Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rule-liness Next to Godliness

Today I was very excited to go to the  Awana conference.
Darren and I have been a part of the Awanas for about five years now.  Connor started as a Cubbie and will be a T&T next year!  This year Carlee is a little Puggle. 


Let me go ahead and preface this whole blog with the fact that I have observed some amazing things come out of this program, including making my ENTIRE family grow in understanding, memorizing, and living out scriptures. I am so proud to see my whole church come together to help our children grow in Christ.  It is a neat experience.

So basically, even though I didn’t sign up to teach this year, I was able to go with the T&T leader because Darren was off to watch the kids, and I had never been before.

The opening was so awesome and inspiring, and then it went a little downhill for me after.  One thing stood out for me (other than the freezing rooms) THE AWANA RULES.
I had hoped to interact a little more and to construct, play, and learn strategies to teaching children how to make scripture reading more engaging.

What I learned was
the rules are the rules.

Do you want to hear the rules? because I know ALLLLL about the RULES!  I learned all of the Rules today-
-don’t be late
-wear your team shirt
-bring your bag
-bring your book
-bring your bible
-say your scripture word perfect
-say your scripture with less than two helps
-record scripture said

Hey, I’m a teacher, a mother, a wife, and an older sister.  That means I was born giving people rules.  I am all about the rules, and I don’t care where you come from...You. Will. Follow. The. Rules.  In just five minutes I made up four more rules for my house- 1. no markers shall be placed near baby Carlee  2. no dog shall be tied to the skateboard  3.  no bracelets will be put in the DVD player  4. and yes, no hitting also applies to your sister when standing near that door too!

But today, the rules were just getting on my nerves.

After the third session of raising my hand (in very non-baptist form) and EXPLAINING that some children don’t learn in the same way, some children are not encouraged in the same way, and this system will not work for all.   I was told- make accommodations for special needs and the rest of the children need to “follow the plan”.   After all it isn’t fair for one to get by with more helps than another.  I was told 99% can follow the RULES.
I heard the whispers of annoyance, as I explained how that didn't work for me and why.
I’m sure I’m in a few Facebook status pages tonight “A wierdo who won’t shut up, one in every crowd, making me late for my Chick-Fil-A”. 
Then there was the not so whispered opinions- children need consistency (thanks lady, I’ll drop out of the circus now), your son is playing you (yes, he is really showing me, I will make him sleep in the dog house tonight for not reading scripture after two prompts), they all get it eventually (don’t worry son, we will study the same scripture until you are 13, you will get it eventually).
By the third session, my temper had risen and I was ready to drop out of Awanas, and just sit on the brick step outside and sing LOUDLY a Dr. Jean song renamed/rewritten ‘No Rules, No Rules, No Rules in the Classroom’.  I am SUCH A REBEL!
I can’t stand it when 100% of the human population doesn’t see things my way.

It is bothersome that hundreds of people were being taught that the main strategy is to follow the outlined plan.  I can’t think of a more terrible way to teach children than to follow a black and white plan.  That is like coloring inside the lines (puke).

You would be surprised at what children have to go through and what they feel when
...they are hungry?
...have family stress?
...failing a grade?
...struggle with confidence? be a boy or girl with more energy than body?!?

Jesus picked the the loving spirit over rules.  He declared food as clean although the rules said it wasn’t (mark 7:18-20),) allowed the wheat (Luke 6:2), healed a woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17), He took a drink and ministered to a  Samaritan woman (living in sin)  (John 4), etc.

The end of the day went a LOT better.  My Awana director (who is A for Awesome) ate lunch with us and reassured me that we are most concerned about the individual child.  It is about the children growing in God for us and to not lose focus of that.
 After lunch I won the sponge toss (so I did get to play games after all).  whoop!  whoop!  Sponge TOSS Champion (while following the rules).

A few Awana presenters spoke to me throughout the rest of the afternoon.  Telling me stories of themselves or their children who struggled with the standard memorization, and some gave me further suggestions to help get children to learn and be excited.  I felt a lot better the last hour.  

As soon as I went home I applied a visual strategy that helped Connor memorize his scripture for this week (and as you can see he was super excited about it because I interrupted his race car adventure, the rule is ‘Break for Mama’! )

I think of the story of Richie.  Richie doesn’t have any arms.  His parents didn’t feed him his whole life. They provided him with a special tool to feed himself.  They didn’t stop him from riding a bike though it was hard.  They provided him with a different bike. They didn't say, sorry Rich, same rules for everyone.  They made him the successful man and engineer he is today by giving him accommodations.
The same concept applies.  If you are working in a children’s ministry, coaching, teaching, volunteering PLEASE consider always challenging but stepping outside of regulation and using different things to teach those concepts.  Everyone can feel good, successful, and be pushed to work hard with the God given tools (not the rules).

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