Two very busy ministries in our church are led by Lori Riley, Director of Little Kids and Family Ministries (birth – 4 years) and Andrew Manies, Pastor of Children's and Outreach Ministries (K - 4th grade). Recently they sat down for an open-ended discussion about what FBC offers for families. Who is served by these ministries? What are the important lessons we hope our children will learn? What matters today, and what is the takeaway for the future? Here is what Lori and Andrew had to say:
Lori: We are here to partner with parents in building a foundation of a relationship with Christ for their children. We are not the substitute for what the parents can do. We’re here to partner with them, not to do it for them or to just provide child care so that parents can go and do and grow in their relationship with the Lord. Again, we’re here to provide a substantial bible-based program for our FBC children and the children in the community that would come here, and if by doing that, we allow for parents to go to their studies, that’s great. We want to do that, but we are not here just to provide child care, and we are not here to take over the role of introducing and building Christ into their lives.
Andrew: I’d really echo what Lori said. If a kid’s involved in everything going on—if they’re here on Weds. night, it’s about an hour. Sunday morning if they go to Children’s Church and Sunday School, they have about an hour and a half of teaching time. That’s 2 ½ hours a week, maybe a little more if Upward or VBS is happening, when we have direct influence in teaching. Compare that to school, where they are taught for 30-40 hours a week. And if we as Christians really believe that having a bible-centered, Jesus-following life is important, spending 40 hours a week in school but only 2 ½ to 3 hours in bible study, we’re missing something. That’s where parents and even older siblings have to take the lead. I work with K-4, but I have a daughter who’s younger. I love when she comes home and she’s excited about what she learned in Sunday School that morning. Having my children challenge me is ideal. The exchange of information between us is important. Together we grow as a family.
Lori: We’re here to meet the needs of the whole family, and partner with them to help fill in the gaps. Jesus will take them the furthest in all the things they’re going to learn, so we really need to pour a lot into that. I’m here for parents, and I’m here for the kids. It’s not just a nursery. Babies can learn, by touch, by care, by love. From the onset in the nursery we focus on loving the babies and caring for them in a compassionate, Christian way, and showing them Jesus that way. By nature, showing their parents who Jesus is by accepting, loving and caring for their children is a role we take very seriously.
Andrew: To this end, we do continuously need more people to come and serve in the classes. It’s not about you being the best teacher in the world. It’s not about you needing to be the most artistic in the world. It’s that you need to know who Jesus is and be willing to serve. We’ll pretty much give you whatever else you need.
Lori: I would say there are three requirements: you need to love Jesus, you need to love kids, and you need to want to serve.
Andrew: We can all be intimidated by something we’re not familiar with, but I would love to see people who haven’t tried serving the children’s ministry give it a try and see how rewarding it really can be.
Lori: My children recognize the importance of serving in the church because they’ve seen Bob and me serve, and they have been drawn into serving because of what I do, so they’ve witnessed first hand the value and importance of it, and it has helped develop who they are. We allow 6th graders to serve in classrooms once a month. We want to start them learning the value of that really young. We reinforce through partnering what’s good for kids to do. We help them with their community service hours. We want to be that supportive, but it’s a whole package development that we’re talking about. We genuinely care.
Andrew: We have the spectrum of volunteers, from the 6th graders who work with the little ones, then the senior adults, who may choose different roles, but they’re there. They more than show up. They’re like additional sets of grandparents. We also have folks with special needs who serve. If you have a willing heart, we can find you the right place that isn’t just a job, but something you can have fun with.
Lori: It’s our job to meet with those interested in serving and to talk them through their gifts, their passions and then to help figure out what is the best role for them to serve in the church. You never feel invested in anything if you don’t jump in. The other thing about serving in any area of children’s ministry, nursery right on through sixth grade, is that parents can engage with the other children in the room, the ones your children are developing friendships with and their families. If a parent never sets foot in those rooms, they’re missing a whole part of their kids’ lives that they can’t connect to.
Lori’s current needs: I always need help in the nursery and the two-year-old class. Both men and women are needed.
Andrew’s current needs: I’d really like to have several more men who can come and help out in classes. They don’t have to prep a lesson or do anything except to come and be with the kids. There are many boys who don’t have a dad in their lives, who just long for that interaction with men, especially once they get into that 2nd and 3rd grade level when they’ve got a lot of energy. Sometimes they just need someone to say, “Let’s listen right now.”
Lori: In the toddler and preschool classes, men are key. There’s a perception that it’s women’s work. It’s not. Boys and girls need to see men serving the Lord. They need to see men loving Jesus. Kids need to see mommies and daddies serving in the capacity of teaching. They need to see them in all of our classes. It sends a huge message to our little boys, as well, and to little girls and who they eventually marry. Men are supposed to be the leader of the household. They’re supposed to take the Christian role seriously, but if little boys don’t ever see men doing that, then where do they get that role model, other than their own dads?
Andrew: It’s also exciting for a couple to serve together or even a whole family, maybe once a month. Several of our core teachers this summer in VBS were young adults who grew up in the church, perhaps just a little bit out of high school, but not new to serving. They could take on a teacher role because they’d helped for 8-10 years already.
Lori: The mentorship that happens through classroom leaders and the young helpers is a natural occurrence and precious. It’s not planned; it just happens.
You build those relationships by investing in the ministries here—you serve. You find your niche and you commit, and you make it a place of importance. You get so much more from serving then you ever put into it if you’re willing to open yourself up to doing it. It’s just so important. And then this really becomes home and these people will become a part of your family and your life.
Andrew: When I was in college I was asked what was my earliest memory of being affirmed in my faith? I thought of Louise Higginbotham, my kindergarten Sunday School class teacher. When we walked into her classroom she would touch every boy and girl on the nose and say, “Jesus loves YOU.” And then to the whole class, “Jesus loves all of you.” It starts that early for many of us, another person loving you. Which reminds me of something that happened this summer. Some children were very sad that VBS was ending, and when they were told they were heading to Disneyland the following week, they said they just wanted to go back to VBS. When kids can have that much fun learning about God, I know we’re doing something right.
We have great ministers and volunteers at FBC helping to provide a great foundation. You come in not sure of what you’re going to do, then it sucks you in and you love it, and it loves you back. It doesn’t get any better than that.
8:30am & 11:00am