Fans blow as the kids enter the classroom. A candle is aflame on the center of the table, which is adorned with a red table cloth. The seating chart has been designed based on the personalities of the group. Each chair faces a Bible, pencil and a language scramble as they arrive. The downloaded wind sound-effect surrounds the space. It’s Pentecost and you are beyond prepared. This is rare and you are stoked to teach.
The opening activity goes swimmingly, and then Rodney and Chad begin testing the fan blades out to see how quickly they could cut the pencils. This of course distracts the rest. What do you do?
Some of the best prepared, most passionately presented lesson-plans are sadly squelched by a teacher’s lack of classroom management skills, self-awareness, and self-control.
This book is for moments like these. It is not about curriculum or instructional theory, but about who we are as teachers and how we view the children we serve. While it would be ideal to send our entire KidMin team to Bethel Seminary to earn an MA in Children & Family Ministry- this book is a close second.
Todd Whitaker has written dozens of books on similar subjects, consults with fifty-plus schools every year, and has spent countless hours in research as a teacher and principal. While some of his thoughts may echo Bruce Wilkenson’s work, he offers something special to Children’s Pastors. Similar to a school principle, we need to equip and encourage not only children, but our volunteer team and the parents with which we partner. We daily wear lots of hats, and Whitaker gets that.
Like you, I have read several books on this subject, and thirty-five percent of this was comprised of concepts on classroom dynamics that I have grappled to articulate and address for years.
He challenges us to “Base Every Decision on the Best People”. While some of us might have been trained to “teach to the middle”, where the majority of the students cluster, he proposes we set the bar high and hold all accountable to reaching it. This is truly helpful in the realm of CFM, because we want to welcome all children into the church. The “Wyatts” from unhealthy families who never behave and their parents “don’t do church” and the “Cynthias” who had all sixty-six books memorized by the age of four, and whose parents serve on every church committee. Both deserve a safe and quality space to grow spiritually.
Cynthia’s parents need to know that her CFM program is; safe, biblically sound, and filled with a well-trained team. Wyatt’s parents need to know that we love him too much for him to misbehave, and they might need some extra hand-holding as they enter into the community of faith. Both kids should be held to the same standard, as to assure their growth as disciples.Meeting the needs of all types of families, and holding proactive conversations with parents can be grueling, but Whittaker walks his readers through these times in very manageable ways.
Another sneak peak into this treasure of a text is the challenge to ask yourself before any decision “Who is the most comfortable?”. He writes, “If Mr. Negativity dominates the meeting with carping criticism, the best teachers will be uncomfortable”. Do we want our best, most capable, driven, faithful volunteers (you can see their faces, can’t you?) to be uncomfortable?
Imagine with me, if you will, that a conflict arises among your teaching team. This is when Whitaker gets raw and real. As you work towards the resolution, remember that, “discomfort leads to change”. If you don’t wish for the “Great Teacher’s” mentality or work ethic to change you better be real careful to not make her feel uncomfortable with your chosen strategy. His personal stories on this issue are truly genius and respectful.
He writes of a team meeting where he moved his podium after everyone had chosen their seats to make the “Complainer’s Club” which usually resided in the back of the room to the front row. Who do you think was uncomfortable in this situation? Obviously the persons that needed to be momentarily uncomfortable as to move towards their full potential. The scary part of this chapter is that if we unintentionally make the “Great Teachers” on our team uncomfortable in our attempts to reach the “Negative Nancys” things can go quite the opposite direction. Yikes. You have been warned. Read it to find out more!
I could go on and on but then this blog would reach an unattractive length. Whitaker believes that ALL teachers can go from good to great; regardless of their gift-set or years of experience. This quick read will equip you as a Children’s Pastor in nurturing your volunteers towards a higher standard of teaching the best news in the world-the Good News.
One more thing- this book comes with a super-cool study guide that you and your volunteer team can work through together. #teambonding
Want for more Whitaker? Join me in Mabank, Texas where Whitaker will be speaking at a “Know Your Impact : Take the Limits Off Of Learning” Conference on June 8-10. And get this-it’s only $50. Your continuing ed. budget will like that now won’t it! 🙂