Is Kidmin Ameri-centric?

I got involved in this interesting conversation with a few children’s pastors online the other day and the topic of children’s ministry being Americentric came up. Basically why are there not more voices and resources coming from other parts of the globe.

There were a few theories that were tossed around many of them being about American Imperialism – I personally don’t understand how you can Imperialize culture? No one is putting a gun to the head of some kid in Korea saying wear these Nikes or else.

The answer lies more in what we are not doing rather than what we are doing. I believe there are a few reasons why do don’t hear from kids pastors from other countries as much as we should or as much as we need to.

1. Language – The language barrier is real and if you don’t speak english that is hard to overcome. I have met some amazing people in other countries doing some amazing thing the said truth is they have lots to teach us but we may never learn from what God has done and is doing in them because we don’t speak the same Language. We need to figure out how to solve this one.

2. The North American model of church – Another reason why there are more dominate voices in North America is because our model of church includes hiring fulltime multiple pastors for each church. In other countries from what I have read and seen the model is more volunteer driven. When your fulltime job is pastor you generally have more time to focus and specialize in ministry. When you are a volunteer between, work, family, church and personal pursuits few people who are volunteers spend that time networking and connecting with other kids people.

3. Lastly and most importantly – We focus much of our time on things that are not the most imporant thing. Most of the conversation is around activities, VBS, Camp, Check-in those are all great conversations to have but they remain very Americentric in my opinion. Unless they first come out of the conversation how can we effectively communicate the gospel to kids. I believe that if kidmin is Americentric it is because we are not focusing on the gospel enough. The gospel transformative it transcends culture. If you teach kids in the US or in Cambodia the one thing they have in common is they are all sinners in need of a savior. We need to talk about the gospel and how we connect that to our kids more than we talk about which VBS curriculum we are doing this summer. The more Christocentric we become the less Americentric we will be.

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Is Kidmin Ameri-centric?

  1. Sam, you nailed it. And thanks. After hearing conversations like those, I was afraid that I'm living in too small a world or being too naive! My biggest concern most weeks is will the object lesson I'm planning for Sunday really help my kids understand how awesome God is and that He can help them live awesome lives for him Monday through Saturday, too, not whether we are forcing our culture on other places.

    Great thoughts. As always.

    • Barbara you are awesome thanks so much for your encouragement and wisdom. Looking forward to coming down to your neck of the woods in April.

  2. Well said, Sam. It was great having you in on the conversation at WMNCM.
    It's our dream and desire to begin breaking down barriers to a more global conversation around Children's ministry. It's cool just thinking of the possibilities of widening our understanding and practice and learnings of Children's ministry!

    • Henry, I agree. I think one of the reasons we can come off as Americentric is because we can be selfish and only focus on what we are doing. I appreciate the fact that you guys are trying to shine the spotlight on kidmin leaders from all over.

  3. Amen! Christ is what unites us. Christ is what makes us one church and one family no matter how we "do church" or what language we speak. Unless he is the center of the discussion, the vision, the mission and all that we do, the barriers will not be overcome.

    In terms of volunteers, I think this is another situation which needs to be rectified both in this country and around the world. I understand the lack of time (I really do :)), but we need to develop more resources, more communities, more forums where volunteers will want to participate and network. More importantly, we need to find ways to make it easier for them to get involved and less intimidating. Imagine how much better our children's ministries could be if it were not just the children's pastor networking and learning but everyone at every level of the children's ministry be edified and fed by the children's ministry community.

    Thanks for the great article Sam. This is definitely a conversation that needs to be had!

  4. Sam, you nailed it. And thanks. After hearing conversations like those, I was afraid that I’m living in too small a world or being too naive! My biggest concern most weeks is will the object lesson I’m planning for Sunday really help my kids understand how awesome God is and that He can help them live awesome lives for him Monday through Saturday, too, not whether we are forcing our culture on other places.

    Great thoughts. As always.

    • Barbara you are awesome thanks so much for your encouragement and wisdom. Looking forward to coming down to your neck of the woods in April.

  5. Well said, Sam. It was great having you in on the conversation at WMNCM.
    It’s our dream and desire to begin breaking down barriers to a more global conversation around Children’s ministry. It’s cool just thinking of the possibilities of widening our understanding and practice and learnings of Children’s ministry!

    • Henry, I agree. I think one of the reasons we can come off as Americentric is because we can be selfish and only focus on what we are doing. I appreciate the fact that you guys are trying to shine the spotlight on kidmin leaders from all over.

  6. Amen! Christ is what unites us. Christ is what makes us one church and one family no matter how we "do church" or what language we speak. Unless he is the center of the discussion, the vision, the mission and all that we do, the barriers will not be overcome.

    In terms of volunteers, I think this is another situation which needs to be rectified both in this country and around the world. I understand the lack of time (I really do :)), but we need to develop more resources, more communities, more forums where volunteers will want to participate and network. More importantly, we need to find ways to make it easier for them to get involved and less intimidating. Imagine how much better our children's ministries could be if it were not just the children's pastor networking and learning but everyone at every level of the children's ministry be edified and fed by the children's ministry community.

    Thanks for the great article Sam. This is definitely a conversation that needs to be had!

  7. Great post man!

    I especially liked #3. I think a lot of us get too tied to our way of doing things that we don't make/take the time to stop and evaluate how effective it really is. Every good program is simply a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. Every tool needs to be sharpened to maintain it's effectiveness. There's come's a time in every tool's/program's life when it's just not effective anymore and needs to be "thrown away".

    Killing a beloved program can feel like putting Fido to sleep and making the kids watch to some members of your church. It's not always easy, but sometimes it's necessary.

    Just my 2 cents anyway.

    SIDE NOTE: If anyone reading this has a dog named Fido, please don't take this comment as a sign from God to put him down. It was just a metaphor.

  8. love it. great reminder as we go into planning stages for our summer programs, wow that sounds so americentric – what i mean by that is… while i'm planning all the cool stuff i'm planning for kids to do this summer together, i'm going to make sure my "evangelistic" filter is firmly in place… and that i'm fully aware of the implications of each and every minute i have when them all…

  9. Thanks for the post, Sam. These are all good points and I think things that can be addressed to a degree. I would have to say, though, that I've come to believe that the primary difference between ministry to children in the US vs. most of the rest of the world is the value placed on the lives of children. Having grown up on the mission field and then over the past 10 years had the privilege of doing CM training in Russia, the Philippines and South Africa/Swaziland (as well as Australia), my sense is that children simply are not valued in most parts of the world as they are here in the US. That's not to say they are not loved by any means, but in most non-western societies children are not the priority in culture and in the church as they are in the Western world. This, combined with what you mentioned, plus the overall lack of resources overseas (physical tools such as curriculum and also training), contribute to how things are. We DO need to focus on Jesus & the message of the Gospel, but I would also encourage us as a whole to continue to lead in the area of Children's Ministry. That's one reason why I so love what Gordon West does through Kidz At Heart <a href="http://(http://kidzatheart.org)” target=”_blank”>(http://kidzatheart.org). He trains children's ministry leaders overseas, but within the context of their own culture. As part of this, he doesn't provide "American" curriculum & resources (because they can't get or afford them) but rather focuses on teaching them to reach kids for Christ using what they already have and in manners that are relevant to their culture.
    Thanks again, Sam…challenging thoughts!
    Greg

    • Greg great comment. I love all that you added. I do think we need to lead and create resources that help people in other countries. My thought was that if we focus more on the universal truths than we currently do I think those resources we create will be more applicable to kidmin's in every country. Great additions to the conversation. Thanks for the link to kidz at heart.

  10. Great post man!

    I especially liked #3. I think a lot of us get too tied to our way of doing things that we don't make/take the time to stop and evaluate how effective it really is. Every good program is simply a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. Every tool needs to be sharpened to maintain it's effectiveness. There's come's a time in every tool's/program's life when it's just not effective anymore and needs to be "thrown away".

    Killing a beloved program can feel like putting Fido to sleep and making the kids watch to some members of your church. It's not always easy, but sometimes it's necessary.

    Just my 2 cents anyway.

    SIDE NOTE: If anyone reading this has a dog named Fido, please don't take this comment as a sign from God to put him down. It was just a metaphor.

  11. love it. great reminder as we go into planning stages for our summer programs, wow that sounds so americentric – what i mean by that is… while i'm planning all the cool stuff i'm planning for kids to do this summer together, i'm going to make sure my "evangelistic" filter is firmly in place… and that i'm fully aware of the implications of each and every minute i have when them all…

  12. Thanks for the post, Sam. These are all good points and I think things that can be addressed to a degree. I would have to say, though, that I've come to believe that the primary difference between ministry to children in the US vs. most of the rest of the world is the value placed on the lives of children. Having grown up on the mission field and then over the past 10 years had the privilege of doing CM training in Russia, the Philippines and South Africa/Swaziland (as well as Australia), my sense is that children simply are not valued in most parts of the world as they are here in the US. That's not to say they are not loved by any means, but in most non-western societies children are not the priority in culture and in the church as they are in the Western world. This, combined with what you mentioned, plus the overall lack of resources overseas (physical tools such as curriculum and also training), contribute to how things are. We DO need to focus on Jesus & the message of the Gospel, but I would also encourage us as a whole to continue to lead in the area of Children's Ministry. That's one reason why I so love what Gordon West does through Kidz At Heart <a href="http:// (http://kidzatheart.org)” rel=”nofollow”> <a href="http://(http://kidzatheart.org)” target=”_blank”>(http://kidzatheart.org). He trains children's ministry leaders overseas, but within the context of their own culture. As part of this, he doesn't provide "American" curriculum & resources (because they can't get or afford them) but rather focuses on teaching them to reach kids for Christ using what they already have and in manners that are relevant to their culture.
    Thanks again, Sam…challenging thoughts!
    Greg

    • Greg great comment. I love all that you added. I do think we need to lead and create resources that help people in other countries. My thought was that if we focus more on the universal truths than we currently do I think those resources we create will be more applicable to kidmin's in every country. Great additions to the conversation. Thanks for the link to kidz at heart.

  13. Thanks for the post, Sam. These are all good points and I think things that can be addressed to a degree. I would have to say, though, that I've come to believe that the primary difference between ministry to children in the US vs. most of the rest of the world is the value placed on the lives of children. Having grown up on the mission field and then over the past 10 years had the privilege of doing CM training in Russia, the Philippines and South Africa/Swaziland (as well as Australia), my sense is that children simply are not valued in most parts of the world as they are here in the US. That's not to say they are not loved by any means, but in most non-western societies children are not the priority in culture and in the church as they are in the Western world. This, combined with what you mentioned, plus the overall lack of resources overseas (physical tools such as curriculum and also training), contribute to how things are. We DO need to focus on Jesus & the message of the Gospel, but I would also encourage us as a whole to continue to lead in the area of Children's Ministry. That's one reason why I so love what Gordon West does through Kidz At Heart (http://kidzatheart.org). He trains children's ministry leaders overseas, but within the context of their own culture. As part of this, he doesn't provide "American" curriculum & resources (because they can't get or afford them) but rather focuses on teaching them to reach kids for Christ using what they already have and in manners that are relevant to their culture.
    Thanks again, Sam…challenging thoughts!
    Greg

  14. I've had some great conversations with some children's ministry workers from Australia about this. The English thing is a part of it for sure, but even within English-speaking countries, they shared some vocabulary and cultural differences that made curriculum materials feel obviously American instead of just globally English-speaking. I really think that in the globally connected culture that kids are growing up in, it will even improve our effectiveness with American kids for us to create curriculum and environments that include global elements in some ways. I would love for the next generation of kidmins to grow up seeing how they are a part of His one Church.

    • Kendra love it. Missions trips did this for me. I remember when I was 13 and went on my first missions trip totally opened my eyes to the world beyond me. Great point Kendra thanks for the comment.

  15. I've had some great conversations with some children's ministry workers from Australia about this. The English thing is a part of it for sure, but even within English-speaking countries, they shared some vocabulary and cultural differences that made curriculum materials feel obviously American instead of just globally English-speaking. I really think that in the globally connected culture that kids are growing up in, it will even improve our effectiveness with American kids for us to create curriculum and environments that include global elements in some ways. I would love for the next generation of kidmins to grow up seeing how they are a part of His one Church.

    • Kendra love it. Missions trips did this for me. I remember when I was 13 and went on my first missions trip totally opened my eyes to the world beyond me. Great point Kendra thanks for the comment.

  16. Interesting debate. I’ll bring one more thing to the table. Many missionaries in other countries focus on ministering to children first because they know if they reach this generation, it will impact the next.

  17. Sam,

    I love your point of view.
    I think while there are not voices at our table in the US from the rest of the world, does not mean there are not voices at the table. I see ministries in first and third world countries doing a great job of networking and learning together.
    You are right that we are americentric in America and most ministries who send people for training here from abroad end up leaving with an American mind set of how ministry programs should be done. (It wasn’t until I came to the USA that I knew what the letters VBS meant).
    We can learn a lot from the rest of the world, especially in how most of them are small churches with completely lay led volunteer ministries that are doing some incredible things. They start with the bible and the gospel instead of curriculum. So, yes, great points on what we should learn from the rest of the world in terms of Children’s ministry.
    Great Post as always.

  18. Good points. If I have to add something….In my opinion (since I been on “both sides”) if there are something that “American church” can learn from other countries, it is being more community base church, where people not just meeting on Sundays but living life together. Some big churches overseas, who copied American mega church model, grew big, but are lacking a real friendship among members