What do we actually do in Junior Church?
Of course, you’re absolutely right if you came up with examples such as reading and acting out bible passages, building the Tower of Babel with bricks (and sometimes Rice Krispie squares), singing songs of praise (not always on key), discussing parts of the Anglican church service, drawing and painting God’s wonderous creations, and preparing the annual nativity play.
We do all of this, but there is actually much more…
Children acquire culture and language together as an integrated part of their development. Many of our Junior Church members, who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, navigate through their days with the help of their intercultural effectiveness and their multiple languages.
Consider for a moment that Junior Church is a form of social membership. Neighbourhoods, regions, countries, schools, sports, professions, faith groups, and associations you volunteer in are some examples of social memberships. Each social membership leads to shared socialization experiences. These lead to a “common sense of identity and belonging” and “similar ways of thinking and behaving”, but also “risks and opportunities when interacting in situations of cultural diversity” (1). Junior church is one of those social memberships for our children, which can be visualized as a puzzle piece of their lives.
Create your own social membership diagram using interconnecting puzzle pieces.
Bring it along to Junior Church!
Your teachers would love to discuss this with you and look forward to seeing you!
Puzzle opposite adapted from Freepik image
Culture is learned from the people you interact with. Watching how adults react and talk to children is an excellent way to see the transmission of culture among people. Two children born at the same time on two different continents may be taught to respond to physical and social stimuli in very different ways. For example, some babies are taught to smile at everyone, whereas others are taught to smile only in specific circumstances. Take Switzerland as another example. Children are asked from a very early age to make decisions about what they want to do and what they prefer; in other cultures, children may be just told what to do. In the context of church, we know that children see our actions, including even small things we do to help others and our individual efforts to care for the environment.
Both social and environmental sustainability topics can be highlighted through art, stories, and discussions. The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are often considered when planning our Junior Church lessons. For example, art can help us flag up sustainability issues, encourage intercultural understanding in our communities, and help us express our hopes for peace.
Fostering dialogue, raising intercultural awareness, and promoting positive change happens at all ages. The time we spend together with friends from church, the shared faith, and the networking opportunities, can all lead to the building of relationships built on trust. “Not only is there potential for the relationship built on trust to evolve and become a reciprocal friendship, there is also an excellent scaffolding for future collaborations in business” (2) and in all parts of our lives. We may not make it to church every Sunday (hiking and skiing do have a certain pull on the weekends), but always remember that we have helped our children build a foundation which will hopefully stay with them for life.
Jillaine Farrar is a Junior Church Teacher at St Andrew’s on Sundays, teaches at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Business during the week, and volunteers as co-president of SIETAR Switzerland (Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research).
Connect with her over LinkedIn or talk to her at church.
1 – Spencer-Oatey, Franklin, & Lazidou, 2022, p.9
2 – Farrar & Saudelli, 2022, p.198
Farrar, J. & Saudelli, M.G. (2022). Co-leading an International Collaborative Team: Relationships Matter. In I. Stolz, & S. Oldenziel (Eds.), International Leadership – Effecting Success Across Borders in a Boundaryless World. Springer Gabler.
Spencer-Oatey, H., Franklin, P. & Lazidou, D. (2022). Global Fitness for Global People: How to Manage and Leverage Cultural Diversity at Work. Casteldown.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) https://sdgs.un.org/goals