Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kids' Church

This isn't where I thought God was leading me...

A couple months ago I volunteered for Kid's Church, went to a day-long program for children's ministries hosted (but -- significantly -- not produced) by my church, and started going with my son every week. I was excited at first. I didn't know what I was doing, didn't know what to expect each Sunday, but that was okay. The weeks went by, and... I still didn't know what I was doing and I never knew what to expect. My role ended up taking boys to the bathroom, and being playground monitor when the kids' activity ended before church got out.

One of the things they said at the children's ministries program was never be alone with the kids: always have another adult, not related to you, present when you're with the kids. That way you avoid any risk of accusations where it's your word against the kids' word. "Don't put yourself in that position." It was almost tacit that all adults involved must be background-checked -- so obvious it was barely mentioned.

So... I was alone with the boys in the bathroom. I was alone on the playground, with up to thirty kids, pre-K to 5th grade, for 45 minutes at a time. I haven't been background-checked, I haven't been given any orientation. It got sprung on me: "Okay, everyone go out to the playground with Mr. Phil until church gets out."

Worse yet, there just isn't much going on. Usually the kids just watch a video. Every two or three weeks they have some hands-on activity. The kids, all ages, are all together, so whatever they do, it isn't age-appropriate for most of the kids.

My son doesn't like it. He won't go unless I'm there. I don't blame him. I don't like it, either. I started dreading going to church.

And yet I knew for some reason God had led me there. I'm not a teacher, I have no experience, I don't know how to set up a good Sunday School. Am I supposed to try to transform this kids' ministry into what my son needs? I wouldn't know where to begin.

I wanted to do this so I could participate in my son's spiritual life. But it had the effect that not only do I not want to volunteer, I don't want to send my son there. First, there's not much there to feed his spiritual life. Second, I don't want him in the care of a completely untrained person I know nothing about. Third, he hates it.

Where is God leading me with this? I think God wanted me to see clearly that my son is not getting what he needs from my church. It helped me rediscover and reinforce that there is nothing he needs more than spiritual development. It is the most important thing I need to give him. He needs it, and he needs it now. But I am hardly equipped to do it myself. I don't have the spiritual maturity or the teaching skills to do it. I need my church to provide the tools, and they aren't there. I can't let my son wait until they maybe appear at my church, or until I somehow figure out how to do it all myself.

So I'm researching alternatives. Ironically, my participation in my church's children's ministry is leading me away from my church. I'm not planning to abandon my church altogether, but I have to find something for my son. I found a nearby church that looks promising on paper. They have a good size Sunday School, and it meets at a time that I can take him there, then go to my church for "regular church." They also have a weekday evening for kids his age. I'm going to try it, and see how he likes it and I like it.


I acknowledge, but don't apologize for, this post not having specifically to do with "recovery." A couple things I've heard at meetings come to mind: "If it comes out of an alcoholic's mouth, it has to do with alcoholism." And, "I have problems in areas of my life today that before I didn't have areas." Without recovery from alcoholism and daily surrender to my Higher Power, I never would have been able to recognize the utter criticality of my four-year-old's spiritual life and development. Even my willingness to recognize I'm incapable of giving him, all by myself, everything he needs; my willingness to question the comfortable certainty that my church is giving me what I need, thank you very much, so it must be just fine for my son, too -- these are gifts from recovery.

I'm grateful for these gifts, for these hard blessings. It's been very difficult for me to be grateful lately, I've had a difficult time with prayer, haven't had easy conversations with God. Too many resentments, too much self-pity, not enough trust and faith, not enough patience. Too many aspects of my life not going the way I want them to go, when I want them to go. No need for me to write all the details, they've already been written in the 12X12...

I've been roped into leading a step workshop, starting next month. At my church. Not AA, but AA's steps, the real deal, not made easier and softer to suit your average Protestant's taste. This is a good thing. I can think of a million things I'd rather do, but this is what I need to do. If anyone else in the workshop benefits, that's great, but I'm doing it because I need to do it.