old. Talk about planting a seed and seeing the fruit come to life years later!
I personally, have no issue saying that Skykidz is the most important ministry at Skyline. I've heard story after story of people coming to Skyline and then coming back just because their child doesn't want to miss a Sunday in class. That's amazing!
That being said, take the time. Get involved. Put your whole heart into it. Pour your life into a child. Let them see the real you. Let them see Jesus through you. Be their hero. You may be the only chance they ever have.