Yesterday morning we completed the 2016 Vacation Bible School for Tabernacle Baptist Church. The Lord used this years VBS to help me in many ways, but the most important was pointing out some misconceptions that I have about children’s ministry.
It’s common when working with children for us to hold them to a lower expectation than adults. For instance if a twenty-eight year old becomes upset after someone took his chair while he played with friends my response will be a lot harsher than if it was a ten or eleven year old. In its basic sense this is a good thing (10 year olds cannot be expected to act like adults in my opinion) however I often find myself also holding children to a lower standard along with those lower expectations.
While a lower expectation and standard sounds similar there are MASSIVE differences
- Lower expectations don’t expect children to obey perfectly right away, but refuse to lower the standard
- Lower standards believe children cannot achieve the requirements, so rules are lowered to a level they can meet
With the Lords help I have been able to achieve a balance of carefully lowering expectations (not expecting to much right away) while refusing to lower standards. But last week at VBS taught me there was a blind spot in my ministry when it came to being on time.
Most people in Saint Vincent live by “island time” which basically means lots people come to services and activities at least 15 minutes late. Now let me say not all Vincentians are this way, and its definitely not just a problem in SVG (Australia is the same way) so please don’t view this as being disrespectful towards the people of Saint Vincent. This does create ministry challenges though because I’ve grown up with “American time” which for the most part means if a person arrives on time that makes them late, and as any Missionary can tell you, “American time” doesn’t translate very well into foreign cultures 🙂
Over time this cultural difference led me to stop making coming in late a serious problem (I do believe people should be on time, but it isn’t a Doctrinal issue). Unfortunately that expectation for lateness became a belief that they COULDN’T come in on time….moving from lowered expectations to a lowering of standards.
One of my challenges in ministry is getting children to faithfully attend services at Tabernacle Baptist Church. For the most part kids want to come, but working with “island time” and its being the summer means its very easy to forget what time Church services are. So it isn’t abnormal for children to come very late, or just not show up at all. Experiences like this made me think children COULDN’T tell time (lowered standard) instead of it being harder for them since parents aren’t always there to tell a child when its time for Church, or take them there (lowered expectation).
Thankfully the Lord used VBS last week to show island children could indeed tell time
Leading up to the last day (Friday) we opened up the gate to Church at 9:00 and there would be four or five kids waiting there. Imagine my surprise when I came to find ten to fifteen children waiting 30 minutes before the door opened! Since some special events were planned on Friday so it was decided that the gate would be locked at 9:40 (kids had been coming in after 10:00 on other days) so a crowd of 50 to 60 were expected….We ended up with eighty!
One boy from VBS learned that he was going to get sweeties (candy) at Church Sunday morning for saying a lot of verses and told to be there at 9:30. Instead he showed up at my house ALREADY DRESSED FOR CHURCH AT JUST AFTER 8:00! Let me say that again…he came to my house in dress clothes almost an hour and a half early!!!
Its easy to become frustrated when children don’t live up to our expectations and lower our standards for them. But I’m grateful for God’s reminder that with the proper motivation, they will strive to achieve those higher standards.