During the April 2023 Disciple Leaders Network conference, we learned a lot about the importance of relationships in our churches today. Dr. Shelly Melia, Director of the Children's Ministry Masters Program, Dallas Baptist University, did an outstanding breakout session on the importance of relationships with children. Here are highlights for us to consider as librarians. I am preparing a paper to send Dr. Melia that applies her session points to church library ministry which we consider to be strategic support ministries to kid's ministries. As you read the following, capture your thoughts for Dr. Melia in the comments to this post.
Be aware of issues children face today: adverse situations, anxiety, depression, suicide, loneliness, abusive experiences, neglect, household dysfunction.
She described what is called Trauma Informed Children's Ministry. Even though she never mentioned church libraries, all of the following are important for librarians:
1. Be Attuned: New hunger for resilience. Our genuine interest in each child who uses the library can make a difference. Love their families.
2. Be Aware: Notice the kids which means more than just giving them attention.
3. Be Authentic: A filtered and formulistic faith is not an authentic faith. Prepare them for bad things that may happen in their lives. Libraries can play a big role here by having books that tell stories about bad experiences at different age levels. What else?
Dr. Melia ended her session with the concept of Ministry 5.1: Each child needs a healthy and safe relationship with 5 adults in our churches. Let's step up in strategic ways so that the library can be part of the children's ministry where kids can develop a healthy and safe relationship with a librarian. Kids need to feel safe in our libraries. The following are points she made about how to develop these relationships. Keep in mind that in a growing number of our churches today, teachers rotate Sundays so a child never really knows who their group teacher will be each Sunday. I'm thinking in most of our churches, the kids will know who will be in the library to greet them and talk with them on their level.
1. Spiritual formation is a priority. How do we apply this one through our libraries?
2. Individualistic to community model. How do we support our children's ministry to include the library as part of the kid's ministry community? How do we foster relations with children that make them feel they are part of the library community?
3. Dialogue rather than monologue. How can we talk with kids in dialogue so that we have the opportunity to listen to them tell us about a book they read? Instead of "did you like this book?" use "what did you learn with this book?" or . . .
4. Rely on small groups for transformation rather than large groups. How can our story times with kids offer small group opportunities as part of the preschool ministry? Book Clubs?
5. Seek frequent ways to bless each child. What are ways to bless a child when he or she experiences the library?
Next week I'll use my notes from another speaker at the Disciple Leaders Network to start a discussion. Share your thoughts based on Dr. Melia's highlights. These seem to be strategic ways for church libraries to connect with children's ministries. Helps us understand what our children's ministers are dealing with every day.