A STRATEGIC PROJECT FOR THEOLOGICAL STUDENTS AT STELLENBOSCH UNIVERSITY
How Petra Institute is paving the way for future pastors in children’s ministry – with Dr. Viola Fransman
For the past few years, Viola Fransman (Petra Institute, Research: Theological Projects) periodically assists Prof. Shantelle Weber teaching 1st to 3rd year theological students at the Stellenbosch University about children and children’s ministry. Prof. Weber is responsible for Youth and Children’s Ministry at the university.
Paving the way for future pastors to build churches where children are welcome
This is a strategic project for Petra Institute, as most seminaries include courses on children’s ministry only as electives for those who want to become children’s or youth pastors.
That means we are sending out a generation of pastors who can parse Greek infinitives, but who have never meaningfully thought about how a church should structure itself to pass the faith from generation to generation.
Even though the training is done on a more academic level, Viola uses the experiential learning cycle where possible. Some of the subjects she recently presented were:
- faith formation in children
- the role of child theology
- the difference between child theology and children’s ministry
- violence against children and youth within the context of the church – not physical violence but exclusion of marginalised persons such as disabled children, abuse of power by church leaders, etc.
- children’s ministry in different contexts such as the community and school and children’s ministry to disabled children
- the role of education, politics and social media, and how it benefits or not benefits youth
- how the church can fulfil its role where there are gaps
Covid: the impact on youth and children’s ministry
Much time was spent on the role of Covid on youth and children’s ministry, what ministry to them looked like before and after Covid. The conclusion is that we cannot go back to the way it was done two years ago as the past two years have shaken these ministries.
What is the conclusion drawn from these discussions?
According to Viola, Covid brought much grief as children watched loved ones suffer from Covid; many adults including parents passed away or lost their jobs. Children and youth saw this happening, but there was never room to talk about it to say ‘someone I know passed away because of Covid’. Regardless of the type of congregation you come from – rich or poor, under a tree or in the squatter camp – youth and children are traumatised and grieving and it has to be dealt with as it will not just go away in a year or two.
Congregations should look at having small group meetings as opposed to big groups in order to give personal attention to children and youth. Some parents, who had to take responsibility for their children’s faith formation during Covid, realised they are ill equipped for the task, and this is an opportunity for parents to be equipped.
In terms of the isolation that children and youth experienced, it was the more affluent communities that suffered most, as in the squatter camp, the children were still running around, playing with friends down the street, or at the shack next door. For years, poor communities only had each other. Covid just underlined it –
“It’s just us, we have to move forward with each other.”
Petra Institute Course: Relational Family Ministry
Petra Institute’s online Relational Family Ministry course, is ideal to help parents fulfilling their Godly ordained task of being the first line of moulders of faith for their kids.
A more engaging form of children and youth ministry is needed within the contexts where it happens. The congregation and parents should take part in looking at the specific needs of children and youth, and ways to go forward effectively.