For weeks, my daughter talked about wanting to hug Cinderella at Disney World. It’s the one thing she wanted to do. So, upon entering the park, we made a beeline for the fastpass option for meeting the Disney Princesses.
When doing Disney World with a toddler or pre-schooler, you simply have to go at their pace. They can’t run or walk as fast as we can as adults. They are much more distracted by characters and scenery than we are.
It made for a frustrating day at times (like when we waited in line for Princess Tiana twice only to get a photo of her hiding and holding her ears as fireworks went off in the distance), but ultimately, it was the right decision to make. My girl enjoyed her time at Disney, and we were able to enjoy her delight.
As I rode the bus back to the hotel one evening after a long day at the theme park, I began to reflect on the experience and how it relates to ministry. How often have I planned youth ministry around me instead of the students in my care?
I remember a few years back. I was teaching deep theological truths, but most of my students came from non-religious backgrounds. A great many of them were new believers and simply didn’t understand the nuances of the Christian faith. After an evaluation, I decided to change course. Over the next year, we went “back to the basics” as we taught the foundational truths about our faith, including breaking down salvation, baptism, redemption, justification and the Trinity. Our students responded and our group grew in Christ.
When we plan out our youth year and our curriculum, it’s important to keep our students in mind. We simply can’t teach the Bible at our pace. We have to remember that new believers can’t move through the Bible as quickly as we can, and they get easily distracted by minute things we’ve long since looked over.
When working with youth, we must force ourselves to stop and plan it according to their spiritual walk. That doesn’t mean we dumb down the Gospel. It does mean we adjust our teaching and spiritual input to match the faith level of our students. We have to reach them on their spiritual level.
Planning for a Disney vacation reminded me that I must plan with students in mind. That may mean dialing back my teaching or even possibly digging deeper, depending on the make-up of students I have under my care.
Either way, the group will function better when we teach at an appropriate level. All it took to remind me was a 4-year-old at Disney.