by Karen Ziel
“Heart Knowledge not Head Knowledge”
Dana Johnson’s path to becoming a Faith Formation Leader
(Editor's note: This interview took place in November of 2016)
Dana's Path to Children’s Ministry
Dana began serving Saugatuck Church (http://saugatuckchurch.org) as their new director of Children’s Ministry in August 2016. The church was considering hiring a new CE leader and spent a year developing the job description. Over the course of that year, many people told Dana that she should apply for the position but she felt unqualified. She had taught Sunday school at Saugatuck for almost twenty years, was a Christian Education Board member for six years, and had volunteered to work with the youth but felt she did not have the “head” knowledge about the Bible and its stories to be the Children’s Ministry Director. However, during the summer of 2016, Dana traveled with the church youth on a mission trip to Cuba that was a transformative experience for her. “I saw the high school kids opening their hearts in a way I never dreamed was possible”, said Dana. It inspired her to be baptized in Cuba by their minister, Rev. Allison Patton, with the kids witnessing and supporting her decision.
Since she had retired from her preschool teaching position and her own children were no longer at home, she decided to express her interest in the Children’s Ministry position at Saugatuck Church. Still feeling unqualified, she told them, “I am a great volunteer, so if you find someone great to hire, I am fine with you hiring them instead of me.” Rev. Alison Patton asked her, “What do you mean by “great”? Dana responded, “Someone with more knowledge.” Rev. Patton responded to her saying that someone “great” was someone like her who was enthusiastic and who walked the walk.
Dana's Main Responsibilities
In her new part-time position, as the Direction of Children’s Ministry, Dana, “wants to give the kids something that she didn’t have growing up,” a place where the kids can develop their faith while living it and practicing it every day, and recognizing the God moments in their lives. Dana’s responsibilities include: a multi-age class for children in preschool through grade 4 on Sunday mornings, a multi-age class for kids in grades 5-8, as well as middle school and high school youth groups. Her goal is to prepare all the materials for the classroom teachers so she can improve volunteerism and set her volunteers up for a successful experience.
Skills Needed to be an Effective Children’s Ministry Leader
Dana believes that the skills that she has that are going to help make her a good faith formation leader are willingness to continue to read and learn, willingness to fail and try again, her love of working with kids, and her enthusiasm.
Dana stated that her first days on the job were a “whirlwind” as she learned about her new part-time position and trying to balance her desire to do it all with the time constraints of the job. As time goes by she feels that she is becoming more efficient with the administrative aspects of her job. Her hope is to be able to spend more time planning as she becomes more comfortable and familiar with the responsibilities. Dana hopes to grow their small church school by attracting more kids to the programs and hold more intergeneration activities so the whole congregation can see how great the kids in the church are.
When Dana looks at the youth in her church, it gives her hope for the future.
Advice to and from Others
Dana said that she was living a Christian life but didn’t know it. It took her minister, Rev. Alison Patton, pointing out to her that it was her faith journey/walk that was important not her resume or Bible knowledge. Dana continues to grow in her faith and knowledge along with those that she ministers to. Dana encourages others to remember that having a heart for God is the most important requirement. Words of encouragement from members of the congregation meant a lot Dana as she started her new position. “It took two seconds for people in the congregation to make a supportive comment to me but it meant a lot to me because I was so nervous when I started my job” said Dana.
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