Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Serving in Children's Church - One Year On (well, a little more)

As I was doing my usual round around the toilet, using my arguably large presence to make sure the boys don't spray their liquid waste on their friend's DS Lite (I was about to get my last gym badge you ash-hoe!), I heard several voices raised in an excited, typical sabotage-mode way, yelling "EEE YOU ALL GO IN TOGETHER YOU GAY AH EEE!"

I immediately made a bee line (to the best of my ability without knocking into the pillar or upsetting the orchids) towards the voice and as expected, upon seeing me, the boys started yelling it all over again. Apparently 3 guys dashed into the large handicap cubicle and locked themselves in for a jolly good time.

3? What the hell.

So I stuck my hands in my pockets and waited patiently outside the handicap cubicle. When it unlocked I caught the boys who, upon seeing me, very smartly tried to split, but oh I was prepared.

My ministry leader taught us that to get it into the kids' heads, we had to squat to look at them at eye level, not talk down and yell.

I totally forgot about that. It's hard, really, when your mind's split between discipline and ensuring ever-excited boys don't run slip and split their head on the edge of a pillar. It was only about 10 seconds (oh that's long I tell you) into my disciplining when I realized that the boys who ratted were standing behind me grinning triumphantly at the offenders. But for some reason which I thank God for they reacted immediately when I gave them half a second of attention and told them to bugger off (effectively, anyway).

As I grilled the 3 kids (Why? Why all three of you together? I want to know why.), I noticed...

Drops of water on their faces.

When I told the teachers later at debriefing, I must have given a disgusted look, because ministry leader piped, "We'll take it as water, not... you know..."

Later I had another chance to practice the eye level technique after a kid persisted in having a very lively chat with his friend even after two warnings from me (a more generous number than the usual one-stern-warning-and-out). And it was a textbook performance, until the kid gave off SERIOUS gonna-cry vibes. And that resulted in me having to pull the I'm-not-angry-with-you-but-I-want-you-to-know-that-... line earlier than the usual. On hindsight I should have noted his name and thanked him for his attention after that. I'll do that next time.

It's been effectively one year since I joined Children's Ministry, and I'm sorry to say that even now my team leader is preparing for my leave. Barely a year and a half. I love children, I still do, and unless a child walks in and kills my whole extended family with his bare hands I should think that I always will love children. But in the long run, or future proofing as the geeks call it, my heart was quite clear about the fact that it would prefer audio engineering to childcare.

One of the main things I've learnt during my short time in this ministry (1.5 years is short when you serve once every 3 weeks) is drawing a line between being friendly and approachable, and being firm. Slowly I went from "Um hey there, please don't do that, no don't do that, ahh..." to mastering the snap finger-point-stare. It sounds really cold and authoritarian, so the trick is to not give an I-keel-you! stare, but do something to the effect of a light smile and a shake of the head. Besides, I don't wanna eclipse the preaching teacher. And the snap-point-stare is a fantastic solution to my chronic fear of severing a child's (or several's) arteries by tripping and falling on him (them).

That is not to say that I'm a one-look-silencer of course. Just because one's learnt to be firm doesn't mean one can control children. Granted, the intelligence of children nowadays make me feel like a retard when I was that age, but we still often expect too much of them. Expect them to understand the complexities of situations that less than three years ago we were still struggling to comprehend ourselves. Nevertheless I'm thankful for the amount of stuff I've learnt myself in church.

I've also had plenty of time to think about what irked me in Children's Church. Chiefly, alot of things said by teachers are oversimplified truths, to the extent that I seriously wonder whether it would cause harm to the children's worldview. Now let me make clear that I don't claim at all to know much, if any, about childcare education, and once again maybe I'm overestimating a child's intelligence, but if they learn such opinionated truths (which I shall refrain from giving examples of to prevent any more complications than those already threatening to present themselves), how exactly are we different from those who maintain themselves by putting others down? Is that the only sort of simplification a child's mind can handle? If it is, have educators considered how it could affect their objective view of situations in the future?

That said, if one were to tell me (with proper academic evidence) that children's reasoning and comprehensive capacity peak at a level which to more mature adults seem terribly subjective, and that this will not actually affect them adversely in the future, given that the appropriate teaching methods are waned and waxed accordingly, then gee whiz I have no problem at all.

Who said teaching a child was easy? Plenty of fine fine lines to toe.

A hug and smile can solve many many things in this cruel world. But it can't solve every single thing.


Anonymous said...

I love children too, but disciplining my own is another matter altogether, haha!

mr fong said...

What a wonderful post... Thanks Fairy. Love the way you describe the struggles, and yes I think that sometimes giving watered-down versions of the truth could be perceived, by us, to be an insult to the children, and anyway I do not deem it justified. If they are smart enough to understand it, why not? Why insist on the simplest, most watered-down version?

Basically it depends on the child and his maturity and mood at the moment. They can be quite smart hahaha.