Changing attitudes towards Children’s Ministry

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Learning from his own childhood experiences, Pastor Boniface Milanzi is trying to change the way many Malawian churches’ approach ministry to children

 

Boniface Milanzi is a man on a mission. That mission? To increase the profile and value of Children’s Ministry in the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC).

He was appointed as the AEC’s National Children’s Ministry Co-ordinator two years ago, and has been working hard to show people that Children’s Ministry is more than just an hour or so at Sunday School each week.

Developing vision

“When I was appointed to the role, I developed a vision for what I wanted to see happen,” he said.

“I wanted to see more children come to know and love the Lord God. I wanted to see all AEC churches having a strong Sunday School and at least one more strategic area of work for children. I wanted to see Pastors and Lay Leaders more involved with Children’s Ministry.

“Sadly, some churches in Malawi see Sunday School as a time when the children are sent out, not necessarily for teaching, but just so they do not disturb the service!”

Living as a street kid

This passion for Children’s Ministry comes, to an extent, from his own childhood. Boniface admits that as a child, living for a time as a ‘street kid’, he did some bad things. After becoming a Christian, his passion for this work started to grow as he did not want to see children going through the same lifestyle as he had.

“When I was at EBCoM I got involved in children’s work,” he said.

SIM Malawi Short-Term Associates Hanna Rindlisbacher (left) and Shelby Walden teaching at a Kids’ Club in Blantyre

“I would go with others from the College to minister to children in the local areas. When I graduated, I set up a Kids’ Club at my house in Nsanje. This grew until there were around 250 children at each session!”

Seeing the number of children in the area, he set up a number of other clubs. Acting as a ‘manager’ he developed a group of leaders to help with these clubs. His passion for children’s ministry recommended him to the AEC leadership for the vacant Children’s Ministry Co-ordinator role.

Building on excellent work

“The post had been idle for about 18 months, following the death of the previous Co-ordinator, Grace Mvula,” said Boniface.

“The first thing I did when I was appointed was to read through some of the reports of the excellent work Grace had done. Although there was no National Co-ordinator for that time, the Children’s Ministry work continued because of the AEC structure of Area Councils and Local Churches. What was missing was clear direction from the centre.”

One of the outcomes of Boniface’s work was a weekend retreat for the Area Council Childrens’ Co-ordinators, which was held recently in Lunzu.

Mentoring and sharing skills

The purpose of the weekend was to mentor and share leadership skills with the Co-ordinators. Speakers at the event included the AEC General Secretary, Revd Alan Alfazema, and SIM Malawi’s Watson Rajaratnam.

Revd Alfazema spoke about leadership and team-working and how to become visionary leaders, while Watson spoke about discipleship and the life of a disciple.

Several ideas came out of the weekend, which are now being considered and taken forward by the AEC, as Boniface explained.

“We need to get parents more involved. We need to ask them to teach their children in their homes; but how? Many of the parents are not trained themselves, so we need to come up with some guidelines to achieve this,” he said.

AEC Area Council Children’s Ministry Co-ordinators at the weekend retreat in Lunzu

Refresher training

“Previously we had invited two people from each Area Council to a five-day Training of Trainers event. Having got the training, they went back to their Area Councils able to train the people on the ground. We are looking to hold a two-and-a-half-day refresher course for these people, possibly in April or May depending on funds being available.

“Partnerships are also seen as vital to the way ahead. We spoke about setting up closer links with, for example, Sports Friends and SIM Malawi’s Youth Co-ordinator. Sports Friends has coaches in all AEC churches and often have under-12 football teams, so there is a potentially good link there. 

Prayer and Praise Points

1. Praise God for the way he is transforming the lives of many children.

2. Please pray for Children’s Ministry Leaders to seek God’s direction for their ministry.

3. Please pray for more prayer and practical help from local churches to develop Children’s Ministry in their location.

“Finally, there are mid-week activities. We are looking at ‘Today for Tomorrow’, a HOPE for AIDS life-skills resource for primary age children from a biblical perspective, which has now been translated into Chichewa, to see how this can be used in Children’s Ministry. 

Children left at home on Sunday

“Parents often leave children behind on Sunday to look after the home or the fields while they are at church. There is a great need to reach out to those children, with mid-week activities. Working mid-week means we could have more time with them than at Sunday School and so more time for fun and games as well as teaching.”

All-in-all, a wide-reaching and exciting set of ideas came out of the event; but Boniface is confident that they can be achieved. He also has clear ideas about the third year of his contract.

“Looking ahead, there are a number of things I would like to see,” said Boniface.

Vision for strong ministry

“I would like to see every AEC church with a strong Children’s Ministry, offering Sunday School and mid-week activities. I would like to see Pastors, Lay Leaders and Parents all getting far more involved with Children’s Ministry, and I would like to see even stronger Area Council Children’s Ministry Co-ordinators.

“It is a lot to ask but with God’s help I am confident we can achieve this.”

Children’s work in the AEC is supported by SIM Malawi project MW96850 Children’s Ministry Capacity Building

 

 


Volume 3 - Issue 5
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