The term “philosophy” gets thrown around a lot, sometimes negatively. However, by definition, “philosophy” is neutral–it’s neither positive nor negative. Merriam-Webster defines the term as, “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.”
In kids ministry we sometimes confuse philosophy with methodology. While methods may demonstrate our philosophy, they are more fluid than philosophy. Here are some ways to distinguish the two:
- Philosophy is built on biblical convictions. For example, our philosophy should include the desire to introduce kids to Jesus.
- Methods are ways to teach our biblical convictions. We may choose to introduce kids to Jesus with large-group games, word searches, crafts, video clips, etc.
- Philosophy is very personal and changes very little or none at all, over a long period of time.
- Methods can be flexible without violating philosophy. They may change from decade to decade, from year to year, from week to week, and even from child to child.
- Philosophy can be stated clearly and briefly.
- The list of methods can be almost infinite.
Given the distinctives above, let me ask you a question: “Is the use of coloring pages based on philosophy or is it a method?” Before you answer, take a look down your church’s preschool hallways or in the elementary classrooms.
If the coloring pages, other artwork, or crafts all look alike, then what does that tell you about the philosophy of the teachers? Does it mean that they value product over process? On the flip side, if the coloring pages look like abstract art and the crafts are misshapen, then I would say that the teachers’ philosophy is to teach children in ways God has created them to learn best and that the teachers place process above product.
As for me, I want to choose the latter scenario. In that way, my seldom-changing philosophy drives the various methods I employ. What will you choose?
Landry Holmes leads Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Publishing Team and is a children’s ministry volunteer at his church. He is a husband, dad, father-in-law, and dog person.