Interview: Musings of an Effective Ministry Leader

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David Brenneman and his wife Tiffany began leading the children’s ministry at their church last year in Stuarts Draft, VA. Their vision is to equip their ministry leaders for effective children’s discipleship that will clearly communicate the depths of the gospel and result in real-life change.

AUBREY: Tell us about your ministry.

DAVID: We are running a kid’s ministry on Sunday mornings using the Heroic Life Discipleship curriculum. We have two different times for discipleship on Sundays. One is during the Sunday School hour, when we use the Bible portion of the Heroic Life Discipleship curriculum, and then we have something that’s called Kid’s Church that takes place every other Sunday during the adult service.

During Kid’s Church we tell the Mighty Men stories from the Heroic Life Discipleship curriculum and have family groups where the kids spend time answering and reviewing questions about the Christian hero in the Mighty Men story and applying those concepts to their lives. We ask questions like: How did these people exemplify Jesus? What attributes of Jesus do we see in their lives? How did they do it? How does that apply to what we’re doing with our brothers and sisters?

We also created our own lessons focusing on a local ministry each month. We give prayer requests for the ministries, tell the kids what they’re doing, and spend time in prayer for each other and the local ministry highlighted that month. Every month when there are five Sundays, there’s a hands-on project that’s associated with that month’s ministry.

AUBREY:  What does a typical discipleship time with the children look like for you?

DAVID: Sunday morning from 9:10-9:20, kids are showing up and going to their age-specific classrooms where they are spending time reciting and reviewing the previous week’s Bible memory verse and sharing what they’ve been doing that week. They also share answers to prayer.

Each kid gets a quarter for memory verse rewards and puts it in a jar and that money goes toward a missions project. Then we assemble them into one large group, which is ages 4-12, for our Bible story time. The Bible Story Guide format we use is very similar to what is suggested in the Heroic Life Discipleship curriculum. We then walk into application time and the teachers walk through the Application Guide as it’s laid out.

AUBREY: What would you say is your favorite thing about the Heroic Life Discipleship curriculum?

DAVID: Personally, my favorite part of the curriculum is that it’s totally focused on Scripture. We’re there to study the Word of God. Secondarily, I like how it’s teaching the kids to make observations from Scripture. Our teachers have also appreciated that and they’re now learning how to make observations from Scripture for themselves. Those are some of the strengths of the curriculum.

We like the workbooks we send home with the kids too. I recently sent out a survey asking who’s using the the workbooks and if they’re learning from it and like it. Those who responded all said they’re using it, the kids love it and they’re growing from it. I like the review in the workbooks. I think it’s helping kids go deeper, instead of just starting with a quick idea and going on to the next thing.

AUBREY: How do you and your team prepare for the lessons?

DAVID: Right now we each prepare lessons individually. We’re walking towards having teachers show up thirty minutes early for prayer. I really see the benefit of all meeting together thirty minutes before and praying for the kids and reviewing the lesson together.

When I prepare a lesson, honestly, I try to just saturate in that lesson’s text. I just read through it, asking, how is the gospel revealed here? I use repetition, re-read it, and think on it as much as possible during the week. One thing we’re really hitting home with our teachers is that we have to allow this passage of Scripture to change us, to affect us. Jesus has to teach it to us first, and then we teach it from that position.

AUBREY: What are some highlights from time you’ve spent with the kids?

DAVID: I think the most rewarding part is after I tell the Bible story and I ask the kids to retell the story as best as they can remember. Sometimes the kids can remember things that the teachers can’t! It’s not that I love that the teachers can’t answer; I love that the kids can. They’re engaged and they’re listening. That’s awesome. We’ve got second graders who will stand in front of the whole group and retell the entire Bible story. That’s been pretty cool.

AUBREY: That’s so encouraging. I love being able to have that time when you can hear feedback from the kids and really gauge what they’re learning and how they’re growing through the stories. You know that the Holy Spirit is going to continue speaking to their hearts because those stories are in their hearts and it’s the Word of God. Have you experienced any fruit?

DAVID: There are two stories that happened recently. One is about a foster child who was recently adopted into a family. This child is in first or second grade and he is a high-energy, easily distracted child.

A couple weeks ago, the mom said they’d been having a really rough week at school and there was a book fair on Thursday. They told their son, “If you’re able to behave at school on Wednesday, we’ll give you money for the bookfair.” He came home from school on Wednesday beaming and handed his mom his report card with three smiley faces on it, which is apparently the most you can get on a report card. The mom asked her son, “What was different today?” He said, “Well, I really wanted to dance while I was in computer class, but I asked Jesus to help me sit still, and He did.

That is the most clear fruit we’ve seen. We’ve taught the kids that victory over temptation comes when you ask Jesus for help and He strengthens you. That child has heard the message, he’s applied the message, and has seen the power of God in his life.

One thing that we’re excited about the Heroic Life Discipleship structure is that it’s training and teaching kids to sit still and listen for longer than they do normally. Every other week when there’s not Kid’s Church during the sermon time, they’re upstairs. We try to incorporate them into the adult service. At the beginning of Heroic Life Discipleship, honestly sitting still and listening was not something that most of these kids did very well. We’ve seen that change. Now the kids are able to sit still for longer periods of time, listen more intently, and interact in the lesson.

A couple weeks ago, one of the children in the adult church was excited after the sermon saying, “I listened. I actually listened!” Not only were they able to sit and listen, but they were excited about it. I attribute that in large part to the structure that Heroic Life Discipleship has offered.

I like how Heroic Life Discipleship has all ages together so they’re all hearing one thing. Before Heroic Life Discipleship began at our church, every age group had been separated into their own classroom for the entire time. I have three kids in my family. They’re all different ages. They had all been learning different concepts. So sitting down at the table after church and talking  about what they were learning was all different.

Now they’re all learning the same thing. They can all work on application that week together as a family. That is incredible. Not only are they learning the same things, but for part of the discipleship time they’re learning about it together. They’re seeing their brother or sister sit there and listen, they’re hearing their brother or sister answering questions. From my perception, they feel more like a body, like a unit. They’re not just a three-year-old. They’re part of this whole body that’s learning together and worshiping together.

Aubrey De Vries grew up in the Midwest where she learned to tell stories, teach music, and host tea parties. She served with Operation Christmas Child for seven years, working as a recruiter and trainer of volunteer teams. She is a graduate of Ellerslie Discipleship Training, as well as an Assistant Instructor with Simply the Story, a ministry providing tools to experience Scripture through story and discussion. Aubrey currently tutors dyslexic students and serves as the Director of Communications for Heroic Life Discipleship.

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