I got into big trouble my first night volunteering. Again. I always do. I wanted the kids to engage, interact, so we moved out of the closet assigned to Kids Bible Club and started throwing paper airplanes in the upstairs hall. Prayer-planes! We’d talked through our days and listed all the things we could pray about:
• Not wanting to get out of bed
• Who to sit with on the bus or at lunch
• I have good friends to hang out with—hooray!
• That bully named Dash who is NOT incredible
• What to do when the girl next to me steals someone’s tots at lunch
• When that kid acts out and then blames me when he gets in trouble
• Should I tell on someone or shouldn’t I?
• Getting all my homework done when I have cheerleading AND church
• Sweating over that hard quiz
• Zipping through that easy quiz
• That I have good food to eat at dinner with my church friends
• That it was a thumbs-up day
• That it was a thumbs-down day
I was a guest teacher and I’d just met these third to sixth graders five minutes before. But they wanted to be listened to, to tell me all about their thumbs-up or thumbs-down days. No sign of the too-cool, preteen malaise I hear about on blogs. Sure they talked over one another, and were a little rude and insensitive:
“You worried about that quiz? It was easy. I’m gifted.”
“Well, you’re bragging.”
“Are you gonna give us candy soon, pastor?”
“ Can I go get a drink and take my friends with me?”
But it all stopped when we wrote our prayers down, folded them into airplanes, and started sailing them through the air to God. Sure, the kids were competitive, but also cheering one another on. They were teaching each other the best folding techniques. They were chanting each other’s names. And learning about sending prayers up to God. Awesome, right?
Yep, you guessed it. That’s when I got into trouble. That church lady (you know the one) came out of the downstairs parlor and shouted up the stairwell, “Hush! We are trying to have class down here! We are trying to learn something!” She huffed, “There’s only six kids? It sounds like one hundred of you out here.”
Why do we think our kids should sit quietly in church? That they learn as well in a cold closet as in a gym space? That they should pencil in the blanks when they learn better by moving around?
I’m so glad it sounded like one hundred of us out in the hall. It turns out we grasped our Bible verses better through paper airplanes than with paper worksheets: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:4-6