04 May, 2011

People Workers

Children are the future.

Any arguments?

I think it’s pretty much a biological fact that the next generation of youth and adults will come from the children of today. Pretty straight forward I’d say.

If the above is true, what I find puzzling is the seeming lack of funding, resources, people and time given to children, in comparison to teenagers, adults, and the elderly.

What is so extraordinarily appealing in waiting until the little ones have hit puberty before we decide to start investing in their futures and well being?

I’m making reference more specifically to the fact that you will find (at least in my experience) an abundance of people willing to spend time with youth and teenagers...willing to run drop in centres, social clubs, Friday night youth groups, church hang outs, etc. But when it comes to the children...only a few put up their hand. And of those few, mainly females remain.

I’m an employed children’s worker. I’m in my late 20’s and have been working with kids, in a very wide variety of settings, both voluntary and for employment for the past 10 years. I consider it a privilege to be welcomed into the world of a child and to have the opportunity of journeying alongside with them. I am never bored but am instead forever being entertained, challenged, taught, and stretched. What’s not to like?

I am continually running into the problem of not having enough people willing to give of time and invest in kids who desperately need someone to care. Oh, there are many good intentions, with most people stating how much they love children. There just aren’t people who are willing to put their words into actions and actually give some time to kids (in their own communities) who could use an hour of positive attention more than anything in the world. However...I’ve been to youth events where the adults outnumber the teens, and the amount of youth workers to children’s workers funded and employed are 5:1. Never mind the fact that more time is put into youth “programs” and big flashy events, then it is into spending one on one time mentoring and discipling youth who could really use an adult to walk along side them and take an interest in their world.

If children are our future, and childhood certainly happens BEFORE adolescence, isn’t that where we should start? If the decisions teens are going to make under peer pressure, biological change, and worldly pressure are going to be at all influenced by what they have known and experienced up until this point in their lives, doesn’t that make the time of their childhood absolutely critical to helping prepare them for the hardest stretch of change, decision making, and new things they are ever likely going to face?

Childhood is fleeting, yet it leaves a lasting thumbprint on the rest of an individual’s life. Doesn’t it make it the most valuable and vital time to invest a few minutes into the next generation of youth and adults? Maybe we wouldn’t ‘need’ quite so many youth workers if the investment time was put in just a few years earlier?

I’ve heard the line, “but I’m just not good with kids” or “kids don’t like me.” Granted, there are a few people who I might want to say that to. Regardless, I was challenged recently by someone who said, “There is no such thing as children’s workers, and there’s no such thing as youth workers. There are only people workers.”
In the past, I may have argued that, stating that I believe my gifting and talents make me a children’s worker and that is the only thing I will dedicate my life to. However, experiences in the past couple of years have led me to think on the above statement that perhaps, the problem we have (specifically in the church) is not being able to train up ‘people workers’.

We tell people that they can only do kid’s ministry OR youth ministry OR seniors ministry, never crossing over between areas. But what if we taught that things weren’t meant to be this off balance? What if we were all “people” workers? Then certainly the important time and influence needed in the life of a child wouldn’t be wanting, and we wouldn’t be bombarded by people who want to join the ‘hip’ ministry of youth work leaving those age groups who maybe aren’t quite as attractive, by the way side. The needs of people would be met, not just a select few.

My heart is well and truly for children’s ministry, and I am continually amazed at the lack of people wanting to pick up on the cause that will affect the future of everyone, never mind the fact that it takes a giving of so little to make a difference in the lives of some so desperate.

However, I would like to conclude with calling you to be people workers. Be advocates for people who are desperate and without a voice, not being limited by the need to be titled and put into a box, only giving time to the groups that are easy or are the most popular to work with.

And if needs be, maybe for the first time, consider investing into kids.

Esther

1 comment:

Ree said...

I couldn't agree more! Children are so important to the future but if we wait until the future to meet their needs we will loose them. Keep up the great work be a "little" peoples worker.