Monday, October 19, 2009

Children's Classes, part 1

I was recently at a large gathering in which the friends were talking about the development of the Faith in their cluster. After many beautiful stories, and heartfelt concerns, were shared, someone asked a question of simple practicality: How did you begin your children's classes?

As this was a strength of the community, and he was from another cluster, the question was directed to the whole group in order for him to learn how to do this in his neighbourhood.

Now, my wife and I have had a children's class for a few years, having started one shortly after we moved into our home. How did it begin? How were we able to invite a number of children whom we did not know to come into our home for spiritual education based on a faith they had never heard of?

It was quite simple, really: our cat peed on our comforter.

OK, this may not sound like the normal way of starting a class, but it worked for us. Our washing machine was not large enough to clean the comforter, so I had to go to the local laundromat. While there, I thought I could either catch up on my reading and not meet anyone, or I could work on my art (I'm an artist by trade) and have everyone there say "Cool, what are you doing?", which is what usually happens when I'm working (my art is fairly unusual).

So, with teaching being in the forefront of my mind (I'm working on it becoming my dominating passion, but have a long way to go), I decided for the latter and said some prayers before leaving. In case you don't know, the success of all your plans requires ample prayer, otherwise it's like going fishing but forgetting the hooks, or perhaps the bait. The metaphor may break down there, but you get the idea.

I said my prayers, and brought the (stinky) comforter and my work to the laundromat. Within a few minutes some kids came over and said, "Cool, what are you doing?" (See? I told you they'd do that.) After showing them, and letting them try their hand at my work, I told them that my family and I had just moved in down the street, and invited them to come over whenever they wanted.

The next day, much to my surprise, they did.

Now I was faced with a problem: what to do. Fortunately I had said my prayers again, and the Concourse on High, those wily spirits just waiting to help in any sneaky way they can, put some words in my mouth: "Hi. Come on in," I brilliantly opened with. "The rule of the house is that you have to introduce yourselves by name, and then say something good about the person that brought you." Where did that rule come from? Who cares, because they believed it.

The first one introduced himself and then said that his friend was "nice". This is known as a non-answer. It doesn't convey any useful information, so I probed further. "How do you know he's nice? What does he do?"

After a long-winded and convoluted answer, I smiled in great appreciation. "Ahh. You know what you've just described?" I said this while leading them over to our virtues poster, a very handy tool when you have no clue which virtue someone just described. We found one that fit quite nicely and then went over to a white board where I had them write it down. As reading and writing were quite difficult for them, I gave them lots of encouragement and showered them with praise when they successfully did it. After this, I gave a simple definition of the virtue, followed by a story of the Master that demonstrated it. There also happened to be a lesson in Ruhi Book 3 that touched on this virtue, so we went over that, too.

They loved it.

Afterwards, they played for a few hours with my son, who was only 1 at the time.

I said goodbye to them as they left and wondered if I'd ever see them again.

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