Community Tree

By Janet Earle, Children's Minister

Posted on June 16, 2016

It seems nearly impossible to me, to get a good handle on the community at St. Paul’s. New people are coming in and others are moving away. Some are taking steps of faith and involvement, while others seem to be slowly slipping away. At times, as leaders, we are very aware of these changes and can even influence them, but often we do not even know they are happening. It is hard to get to know everyone in a big community.
Children’s Ministry is its own ‘big community’. Although our people tend to be small, okay very small, they are numerous and always changing. We have the same challenges as we seek to get to know our many children and their families.
At a training day last September, I had a vision of a big ‘community’ tree for Children’s Ministry. I like to build things, so I began work on a papier-mâché tree. It is a fun and messy process, if you have never tried it! My vision was to strengthen our relationships in the Children’s Ministry community by getting to know one another a little better. My tree grew, but not too big because it had to be put away each week, and we made some lovely green leaves to put on it.
Week by week, I interviewed a few children in our Large Group times. They shared a little about themselves telling us their names, ages and something ‘special’ about themselves. We welcomed them all. The shy ones who could hardly say a peep and the children ready to entertain us for hours! Their names went on leaves and the leaves started appearing on the tree. We had a great year with the tree. It now has over 100 leaves on it, each representing one of our children – a baseball player, a violinist, a pizza lover or a Lego builder.
I hope that meeting each of our children has helped them to feel noticed and cared for, and allowed us to know them a little better. Jesus told his followers, “I am the good Shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me." (John 10:14) We share a longing to be known and to be loved. Jesus reassures us that He does indeed know us and despite our human frailty He loves us. I hope that our tree points us in the direction of ‘knowing’ and ‘loving’ one another.
Our tree has also helped us to learn about what it means to be God’s community, to value the time we spend worshipping God together, learning from each other, caring for one another and serving our world. 
I feel a bit sad about putting our tree away for the summer. I don’t want to lose our focus on being a community of God’s family here at St. Paul’s – knowing and caring for one another. I will continue to seek to have an open heart to know those in our community and I pray that you will join me.