Having been in competitive swimming in high school and university, I love watching the crown of all swim meets… the Olympics. This year has been AMAZING to watch with all the hype around Michael Phelps and all that he accomplished. Also, that 4x100m men’s freestyle race was phenomenal… how Jason Lezak caught up with Alain Bernard to not only win the race but clinch the fastest 100m split in history!
One story caught my eye. That was of 41-year-old Dara Torres. The 2008 Olympics is her fifth Olympics! Unheard of for a swimmer, and she is the oldest female Olympic swimmer in history. How did she accomplish this? She knew that at her age, she needed to approach the training needed to be Olympic caliber in a different way than has ever been done. She underwent a very unorthodox training regiment that included targeted stretching and massage work and unique strength building workouts to build key muscles. Those who watched her train weren’t too sure about it. But it all paid off. Torres made the Olympic team, won silver in the 4x100m women’s freestyle relay and has qualified to be a part of the 50m freestyle race on Friday.
Dara Torres didn’t do anything different in the pool. She still swam freestyle the way freestyle is supposed to be swum. What was different was how she got ready… what she did and why she did it.
I think we need to approach children’s ministry in much the same way that Dara Torres approached getting ready for the Olympics. Children’s Ministry, on the outside, doesn’t look too different from one place to the next: we have our singing, our age appropriate teaching, our activities, etc. Yes, stylistically, there are differences… but most of us fundamentally look similar on the outside.
What needs to really change about children’s ministry is the how we prepare and why we do what we do. Do we continue to do children’s ministry with our ultimate goal of having children who can recite the 66 books of the Bible in order and win sword drills or do we do children’s ministry with the focus on helping children to live outside of themselves changing the world around them by loving all people as God loves them. Do we simply focus on children praying the prayer of salvation so they can go to heaven or do we broaden a child’s understanding of Christ’s death on the cross to include us being a part of what God is doing in the world today and being a part of Kingdom work in reaching out to the marginalized people around them? Do we point kids towards heaven as the ultimate goal or do we point them towards a life changing God who wants to use them to help bring life change to their communities and the world?
It’s not necessarily about changing the mechanics of children’s ministry. It’s about changing how we get ready to do children’s minsitry and why we do children’s ministry.