Karis Kids: An Interview with Susan Yoder

Susan Yoder coordinates Karis Kids and is doing a fantastic job.  I interviewed her for the Karis Blog.  Here is our e-conversation: Susan, so how did you get involved with Karis Kids?  What draws you to this type of ministry? I have been in church since I was in elementary school, and to me being part of The Church, means participation. When I became a member of Karis in Sept of 2007, I started the process of watching for the places that God wanted to use me. I think that the Lord was listening to both your prayers and mine. You and Amy were looking for someone to take responsibility of the children's ministry so that she could concentrate on other things. And I was praying for the Lord to show me where I could serve. I guess our prayers were answered.

I am drawn to this ministry because it is what I know. From the time I was about twelve years old, I began helping in the children's ministry at Woodcrest Chapel. Serving at Woodcrest gave me the opportunity to experience a wide range of roles, such as being a teacher in the preschooler classrooms, leading a 1st grade small group, and running check-in at the mid-week service. I would basically serve in a different capacity every semester, depending on where I was needed the most. I believe that at the heart of my serving in the past and where I am being led to serve now focuses on creating a ministry that blesses families. I want to help children see the Love of God and for parents to feel safe leaving their children under the responsibility of the Karis Kids team.

What children can be a part of Karis Kids? Right now we can serve, care for and teach 4month olds through kindergartners. Let me explain why we have these age limits. We have two children's areas one of those is the the nursery which is geared towards infants and toddlers. Since they are all in one room together, we decided that starting the age range at 4 months would be best for the infant. And children up to age 2 and/or 3 can go into this room. Three year olds through kindergartners can go to what we call the Classroom. And in this environment, they will have a structured experience. Which I will describe further later.

If I bring my children to Karis Kids, what are your goals for them each Sunday?  What is emphasized in your teaching? We have several goals depending on the age of the children. In the nursery, the main goal is to care for the needs of the infants and toddlers. While we believe that children at any age can learn about the gospel, that is not our first priority in the nursery. Of course everything we do is based on the gospel, but we are not necessarily teaching it directly the entire time. My focus for this age group is more about seeing the needs of the child and caring for him/her. Each child has different habits, and the volunteers are there to care for the children in the way that is best for each of them. Like I mentioned before, in the nursery, we want to love the children, care for each child's needs, and throughout their time with us we will try to convey the Gospel message.

The classroom goals are somewhat different from the nursery. In the classroom, since the children can follow, for the most part, a more structured timeline, the goal is to present the gospel each and every weekend. The same lesson is taught two weekends in a row, we think that repetition will help the child learn the ideas we are conveying. We use the Children Desiring God curriculum, this is a great resource, because in each and every lesson, the message of our Lord and Savior and the Greatness of God is conveyed. To be more concise our goal for the classroom is to present the Gospel. We use lesson time, worship time, craft/activity time, and play time to show the children that the Lord is amazing. Walk us through what happens with each child each Sunday. Well it depends on the age of the child. A child that goes to the nursery will be checked in, and the parent will take them up to the nursery. While in the nursery the child will be well cared for and the instructions left by the parent will be followed. The parent will then pick up the child after the service. If the child is the right age to go to the classroom, he or she will be checked in, and then actually will go with his/her parents to worship in the Gathering with the rest of Karis. After worship time, someone on stage, usually Luke, will dismiss the kids to go to their classroom. A teacher will be at the front of the Theatre to greet the children and take them downstairs to the classroom. And like I mentioned in the previous question, the children will have a lesson, worship, craft/activity, and play times. What is done to make sure the kids are kept track of and are kept safe? Ensuring the safety of each child is one of our top priorities. We want parents to have a sense of peace leaving their children with us. Therefore, we have a Check-In system that begins with the parent checking in their child at the Karis Kids table. When the parent arrives at the table, he/she is asked to sign their child(ren) in on a "check-in" sheet. This sheet will be put in the nursery or classroom after all the children are checked in. The sheet contains the name of the parents and children, it also has a place for special instructions, the security number for the child and a phone number for the parent. The Security number corresponds to a number that is on the child's name tag and that same number is on a security card that is given to the parent. The parent is required to give the card back to the teacher when they pick up their child. The teachers are told that only the person turning in the card can pick up a child that has a name tag that matches the number on the parents card. The parents are asked to give us their cell phone number, so that we can call them if their child needs to be picked up early from the classroom or nursery. It is our desire that parents would keep their cell phone on vibrate in their pocket so they will know if we call. We hope to implement a more flawless way of contacting the parent soon. This would involve flashing a number up on the screen in the theatre to alert the parent to please come and check on their child. Another way that we keep the children safe is to have plenty of adults volunteering in the nursery or classroom. If there are enough watchful eyes, we can keep children safe.

How many volunteers do you have?  What do they do? At this time we need 6 volunteers every weekend, actually seven counting our Karis kids worship leader. Now that Karis has been in the Missouri Theatre for several weeks, I have been able to see if that number of people will continue to work out. We started out having only 2 volunteers helping out in the nursery. And that was not enough,  so we ended up using the on-call person every week as well. So as a change for October, I have purposely scheduled 3 people to work in the nursery. And we have had 2 people scheduled in the Classroom; the teacher and the teacher’s assistant. We also have someone that is really interested in leading worship for the kids. And over thSusan Yoder with Grante past several weeks she has been there to lead the kids in singing and dancing to Christ centered songs. And the final person scheduled every weekend is someone I call the Karis Kids Gathering director. And this person is the overseer of everything that particular weekend. So he/she would make sure the classroom and nursery are set up properly, that check-in is running smoothly, that the kids are happy and safe etc. This person is also in charge of any decisions that need to be made on the spot. For example, a child is crying and the teachers are not sure if the parent should be called. Well it is up to the gathering director to make that decision, call the parent and meet the parent at the check in table to show them where to pick up their child.

What is your role with Karis Kids? My role so far has encompassed many things. It has been exciting, scary and rewarding all at the same time. I am basically in charge of recruiting and scheduling volunteers, getting the curriculum ready to give the teachers, making copies of the coloring and parent resource pages, having all the supplies ready for the check in desk (copies, name tags, pens), making sure there are snacks available each weekend for the kids. A lot of that is prep work in order to be prepared for Sundays. On Sundays, along with other volunteers, I set up the rooms, and run the check-in desk. I have also served in the nursery, as we have realized we need more adults in there. I also do a lot of praying. We have children in the Worship Gathering for part of the time at Karis.  Why?  How do kids transition to the time with their peers in Karis Kids?  Why does Karis do both? At Karis, community is very important. And one way that community grows and strengthens is during the Gathering. We want children to see how adults worship God and grow closer to him, and how adults interact with one another and develop friendships. By having the kids go to the gathering for the first 20 minutes or so, they can see what there parents are doing. Its a good learning experience for them. And they can see that being part of the Church is a gift from God.

Thanks for your time, Susan.  Why should parents bring their kids to Karis Kids? I think that parents are responsible for their children's spiritual walk. Until a child is old enough to manage that responsibility on their own, a parent should take the time to show a child how to worship the Lord and be a part of the church. However a parent can only do so much. We want to help parents train up Christ-like children that know the Gospel and want to spread it. By sending their children to Karis Kids, a parent is helping their child develop knowledge about the Lord. Karis Kids learn about the awesome attributes of God every week. And these are things that kids will never forget. Children, like adults, have a hunger for something bigger than themselves. We want to show children that God can fill that void. And we think that while the Gathering shows the gospel to older children and adults, Karis Kids can teach at a preschool and kindergarten level, so that the kids will "get it".