Today we’ll spend some time with Karen Apple. Karen is a nationally recognized conference speaker, consultant and writer and has years of experience as a licensed children’s minister, architect of the church’s weekday preschool program, mentor to children of divorce and separation and is known as “my Mrs. Apple” to hundreds of kids. She established 1st Things 1st which provides children’s ministry encouragement and training for national and international church kids’ ministries, publishers, conferences and individual ministry leaders. Karen is also a long-time friend of Linda Weddle, whom we heard from a couple weeks ago. We asked Karen about her experiences as a child growing up in the church and children’s ministry. She has some great insight for us!
A childhood friend, Linda Weddle, and I met for lunch during my last visit to Chicago. We talked about how children learn and we reminisced about the rich legacy we had growing up in the church. Her father was our pastor and he encouraged the kids and the adults to grow in God’s Word.After we met, I looked at my childhood church experiences through the lens of a children’s pastor. About the same time, a twitter friend raved about how much more excellent children’s ministry is today than it was when he was a kid. I looked back to see if I agreed. I was NOT surprised when I came to the conclusion that those non-professionals from long ago (really long ago) taught me well.
1. They LOVED me.
I was six. It was October. The first week in a new school had been a nightmare for this introverted, learning disabled “new girl”. When Sunday dawned, a new experience at a new church was not high on my list of priorities. But what I found that day were happy faces, a warm embrace and acceptance like I had never known before. I was “HOME”.
2. They Gave Me a Biblical Foundation.
Mrs. Kapel taught children’s church with joy, a deep knowledge of God’s Word and a gift for helping us apply it to our lives. I was just barely seven when she helped me understand the message of salvation and sat with me as I invited Jesus to be my “forever friend”.
Another memorable volunteer had a passion for the Bible that inspired and excited me. Doris’s love for God’s Word is a gift I will always treasure.
The children’s ministry culture was punctuated by Bible memory. The reward for straining my brain was participation in the Awana Olympics (now AwanaGamesTM). Now those verses, plus the list I’ve learned since then, whirl around in my brain all the time. Just when all seems lost or when I must explain my faith on the fly, God’s Words are on my lips. An amazing legacy.
3. They Helped Me Develop My Abilities and Taught Me to SERVE.
When I was twelve, they handed me a story Bible, a puppet and a class of two year olds. At fourteen, I showed an interest in music so they welcomed me into the adult choir. AND each summer when I returned from college, they gave my friend, Beverly, and me complete control of children’s church. We had come full circle.
Children still thrive on these foundational elements. Add all today’s bells and whistles while you hold tight to the legacy.
What a great truth to keep in mind – utilize what we have been blessed with today but don’t forget the foundations. AND, formal education doesn’t equal efficient ministry. The heart of the leader is also very important. Thank you Karen!