Friday, July 17, 2009

Commanding Respect

Okay, some of you long time readers may remember this post about how I feel about working with kids. Perhaps I should say--how I felt about working with kids. Truthfully, today I realize that working with kids is a great part of my ministry calling. Like it or not, (and I'm beginning to like it) working with kids will probably be in my future for some time. As a matter of fact, I'm beginning to be a bit critical of others that work with kids and really aren't equipped for the job.

I was at a camp recently where I feel this was the case. I know that camps vary greatly in how they are run. They have different activities, different worship styles, different themes...different personalities--yes, each camp has its own personality.

One of the things that really disturbs me when it comes to working with kids is any kind of manipulation. I don't what to intimidate them into saying or doing something out of fear, guilt, needing to belong to the group or just to please me or anybody else. Another thing is when people talk at kids rather than to them. Or when they have no idea of how to talk to kids and no understanding of when you've reached the saturation point.

The plan for the night at this particular camp was not the best. I was there for one night to present the Gospel using my particular style of magic. I was told that I had from 7:45 to 9:45. Now that is a long time to be in front of a bunch of kids. Even with an amazing program, that would be too long. The camp director told me that she just wanted me to have all the time I needed. She just didn't want to short me--I would end the evening program. I was planning on an hour.

Here's what I didn't know: The regular camp pastor was still going to speak ahead of me. And the kids would be sitting on the concrete floor of the camp gym/utility building.

I've been to many venues with multiple speakers. One of the things that most speakers recognize is that when you go past your scheduled time, you are infringing another speaker's time. This was already going to be a long night for the kids. The camp pastor started his message at about 7. Forty-five minutes would be a long time to preach to adults sitting in comfortable pews. It's a real stretch for kids sitting on a concrete floor. This preacher went on for an hour and a half. Not only did this go way into my time, it put me in the position of having to deal with kids that had already been sitting for a long time.

The pastor started with a reminder to the kids about not talking when he is talking. He told them about having two ears and one mouth and stopped frequently to remind them about being quiet while he was talking. He even threatened to withhold the fireworks display that they were looking forward to at the end of the night. I don't think that I would be exaggerating to say that stopped for talking kids more in one night than I have in ten years of preaching at kid camps.

By the fourth night of camp, the chemistry between camp pastor and camp is pretty well established. That the pastor started with the reminder to be quiet speaks volumes about their chemistry. You just have to talk to the kids--don't preach at them and don't talk down to them.

In the end, I was a bit off timing and out of sorts. I had to allow the kids time to get up, use the bathroom, get a drink and use a little of that kid energy. Then I had to get them back into order to present my program.

Next week I'll be at the Mineral Area Association Boy's Camp. I'm really looking forward to the week. Keep me in your prayers.

John <><


fiona said...

Interesting John...I work with kids and have found (for me) the best approach is to have FUN! If they learn along the way GREAT if not they will always remember their time with you as a good experience...
That's all :0)

Mike said...

Whew! I was afraid the one comment was going to be the comment I made when the body of the post was missing. It wouldn't have made any sense. NO COMMENTS!

Sicilian said...

Ouch. . . I think you are so correct in your observations. It kind of hurts my heart to hear your story about those kids sitting there forever.
I'll stop now because my comments would not be very nice concerning our methods of leading young people to Christ.

Amanda said...

Luckily for those kids they had you around. So how did the camp pastor get the job in the first place?

Claudia said...

What a runaway ego the guy who preceded you has! I guess the kindest thing to do for him is to pray he becomes more secure and learns that ministry is not about him, but God.