It is more apparent with music than in organizational non-musical functions that leaders teach others how to behave, and to lead. That’s also true when it comes to leading children.
A Child Shall Lead Them
At one point in my ministry, I joined the staff of a church that had been through some transformation that was not the best, and membership had fallen below 1,000 for the first time in decades. There was not much spirit or participation in most programs or in worship. Some Sundays, my three children were the only children there. Needless to say, the church was not growing; it was maintaining.
A few years later a choir volunteer offered to start a children’s choir. Since some more children had been showing up occasionally, I agreed. It started with energy but not much momentum. Then a youth leader was hired and the youth ministry began scheduling activities that were quite amazing. The next year a group of parents came to me and asked why the children couldn’t have the same kind of program. I wondered, “Why not?” as well.
We held an informational meeting of interested parents and recorded their ideas. Out of this gathering a new concept was born. We didn’t know what to expect, but it sounded like it would be fun. So we held a series of summer planning team sessions, and at the last meeting, reviewed the logo, which was built around children in a circle holding hands. This looked like a kaleidoscope, but it also symbolized community. Koinonia, then was the unanimous choice. We defined our concept as follows:
Koinonia comes from the Greek and is commonly used to mean “Christian fellowship.” In most cases it goes another step and means “building a community of faith.” This name turned out to be a blessing to the program and an unspoken guideline for building an unselfish community of sharing, cooperation, and giving not only with the children, but with adults as well. If fact, adults wanted to come just to be present for the energy it gave them.The goal of the program was “to create an environment that would lead our young people to feel good about coming to church by providing opportunities for fellowship, learning, and service, each of which lead to worship of our Lord and Creator.”
From the inception, the idea was to write our own material and choose our own schedule, not to compete with the overall church schedule, but to complement it. The group agreed from the outset that the program was to remain flexible, adjusting as necessary to insure that the needs of the children were served. We would evaluate it weekly and make the necessary adjustments as needed. It was successful.
The phenomenon that followed was awesome! Every group in the church helped and was blessed. This was true koinonia in its purest sense.
As the children shared their gifts in worship, they were not showcased as “cute” and “precious” diversions to the worship. They were full participants in the liturgy and understood their role as leaders in worship.
Week after week, year after year, the program evolved so it was never the same, and provided meaningful content and experiences for both the children and the leaders. The momentum of energy the program created was a great opportunity for recruiting and using volunteers.
The real transformation was that the children taught us how to be a community that cared for one another, helped one another and cooperated with one another, no matter what our age, rank, or program affiliation. The children taught us how to celebrate in worship when they stood on the pews and waved their hand-made “Alleluia Wands” (taught to us by a visiting theologian, Glaucia Wilkey) when they heard the words alleluia in the hymns. The taught us how to give when they made sock puppet Christmas gifts for the infirm at home and took them personally and sang Christmas carols and hymns. They taught us how to praise God as they joyfully attended church at any time, but most especially at the time of Koinonia. They were not aware of the transformation. They were unaware of the Greek word or its translation. But they did model true Koinonia for our community of faith.
To read a complete account of how this program was structured, and the effect it had on our community, click here.
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