That topic is ... my church.
Why is that a sticky topic?
Well, because as sure as people are people, everyone has an opinion, a feeling, and an experience.
It has now been a little over 7 years since we helped to start this church and I continue to be amazed and ever so grateful for the blessings involved, the people, the presence, the relationships.
The relationships.....The older I get, the more I learn that relationship is completely what God is all about. The more I learn, the more I see that the symbolism of "church" has gotten so wrapped up in rules, guidelines, steps, classes, structure, and format.....that the heart core and reasoning for church has been side stepped and forgotten. I often find myself picturing God shaking His head and saying, 'No that is not how it should be. Please just listen.'
No my church is not perfect. None are because people are people....completely fail able.
Other churches are great too. Different churches fit different kinds of people.
There is a time and place for structure...as long as people listen to God's guidance.
With that being said, I LOVE my church. As we seek God's truth from the bible, we also seek His character, grace, and mercy. Continually we strive to have relationship as the main foundation and for people to find comfort and healing in a non-condemning environment.
Why am I bringing all of this up? Simply because last week I learned fresh that the ripple effects of that sort of environment effects the children too.
I have always encouraged my teachers to focus on relationship. I have always said that there is comfort in having a lesson plan and great things can be accomplished and learned with the structure of a lesson plan....but never be so focused on a check list that the children are forgotten. If things turn upside down in class and nothing gets "taught" but the children go home feeling more secure and confident...then GREAT things happened in class.
Ah...but fighting the security of a check list can be difficult at times. In my last post I talked about being empty for a long time and losing focus. After coming back from that retreat, I felt all of that fall away and when I taught the next day at church I felt a renewed sense of purpose in relationship instead of check lists. Boy am I grateful.
I had 2 new students in class, a brother and sister, ages 6 and 8. The little girl was scared to come into class and hugged her daddy for a long time before relenting to step into the unknown. Instead of opening the class time with the usual structure, I chose to break the class into small groups, I took one group and my teaching partner took the other. We discussed the happenings of the week, favorite foods, and how best to eat chocolate (yes I had the girls group). Then the subject of good things and bad things rolled around and the girls began to share with one another what was on their mind. You know what? Even a 1st grader can offer deep compassion in a relationship. They prayed and hugged each other ......without my prompting.
It was at this point that the little 6 year old really opened up. In words that were much too old for her years she took a deep breath and shared this, "Ok I want to share something with you all and it is bad. I mean really bad and sad. Okay, my parents are getting a divorce and....."
And on she went explaining what was on her heart. When she was finished sharing, the others in the group offered their young encouragement, hugs, and prayers. She looked happier and lighter when it was all said and done.
I was so touched and amazed. Over and over it hit me that if I had kept with my check list, she never would have had opportunity to share her heart and find relationships in new surroundings. The other children would have not had opportunity to reach out from themselves and have compassion in action for another.
By the time we pulled the groups back together, there wasn't much time for a lesson, but I think the real lesson had truly already been taught.
Yesterday in church they were visiting again. I saw that little girl smiling and talking with her new friends. She ran up to me and shared what a great day she was having and how glad she was to be back.
Again I felt in awe at the importance of relationship.........the real focus.